Now I'm grown up, what do I want to be?

Do you ever feel that you should have figured out what you are supposed to be by now?

Maybe you are in a job that you enjoy (or maybe not), but even so, you feel as though there is something more that you are meant to do to before you can truly feel fulfilled. The problem is that you have no idea what that ‘something’ is. Sound familiar?

Brooke Miller - Vice President Sales & Marketing BP Australia

Brooke Miller - Vice President Sales & Marketing BP Australia

If so, you’re not alone.

We don’t usually get to customise our own jobs. Instead, we get presented with a list of available jobs and pick the ones we might be good at to apply for. The, we hope that those organisations choose us as the right peg to fit their hole. It’s a gamble for both parties.

We often go for things we are good at or that others tell us will be good for us even if those jobs don’t particularly excite us. In the 1960’s movie, The Graduate, Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman) was earnestly advised to get a job in plastics because “The future is in plastics”. (Mrs Robinson also had great plans for Benjamin – but that’s a subject for another day.)

Maybe you were advised (or told) to become a doctor, engineer, teacher, accountant or whatever. There is nothing wrong with any of those careers – providing you find them fulfilling. If not, then it might be time to reassess your situation.

When faced with the question “What do I want to be?” there are two key things to consider. What you want from a job and what you can bring to a job.

What do you want from a job?

Whether you are fresh out of school or ready for a career-change, you can benefit from some self-reflection to see what style of work you would love to do.

In her book, Making a Living Without a Job, Barbara Winter suggests focusing on the essence of your ideal work, not the final form. How should it make you feel? What attributes might it include? Where would it be?

For example, you might decide you would like a job that involves working outdoors or helping others. Maybe it’s important for you to find something that fits with your personal beliefs and values?

When she was in the middle of a career-identity crisis, BP Australia’s Vice-President of Sales & Marketing, Brooke Miller, decided to look through job ads to help her work out what was important to her. She then highlighted the job types, skills, and attributes that interested her. Miller’s list included ‘team leadership’ and ‘profit and loss accountability’.

Your list might include works and phrases like:

Travel                                                   Flexible hours                                       Manager

Self-driven                                            Fast-paced                                            Diverse and inclusive culture

Creative                                                Analytical                                              Technology

People-focused                                    Co-ordinator                                         Planning

Collaborative leadership                      Facilitate change and innovation         Development

You can also help define what you want by ruling out what you don’t want. You can include anything you like on your list as it will be as individual as you are. Through this process, you can slowly paint a picture of what your ideal work will look like.

Picking one type or category of job can be very limiting, especially if it is in an area that doesn’t have a strong future. It is better to think in terms of job clusters instead of industries as this will give you more options and the flexibility to move into new areas.

The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) have analysed over 2.7 million job ads to determine future work trends. Their research found that it is more important to focus on skills and skill-sets than specific jobs. They grouped these into 7 key clusters.

Their article, What the blazes should I study so I can get a job in the future? is relevant for people of all ages.

 “You can look at the clusters and think about which one of them you’re best suited to and interested in as well as which cluster is mostly likely to stick around. By figuring this out you can then think about the portfolio of skills that would make you employable within this cluster and work to develop this skill set.”

The Australian Government’s Job Outlook website features a handy Careers Quiz that helps you to clarify your work style and suggests options you can filter by skill level, industry, and future growth options.

What can you bring to a job?

Now that you’ve worked out how to narrow-down the jobs on offer, you need to work out what it is about you that will make people want to hire you. There may be countless other applicants with similar levels of experience, so what makes you different?

This is where your personal attributes, interests, and soft skill sets come in.

Start by going though all your personal interests and hobbies. What do you like doing in your spare time? In the past, these things were listed at the bottom of resumes, if at all. Now, you can use your volunteer work to show that you really do enjoy helping people. Cooking, painting, playing music, and so on show that you love being creative. Coaching the local sports team can reflect your leadership skills.

Potential employers want to know things about you as a person, such as what you are like to work with and how you cope with change. Will you step up when needed or do you buckle under pressure?

Employers are particularly interested in your ‘soft’ skills. The ones that you can’t learn methodically but that come naturally to you. These might include:

·      Being able to express complex ideas in simple terms.

·      Being a great listener and showing empathy.

·      Having sound decision-making skills.

·      Having a genuine love of working with people.

·      Being able to think ‘outside the square’.

When applying for work, be prepared to provide lots of examples of how you have demonstrated these skills in the past.

Now that you’ve got a deeper understanding of what you want and what you’ve got, you’ll be in a better position to determine where you’re heading. Remember that you can change direction at any time, too.


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Brooke Miller is BP’s Vice-President of Sales & Marketing in Australia. She has also held other roles within BP including Regional Director for BP Solar Australasia, General Manager for Elite Customer Solutions, and General Manager of BP Bitumen Australia yet Brooke's career started in landscape architecture and town planning. How did she manage to move through such diverse roles, especially in industries where she had little or no experience?

Hear Brooke’s story and discover how she learned to define her ideal work and capitalise on her personal strengths in her inspiring podcast interview on The Mentor List. Brooke also shares some of the history of BP in Australia, which is a fascinating story in itself.


You may also like our articles:

How to engineer your career

4 effective strategies for managing career disruptions

5 ways to ensure your career change is successful

How to discover your life’s purpose (based on Jon Yeo’s episode)


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