Sometimes, holding tight to a far off goal can actually just get in the way.
There’s a growing trend where we focus not on a distant dream, but on whatever needs to happen next. It comes from the Chaos Theory of Careers, which thrives on the fact that we don’t know what’s coming.
Rather than fixing plans that we have very little control of, instead we focus on making career decisions that will suit us best in the short term.
Whilst you’re still at school, this could be choosing subjects that you enjoy studying rather than ones that you think could get you the best ATAR. Or it could be planning a different post high school pathway than you imagined a few years ago – perhaps you’d like to go to TAFE or get an an apprenticeship and start working right away. Maybe that Gap Year is more appealing than ever but you want to get the most out of it.
Once you’ve started working this could look like taking a job that’s good for our mental health, rather than slugging it out in a job which might possibly look better on our resume.
The benefits of this approach
There are three key reasons why this is a good idea:
- It’s easier to see what life will look like 6, 12, or 24 months in the future, than it is to guess what life might be like in five or ten years time. Think about it, where were you ten years ago? Have you ended up in the place you thought you would back then?
- Planning for the immediate future will lead to more confident decisions. Confident decisions help us feel better and give us a better chance of success, so the more confident you feel about your decisions, the better. How confident can you be of a decision you’ve made for a future that’s ten or more years away?
- You’re more likely to make a decision that actually improves your position (and life) in the short, medium, and long term.
How to work out what comes next:
Start by thinking about where you’ll be in 6/12/24 months if you don’t do anything different.
Where will you be, which of your problems will you still be dealing with, or which job will you be in? And once you’ve done this, which of these realisations are you unhappy about?
Hint: if you’re not happy with the idea of still doing something in 6, 12 or 24 months’ time, then you need to change it.
What’s holding you back?
The stuff that’s getting in your way is the stuff you need to change. These blockers can look like anything – ideas your parents have about your future, how you’ll be to afford post high school qualifications, bills you need to pay, people you need to look after, contracts you can’t get out of – and they can also be fears that are holding you back.
We all have these things – they’re inevitable and a part of life – but taking the time to identify them can be really helpful.
What would it take for you to get over the hurdles?
Do you need to sleep less, eat more, get over your fear of networking?
Do you need to have a tricky conversation? Possibly, if it’s someone (rather than something) that’s getting in the way, they may have no idea what they’re doing. Is there a way you can broach the subject, and find a compromise that allows you to move forward?
For example, if your parents are keen for you to go to uni after high school, but your heart just isn’t in it – have have a chat with them about the reasons why they’d love you to go and explain what you have in mind instead. Remember lots of people study later in life and even while they’re working. You don’t have to rule uni out forever, just postpone it. i
Or if you need to find an extra 4 hours a week to take a short course, and you don’t have any spare hours at all, think about ways you could free up more time? Stop doing an extra curricular activity, it doesn’t even have to be forever, you could pick it back up again once you’ve completed your goal. Could you ask someone else to help you? Negotiate with someone else to take the dog for a walk in the evening, or even just take over the washing duties while you hit the books… Ask your boss if you can work a few less shifts for a while or maybe just change the roster around.
Whatever it is, write it down. You don’t have to do it just yet, wait until you’re ready, but when the time comes, you’ll know what to do.