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How to Navigate Feeling Lost on Your Career Path

January 28, 2021

Whether you’ve just graduated or have been in the workforce for decades, you may find yourself questioning if you are on the right path. You may have days where you wonder whether your career was the right choice for you, or whether you see opportunities for growth in the future. Feeling lost on your career path isn’t uncommon, so we spoke with career coach Joy Lin ’09 to find out what advice she gives individuals standing at this crossroads.

‘Finding your passion’ is oversimplified advice

“First, you are not alone!” Lin assures. “Seriously, the average person changes jobs 10–15 times in their lifetime. Second, the ‘follow your passion’ advice has been long debated, and there is more and more evidence to show that it’s not passion that leads to happiness and fulfillment.”

If passion isn’t what leads a person to feeling happy and fulfilled in their career, what is? Lin believes happiness and fulfillment can be attained by “a combination of being mentally engaged, using your strengths and what you’re naturally good at, and finding pockets of meaning in everyday tasks. Passion builds naturally from there.”

Think about what your strengths are and the tasks that make you feel fulfilled at work. Are you a writer who enjoys writing copy for a social media post, or do you get excited about filling in a spreadsheet and using your analytical skills? Are you utilizing your strengths at work and doing tasks that you enjoy?

“If you’re feeling lost about your career path, or maybe don’t know what you’re passionate about, I suggest you put on your investigative hat and dive into your past to find insights on:

  1. The types of thinking that you like doing the most
  2. The subject matters or activities you’re drawn towards or are good at
  3. Feedback you’ve gotten from those around you
  4. The personal struggles you’ve had to overcome
  5. The ways you help others that you find fulfilling

Within this pot of introspection, see if there are any common themes or ideas that rise to the top,” Lin says.

Shift your mindset from lost to open-minded

Joy Lin ’09 on campus | Image courtesy of Joy Lin

“Clarity comes from action (not overthinking things), so come up with a few small exploratory actions you could take to learn more,” Lin says. “Reframe feeling lost to feeling open-minded, and give yourself the chance to explore and engage with things that interest you!”

No matter what stage you are in on your career journey, remember that you are not alone in feeling unsure about your next steps. To connect with fellow UC Berkeley alumni, consider joining the Berkeley Career Network, a local or cultural Alumni Chapter, the Cal alumni LinkedIn group, or subscribing to our career update emails.

If you’re interested in networking with others in a more genuine way, read Lin’s advice on networking authentically.

Next week, Lin covers getting motivated while job-searching during COVID-19. In the meantime, you can connect with her on Instagram.