What to do when you can’t figure out your Life Mission

I recently coached a young NGO leader on developing a conference for fresh graduates and master students, called “Heading for the Future”. It’s not the first time this conference was held, and I appreciated the idea even the first time I heard about it. But by working with Cristina, and wondering how we could better help future talent find their way, I realized something.

The age of “find your life mission, vision and values” is over.

As I finished my studies and started looking for a career, in my early 20s (so not that long ago), there used to be a trend in drafting life missions, vision statements, 30-, 20-, 10- year goals.

The ubiquitous question in interviews was “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

Right now, the answer should be “Do you think your company or this role will still exist in the next 10 years?”

We now live in a world that’s needing innovation, reinvention and breaking paradigms. Companies change so fast, creating new markets, new products. The world crisis made everyone re-think their roles and shift towards either personal priorities, or towards adding more value to the context they are in.

Generation Y – Millennials are becoming  an important  chunk of today’s workforce. With the aging of baby-boomers, today’s young leaders will shape the future in ways we can’t imagine yet. They – or should I say we – are ruled by undecisiveness, impulsiveness, desire to prove and – perhaps most important – speed.

If you are in your early 20′s today, how could you predict where you’ll end up in 20 years? Or even 10?
The array of opportunities today is ten times larger than just a few years ago, in developing markets. We have diversified learning programs, new roles, trainings, internships, assignments abroad, we never imagined we would have. On the other hand, it is said that most work will become outsourced, and that unless you are a young Indian graduate, you’d better re-think your career path.

Then, how on Earth could you have a life mission?

So my advice would be to just stick to a few ideas:

1. Make a list of 3 things you like doing – now.

Unless you’re passionate about your work, there’s little chance you will succeed in it. Going into a Sales job “just to try it out and see what comes out of it” might have worked a few years ago, but right now, there’s so many young executives working their asses off, reading and learning whatever they can get their hands on, and exploding limits to prove themselves in the marketplace.

So you’d better like what you do, and get damn good at it.

2. Get a clear picture how long it takes to get there.

See if there’s any job or profit-rendering activity linked to what you like doing. Talk to as many people in that role, or similar,  as you can. Model them, copy their learning path (there’s no shame in that), and see if you could get there in less than 5 years. If not, chances are your priorities will change by that time anyway.

I’ve seen so many undecided young people, who get out of university, have a very general background, and lose themselves in the face of opportunities. Because they can’t assess themselves correctly (I’ll talk more about this soon), they can’t do the math between where they want to get, where they are now, and what needs to be done to get there.

Actually, most of them miss no.1.

3. Assess yourself.

Talk to a career coach. Go to interviews. Get feedback. Get some experience while in university.
Otherwise, how could you  know where you are on a “talent” scale?

(** on a separate note, too many companies nowadays stopped looking for workforce. They look for “talent”. As much as I believe that this is rather a buzzword than an actual definition, it’s working… So put your mind to it and figure out what it takes to be under that umbrella.)

4. Make a career plan for not longer than 5 years.

There’s a simple reason for that. In 5 years, you’ll be 26 or 27.

You’ll have a stable relationship and want to get married, make plans for buying a house.

Or you’ll go bar-hopping at night and won’t remember where you spent the night, and plan your trip around the world.

See my point?

You might get into a boring job and realize after 6 months that the assignment of your life is coming up.
Or you might take a sabbatical to build schools in Africa.

Around this age, your priorities, dreams and aspirations change so fast, that it’s almost impossible to plan ahead.
That’s why many people around the age of 25 get into what’s called “the quarterlife crisis”,  when after two Masters degrees, five years abroad as a student, and 6 months at home, they don’t know where to go next, and believe they’re missing out on their own life.

Well, make a choice.

The great thing is that we were taught to have one dream, and go get it. That age is over.
Now, we get to have more dreams.  Be prepared to change them.

As Flynn puts it, when Rapunzel wonders
“What if the lights I’ve been dreaming of, for the past 18 years, aren’t what I expected?”
“They will be.”
“And what if they are?”
“Well, that’s the best part. You get to go and find a new dream.”

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