Have you found your passion? Are you living a life that truly fits to what you love? What is important to you? Did you wake up one morning, knowing what you would be doing for the rest of your life?
If you don’t, don’t worry. Not many of us do. To get there, we need to do something that goes against our conventional wisdom: to follow your gut and take a different direction when something feels off.
I saw a boy at a traffic light when I was on holidays during high school in Jakarta, the capital in Indonesia, who was in torn and dirty clothes, begging for money. I looked at him deeply shocked because I never saw someone my age in such poor conditions. I decided in that moment that only lasted split seconds, to do something about his situation. 10 years later, I joined the humanitarian sector. But I didn’t get there in a straight line. The secret sauce is to experiment. Just two years earlier, I was dead set on another career path: working in a lab mixing chemicals. Not until I did an internship, was it clear to me that this wasn’t me. Why? Because the life of someone wasn’t what I love. I am an outdoor person. I am active. I like meeting people, and travel places. I like adventure like backpacking in Latin America. We often have an idea of what we want to do without knowing what that means in practice. When you want to become a humanitarian, are you willing to move every three years country, leaving your friends and family behind? You will be working in South Sudan, in a compound and with curfew hours, that seriously limits any leisure activity. Most of your times will be spent with colleagues from work and insecurity is a daily risk. You might then be shipped off to a regional bureau in Senegal, where you have to quickly learn French and travel in the region almost every month for extended periods of time, not allowing you to make friends in your own duty station. That’s why you should not build a CV but a life. Any job needs to fit what is important to you, what life is it that you want. When things get tough, and they will, the name of the company you work for, will not get to through these moments but the purpose, the bigger picture you signed up for.
Oprah Winfrey, who is a US talk show host, started her career as a news anchor. It was fashion at a time. But she got too emotional when interviewing people, which was not what was required, for the news. She didn’t change completely career path. All what she did was taking a different turn at the traffic light. All what she did was getting closer to who she was and what was important to her.
Experiment and practice. No matter if you are in high school, university or ten years into your job. Pick up a new hobby. Join a new online community or a book club. Take courses or participate in workshops that hone your skills, that get you a new job three years down the line. Change departments within your organisation. What will happen over time is that your new path and your old will merge and form a new direction. I can’t advise you what job to take. No one can but you. Your gut knows what feels good to you.