As children, the question of what you want to be when you grow up seems so clear. My 6-year-old self answered, “Obviously I want to be a professional surfer and live off the land.” In reality I have never surfed, and Discovery Channel’s Shark Week continues to diminish that dream every August. If what we all really want to be when we grow up is happy and fulfilled by our professions, it’s possible then that we have been asking the wrong question all along. Maybe the real questions to consider are “Who do I want to be,” and “What environment do I thrive in as a person?”

“Who do I want to be” covers two areas: Where am I right now as a person and what changes should I make to be the person that I want to be? Before getting laid off last fall, I was in an extremely stressful and negative position. The stress and negativity was seeping into every area of my life both personal and professional. I began looking into other job opportunities, but eventually I was laid off and forced to make a change. It truly was a blessing.

The following actions helped me change my situation:

  • Where I am Right now? I took inventory of my professional skills. I kept a journal at my last job to note any projects or tasks I completed regularly, and made sure to have a resume that reflected as such.
  • Consulting with family and friends can help you look at the skills you possess in a different way, and may even help you see where you may naturally fit in. I had many conversations with my dad asking him “what am I good at?”
  • What activities do I engage in that I love? When I was in high school and college I loved to volunteer and work with a lot of different people. Luckily I found a company that fits both, but if you find that you love to help organize, you may be a great executive assistant or event planner. If you love to figure out what makes things work, and how to make them work better, you may be a great manager, executive, or engineer (with some schooling unless you already have the correct certification). It’s all about finding the simple things that you love to do, and then finding a way to do them for a job. What’s the worst that can happen? It doesn’t work out and you keep looking.

What environment do I thrive in as a person: When I was laid off I started thinking about the culture and kind of company I saw myself being happy in. Ask yourself these questions:

  • In what environments are you the best version of yourself? The best version of yourself can change depending on your age and your life outlook, but think about a time when you were truly happy at work. Where were you? What were you doing?
  • What type of people do you best get along with? Are you an extrovert or introvert? Do you like to deal with easy going people in an easy going industry or fast moving people in an industry that never sleeps? A great way to look at this is to see what type of people you are friends with. There is a good chance you get along with people like that.

Author: Elyse Lopez
Image from: