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Rethink Your Career

Losing your job can be a blessing and a curse. Most people understand the curse part, but few look for the silver lining in the otherwise stormy cloud. When you don’t have the encumbrance of a full time job, a well-charted path, you have the opportunity to do whatever you want. If you have an emergency fund [3] saved up, now is the time to rethink your career and put yourself on a path that will help ensure you’re happy tomorrow, in ten years, and in forty years.

This article is part of Bargaineering Career Week 2009 [4], a week-long series focused on your career – how to find a job, how to tailor your resume, how to find the job opportunities and how to nail the interview. This article is the first article of day one – career planning.

Use Mind Maps

If you think about how your thoughts are stored in your brain, you probably recognize that it’s not linear. It’s more like pockets of main thoughts with associated thoughts branching off that, and more thoughts off that, etc. A mind map is a visual representation of how your mind thinks and can be used as a brainstorming tool to get your thoughts on paper. For a look at some mind maps, you should review this amazing gallary at Buzan.com [5].

I won’t go into the mechanics of mind maps, you can find that easily online (or just check out this PDF [6]), but when you conduct the exercise, your goal should be to figure out what you want to do with your life. Write down the things you enjoy, what makes you happy, what is important to you, and so on. You may have to do this several times but in the end you’ll have mind maps that you can review to try to figure out what career path you should go towards.

Don’t Let The Past Dictate The Future

One of the hardest decisions I ever made was to become a full-time blogger nearly two years ago. one of the big reasons why it was so hard was because my entire career path was in some sort of software architecture and development. My education was in computer science and software engineering, my years of work involved designing and development software systems and applications, and all of that would be, effectively, for naught if the rest of my career was involved in writing a blog.

But I did it anyway because I enjoy what I do, it was financially feasible, and I didn’t let fear make decisions for me [7]. Don’t let the past dictate the future. If you really want something and it makes sense, go for it. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go back!

Go For It

If the brainstorming and mind mapping teased out a career path that is in a totally different direction than where you were going, give it a try. I am of the belief that if a path is financially feasible, meaning it can pay for your lifestyle or your lifestyle can adjust to the pay, and it makes you happy, you should give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, at least you were happy doing it!

As an aside, I’m always asked if I believe the maxim that “if you do what you love, the money will come.” No, I don’t believe that. However, I believe that “if you do what you love and the money doesn’t come, at least you were doing what you love. If you do what you hate and the money doesn’t come, well then you lose on both counts.”

Have you used mind maps or other brainstorming tools to help you chart our your career? If you have any techniques you used, I’d love to hear it in the comments because the more ideas we have, the better.

(Photo: mshades [8])