Sometimes people get *this* close to moving toward the right career path, but they chicken out because they don’t have a permission slip from someone they love and trust, or they don’t get a green light from some kind of expert.
This is especially common at the beginning of your career. Why? Because for the first two decades of your life you made most of your decisions based on other people’s advice. Sure you made some choices on your own, but your mom or dad or teachers or mentors were always there to steer you in the “right” direction.
One of my clients — I’ll call her Ava — had a lot of anxiety about navigating her career. She said “I’ve never had to make my own decisions before.” I think that’s true for a lot of people in their 20s.
If someone (like, oh, say, your mom) has been co-piloting your life up until now, you may feel totally freaked out about taking control and flying solo. As in, But I don’t know what I’m doing! As in, But my mom and dad want me to do this other thing instead! As in, But I’m afraid I’ll fuck things up and crash in a horrible fiery death!
You won’t. Oh, you’ll definitely make some mistakes along the way, just like every other person who ever lived, but you’ll be just fine.
Or maybe it’s not a parent who’s co-piloting your life. Maybe it’s a team of real or imaginary “experts.” Experts. You know, like your high school guidance counselor. Or that super scientific personality assessment you did. Or that article you read from The New York Times. Or that fancy aptitude test you took.
If you’re betting your future on anything from news articles to sophisticated assessments to the latest Buzzfeed quiz, just stop. Stop the noise. Don’t let a quiz or a survey or a counselor or even a parent tell you what to do.
When you’re freaked out and unsure, it seems easier to look outside of yourself for answers. There’s a reason why everyone goes to see their college career counselor at the 11th hour right before graduation. It’s because people panic and think, Jesus, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing so I better just ASK someone. There’s so much pressure to get it right. Plus, if you outsource your decision-making you don’t really have to take responsibility for the choices you make, right? You were just doing what you were told. (Bullshit. That’s a cop-out.)
Here’s the truth: The biggest expert on you is (big surprise) you. Not me or some other “expert,” or the internet, or a guidance counselor, or a family member. It’s you.
The people who love you, along with the experts and authorities you consult will all have opinions about what you should do with your life. Hell, a lot of the opinions flying around you are probably totally unsolicited. You know the saying: Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one.
Maybe your bestie thinks you should work for the same company as her so you can have lunch together every day. It sounds okay. And easy because she can hook you up. But you’re not really psyched about the work.
Or maybe your dad thinks you should go to law school. After all, you’re a smart cookie. And lawyers make lots of money, don’t they? But something about it doesn’t feel quite right.
Or maybe one of your college professors thinks you should stay on as her research assistant and do your Master’s. That’s super flattering, but there are other things you want to try.
Some of the opinions flying at you might seem helpful. And some of them might just seem like noise. The truth is there’s no such thing as objectively good or bad advice. Good advice is simply advice that feels good and seems true to you. And bad advice is simply advice that turns you off, the stuff that feels like noise to you.
When you get advice from the people around you (solicited or not) your reactions will vary. Sometimes your gut reaction might be, Nope. Please stop talking. And get the fuck away from me. Sometimes you might think, Oooo! Yes please! Something about this just feels right. And sometimes you might think, Hmmmm I’m kind of intrigued, but I need to find out more.
It’s your job to notice how you feel about the opinions flying around you. That’s how you figure out if you’re getting good advice or if it’s just noise. Because what’s good for one person might be noise to another, and this is your career we’re talking about. You don’t have to take any advice that doesn’t feel right. Remember, you are the only expert on you. So the next time someone gives you their two cents, feel free to nod politely while quietly telling yourself, Fuck no. Not a chance in hell.