What am I going to do with my life?

photo by Martin Miranda

What am I going to do with my life? How do I find my life’s purpose?!?

Gemma Gosden

05 July 2016

A tricky question to answer, especially when you’re 16-18ish years old and people are demanding a reasonably sensible answer out of you. In fact scratch that, it’s a difficult question to answer no matter how old you are!

You might be one of the lucky ones, aka one of those people who have always known what they want to do when they leave school and how they’re going to achieve it. Or… maybe not and as the time comes to make those hard life decisions you’re filled with fear and self doubt. Or you just don’t care while there are exams and all kinds of other stuff going on in your life.

I wasn’t one of those lucky people, and would ask every new person I meet “what do you do for a living?” hoping that one day inspiration might hit and my purpose in life would suddenly become clear. It never happened.

I spent ages doing those personality and aptitude tests online hoping the internet would give me the answer I was looking for. Unfortunately the computer said ‘no’ and came up with loads of stuff I had absolutely no interest in.

I spent weeks and months on end furiously researching various different careers each time thinking I had cracked it and this was ‘the one’ only to change my mind the following day. Ugh, so depressing.

So now I’m 2 degrees, a fitness to music instructor certificate, MRICS (that’s Chartered Building Surveyor to you!) and countless online aromatherapy, nutrition, writing and coding courses down the line. I want to share with you what I have learned and what I wish someone had told me when I was deciding on life after lessons.

The General Gist…

Ok, so you’re a teenager and this is probably the last thing you really want to be thinking about right now. I mean its not like the general life expectancy is 40 or less anymore and retirement age is going up. So……that’s potentially 50 years or more you’ll be spending as an employee. Scary stuff.

Now we consider the school of thought that people don’t generally stay in the same career for the whole of their working life these days, switching approximately every 10 or so years. That’s potentially 5 career changes. Wow, I’ve had 3 already and I’m only in my 30’s.

What makes you Happy?

So with all of that, now we have to think about what it is that you actually LIKE to do right now and watching Netflix might actually count. (think film and TV critic, or YouTube star) This can be anything and everything from watching the clouds pass by to watching people pass by or helping the people pass by.

I don’t know!! – ok, you and your mates turn the sound down and do your own commentary when you’re watching the F1 racing. Or you just love watching how the engineers scurry around during the races and you can’t help but think about how the physics of the DRS zone works. Or you wonder how someone managed to get all those people across the world to the same place at the same time to form the team that won the Grand Prix that day.

Think about it. These days nothing is really impossible when it comes to making a career out of something you love that could actually earn you money and it’s not like you can just go to uni for the ‘experience’ anymore.

You really need to ask yourself what do you like? What are you interested in? What could you actually learn more about that could pay the bills and maybe a bit more? What makes you excited when you talk about it? What gives you butterflies when you think about it? What would make you excited to go to work every day?

It doesn’t have to just be one thing either! Make a list of as many of those things you can think of or have fun with it and create a vision board. Then do your research. Does anyone do anything similar and how did they get there? Does this sound like something you could commit to for 10ish years or longer?

Im pretty sure you’ll change your mind at some point

Ending up in a job I hated was always my worst nightmare. Luckily for me it only happened once – so far. Now I have the chance to look back, yes money was a big factor but the biggest thing that made me happy in a job was the people I worked with. If you work with a load of boring people you don’t get on with it’s the most miserable experience ever.

If you have the opportunity to work for people or a company you love then great. These days as much as your potential employer can see your public profile you can also research them. How do they treat their employees? Do they have a specific type of person they employ and would you fit in? Would this work with the lifestyle you want for yourself and make you HAPPY or would you end up on a 3 hour commute each day or living away from home 2 days per week?

Try to remember your likes and dislikes will change as you get older and allow for change. I hate to say it but its so true. I’m guessing its different for everyone but for me things changed a huge amount between leaving uni (ahem – the first time) and becoming a qualified building surveyor. The things you experience and learn in life can change you as a person. You can’t expect to stay the same throughout your whole life, that would be boring!

Where to Start?

So where does this leave us? A career spanning half a century, 5 possible career changes, the things you like now are quite possibly not going to be at the top of your priority list in 10/20 years time. Where on earth do you start?

The only thing you can do is take a deep breath and start with now. Become more self aware and take what you know to be true about yourself today and what will make YOU happy. Then figure out how to make this work for you.

This is the time in your life to have adventures, think big and go for it. Make your dreams come true!

If you still have no idea what that is, how to make that happen or even how to make yourself happy then look to making others happy and have faith the rest will follow. At least volunteer work looks good on your CV! Just know that your entire life will be a learning experience and you’re never really done with learning even after you leave school.

Looking Back

For me, when I remember some of the ‘small stuff’ I have memories of looking through the property section of the freebie papers when I was a teenager, looking for the house I would buy when I had enough money. As it turned out this wasn’t just me telling myself I wanted to be financially independent but also that I had an interest in buildings. I was curious about how structures are put together, what makes one different from the other and what makes one work more efficiently than another.  And best of all (for me) how to put them right when they go wrong.

If I had been more self aware and really analysed absolutely everything I liked at the time I might have been able to come up with some real possibilities for my future career. Instead I based my choices on subjects I had no real experience or knowledge of.

I don’t regret my life decisions as I wouldn’t be where I am today without them and I wouldn’t have the experience in so many things as I do now. BUT I do wish I had more help in recognising the many things I was personally capable of achieving and had my eyes opened to just how many options there are out there.

So I guess what I’m saying is when it comes to figuring out what you’re going to do with your life relax and take your time (without taking advantage of those who know and love you of course) to really figure out what it is that you want your life to look like in the next 10 years or so and build a life around it that makes you happy.

Good luck, and let us know how you get on.


Gemma Gosden Headshot - Photo by EliotSiegel.com

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