What do I really want to do all day?

Paper Art: Elsa Mora

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What Do I Really Want to Do All Day?
Silicon Valley career coach Maureen Taylor, who works with top leaders in the tech industry (Sheryl Sandberg name-checks her in Lean In) believes that you've known the answer to that question since elementary school.

O: How do you choose the right career?

Taylor: Think back to who you were in second grade. Some psychologists believe it's around that age—the first period of time many of us can remember—when we become individuals, when we fully grasp the meaning of right and wrong. It's also when we tended to gravitate toward what made us happy. In second grade, were you an athlete, a bookworm, an artist? You're still the same person. If you loved to solve puzzles, maybe you'd like being a project manager, putting together pieces to form a whole. If you were the outgoing girl on the playground, maybe you'd like sales or marketing.

O: And how do you know if you're in the wrong career?

Taylor: You're not only stressed out—which is normal—you're drained. I've seen this again and again. When people are in the wrong position, they're tired all the time.

O: But we can't all make a living painting watercolors.

Taylor: Sometimes you just need a modification. I have a client who had an important position in a large organization, but she was exhausted. When I took her back to second grade, she remembered that she loved helping people. She's now transferring to the nonprofit arm of her company.

O: What if your job isn't flexible?

Taylor: There are probably ways to bring your essential self into your current situation. My grandmother was a janitor at the Empire State Building, but she wanted to be a manager. In second grade, she was the bossy kid on the playground. So at work she did the best she could, took initiative, showed leadership and rose to become head custodian of the whole building for 22 years. Even when options are not abounding, just knowing what you like can help start your journey.
Meredith Bryan