The Career Series | Starting Out

Career confusion? Start making the right steps here.

Starting your career is exciting and slightly daunting.  It’s an interesting period of your life when that question your auntie has been asking you for at least fifteen years, suddenly springs into sharp focus; “so, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

And for fifteen years you’ve been able to shrug it off as “too early to decide”: until now.  Wherever you’re graduating from and whatever level of formal education you possess, the choices you make now will affect at least the next ten years of your life.

So, they’d better be the best choices you can make.  No pressure then.

The best place to start is with what’s important to you.  I don’t mean money or status, I mean your core values.  What do you hold dear in your life and what parts of your life are the non-negotiables.  The things that you would not go against, no matter what.

Your core personal values can be determined very easily.  You simply ask yourself some questions and they go like this;

  1. What will a career in x, y or z give me?

  2. For what purpose do I want a job in x, y, or z?

Then you need to consider the answers.  Carefully.

If  you’ve answered money or status to question 1., then you need to dig deep and consider whether this is strictly honest.  If the only reason for a career choice is money or status, then it will be an unfulfilling career because the shine of material possessions wears thin after your fifteenth month doing an eighteen hour day, every day of the week.  Status is great whilst it lasts, but rarely gives the person a sense of peace because they’re consistently worried about losing their status.

The purpose of your career choice needs to be around a big concept such as learning, fulfilment, happiness, contentment, challenge, fun, pleasure, enjoyment, knowledge, interest etc.   You’re aiming to seek something positive from you’re career choice that adds to your future happiness.

You will spend a great deal of time at work, so you had better enjoy what you do.  A very good friend of mine once told me that when you love what you do for a living, you never have to work another day in your life.

For the first ten to fifteen years of your chosen career, you will work hard.  Climbing that greasy pole takes enormous effort and energy, which leaves very little time for reflection and so I have found that at about the age of thirty five to forty, there are a whole group of people who suddenly look up from their desk (real or metaphorical) and realise that they’ve had their ladder against the wrong wall and it’s at this point that they realise to their horror that the lifestyle they now have is supported by a job they detest.

I cannot emphasise enough that selecting a career with your heart at the early stage will save you a massive amount of headaches later.  Yes,  you may well go against the wishes of well-meaning family or friends and yes, you may well earn less or be seen as slightly strange, but believe me, it will be worth it in the long run.  I’ve met many a lawyer who has the big house, flash car, high status, kids at private school, designer clothes etc, but who is as miserable as sin because what they really wanted to do when they grew up was be a hairdresser.

When you select the type of job that you’re passionate about, the money is secondary or you make more money because you’re particularly excellent at what you do.

Finding out what you’re passionate about is often about trial and error.  At the age of twenty two when I left university I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do so I took a temp job which led to a permanent job, which then led to a very successful five year career with a Plc and eventually to running my own business.  That in turn, led me to what I do now – a coach and trainer, which is what I’m 100% passionate about and earn a great living from.

In other words, if at any point you decide that your ladder is against the wrong wall, change it.  Society now accepts that having several careers over a working life time is perfectly acceptable, which takes the pressure off ever so slightly.

In essence, there are a few golden rules to consider at the start of your working life;

  1. Choose a role that fits with your core personal values

  1. Do something you’re passionate about

  1. If you find yourself being miserable for more than 50% of the time at work, then change what you do – at any stage

  1. By all means seek help and advice, but make your own choices to suit you

  1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and sometimes you’ll wander off track

Now, go ahead, find what you love and enjoy the journey.

Rebecca Bonnington is a Leadership Coach, Corporate Trainer and Licensed Trainer of NLP.  You can contact her by email or visit her website for details of courses.


Rebecca Bonnington

Rebecca Bonnington is a results-driven business coach based in Edinburgh providing exceptionally good coaching, training and mentoring with a focus on measurable outcomes. Trained by the co-founder of NLP Richard Bandler and his fellow trainers Paul McKenna and John and Kathleen La Valle, Rebecca has seen NLP transform businesses firsthand. She also holds a Masters Degree in Business Coaching from Napier University. As a former Managing Director of a successful recruitment firm, Rebecca adds real world business understanding and knowledge to her skillset, giving her a unique insight as a business coach.