Design Your Career

choose your career track

How do I choose the right career track when I don’t have a clue about what to do with my life? 

Career Design

Design Your Career

A clever solution is to rethink your concept of a career as an original creation. We’ve brought a systems engineering “career design” approach to designing your future. We take the mystery out of career choice by breaking it down into manageable career design elements, and then guide you to architect several customized, well-considered career scenarios or “prototypes” to explore and take for a test-drive before you make any big commitments to further education.  

If designing your career sounds like more fun than trying to force fit yourself into a ready-made box out there, you’ll love this process. Whether you’re a high school or college student, a young professional just heading out into the world, or a slightly more seasoned professional who just hasn’t figured it out yet, we can help you create a custom-designed life that engages your natural abilities (what you’re innately good at) and sense of purpose (mission you care about). 


Career Quest

How do I go about making a smart career choice? Accurate career choices are made incrementally, it’s a process. A well-considered choice is essentially a Career Quest, and you’re the hero on this journey. 

Step by step, we can guide you through our career design methods, beginning with laying down a solid foundation of your natural gifts and talents. With your talent compass in hand, you’ll continue to invent your future like an architect creating a career blueprint. We give you powerful career design tools and techniques codeveloped by Pathfinders, you bring your commitment and imagination. The process includes our professional career aptitude testing and continues with one-on-one coaching to help you put the pieces of your career puzzle together.


Story Meets Reality

A young doctor realized after a decade of med school and residency that he had been chasing a story, the career that he imagined did not match up with the reality. Along the way he had hunches that he didn’t have the right abilities or intrinsic motivation to develop an intellectual passion for medicine but suppressed any evidence that didn’t confirm his story; he was blinded by the light. But despite his desire and superhuman grit, he couldn’t seem to turn himself into something he’s not.

Life wisdom is hard won, it usually takes a decade after college for the switch to flip on: “Uh-oh, this is the life I wanted, and it’s not me.” Highly educated professionals of all ages tell me that their career turned out be the equivalent of unwanted tattoo of their high school sweetheart, “What the heck was I thinking?” I’ve worked with many JDs, MDs, and PhDs who say their career choice “seemed like a good idea at the time”— until reality hit. In hindsight, most say they more or less fell into their career, it’s not until after they saw things up close did the truth hit home. 


Getting Perspective . . .

The future is essentially a story, and we’re all able to make one up. The problem is, we’re not very good at the details; our dreams tend to be vague generalizations (often based on TV shows). We’re expected to make some big life choices and commitments before we have a firm grasp of who we are or the world around us. With no effective process for making a good career choice, we’re essentially asked to make a long-term happiness forecast based on very little evidence, wisdom, or research. Moreover, it seems normal to wing this major decision on the fly, everyone’s doing it, so it rarely occurs to us that we’re guessing what to do with our life. Many of us handle this problem by taking a mental short cut and default to familiar career paths. When faced with so much uncertainty we tend to go for a safe bet that our tribes consider prestigious—an instinctive, reflexive success strategy to follow the crowd. This is just Mother Nature’s way, we’re wired to deal with uncertainty by taking our hands off the wheel and letting our instincts take over.

The consequences of our “mis-choices” don’t become obvious until well after college. And to complicate matters, we tend to dismiss the subtle warning signals along the way that don’t confirm the story about the future that we think we want.

A recent NY Times article asked an important question, why are today’s workplaces full of young people pretending to love what they do? Since most schools and colleges are not set up to help people to choose a career direction, this can is getting kicked far down the road in life. Young people feel pressure to get on with their life and are unwittingly stumbling into their future, chasing after sexy careers, hoping things will eventually work out.

If you have a gut sense that you fell into the wrong career, it’s not your fault  . . .

Career Mis-choice

The Untold Story

The long-term consequences of making rash career decisions don’t become apparent until well after college—the statistic for career unhappiness in the United States is 70%; this hasn’t budged for over three decades. A New York Times Magazine feature on the state of the modern workplace finds that the majority of America’s most elite professionals are “wealthy, successful and miserable.” The worldwide numbers are even worse, over 85% of adults say they’re not engaged or fulfilled in their careers. This is astounding, especially given that people of all ages desire meaningful work. Can it all be rooted in lousy jobs and narcissistic bosses? I think it’s more complicated than that. We have an undiagnosed, systemic “career mis-choice problem.” Most of us are unwittingly falling into ill-suited careers, and since we don’t know why, we keep repeating the same mistake. Just like finding a life mate, career decisions are framed as one of life’s unknowable mysteries that we’ve all “agreed” should be left to fate, this conundrum has not been named as a societal problem that we can engineer a solution for.   

If you’re feeling disenchanted by your career situation, you’re definitely not alone. 


Why is this Happening?

Choosing a career path is one of the most complex decisions in our lifetime but we treat like a whim, most people spend more time researching restaurant choices. I find it fascinating that colleges aren’t on top of this problem. There is essentially no formal or guided career choice process at any level of our education system. College career centers are job placement factories, they’re not set up to guide kids with making complex life choices.  

My adults clients recall having limited awareness of their natural talents, archaic tools for honing in on well-suited directions, no real effective way to test-drive potential career paths, and limited workplace experience outside the classroom until well after college. Under these circumstances, asking young people to make a long-term forecast on well-suited career is absurd. It’s the equivalent of setting them up with a blind date, giving them $100K for a wedding ring (no honeymoon), and then asking them to get married the next day. It’s nearly impossible to get this right. Many of us just throw up our hands or defer the choice to our future-self.

By Default

Grad School? Think Twice . . .

If graduate schools were willing to admit this problem exists, they’d go out of business. Half of my clients have tried to fix their career mismatch by getting a master’s degree or Ph.D; “I made the same mistake twice.” In a large nationwide study of over 100,000 college educated people by Gallup/Strada, about half of U.S. adults with advanced degrees say they have second thoughts or regrets about their career choices. Over the last 25 years, I’ve had in-depth conversations with thousands of these successful-but-not-so-happy Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Boomers who have made exhaustive attempts to fix their career mismatch, most ask me, “Why aren’t colleges helping people figure this out?”

Our education-to-career transition system is an outdated “buy-it-before-you-try-it” process, college students are not aware they’re being nudged to take a stab in the dark, setting them on a haphazard course for decades to come. Many of us go through our careers beating ourselves up and second guessing our choices, “Am I in the wrong company, or in the wrong field altogether?” 

Recently, a few Ivy League universities have owned up to their part in the career mis-choice crisis but the vast majority of colleges don’t seem willing to admit that it’s happening. Mostly, they’re just not looking far enough down the road. They measure student success largely in short-term financial gains, personal career fit and long-term fulfillment are not on their radar. To make matters worse, college counselors and administrators are now telling students, “Your major doesn’t matter, It’ll all work out later.” Students are officially being guided to squelch their doubts and cross their fingers and toes, while in reality, all the unhappy mid-career doctors, lawyers and scientists I’ve worked with are still waiting for their Aha! moment.

If career advice from your friends, parents, professors or colleagues has led you down such a road, don’t get discouraged. There is another way forward.

Game Change

You Won’t “Find” An Authentic Career Out There . . .

Young people today are suffering a career mismatch more acutely, there’s much less wiggle room to experiment and stumble on happiness. The game has completely changed, our new ultra-lean economy is unfriendly to wanderers without a clear destination. On top of that, more people are holding out for something authentic and hoping they’ll find it in a ready-made job-on-the-shelf. But many jobs are “bullsh#t jobs” and prospects don’t seem very exciting once you get a closer look at just how unfulfilled most of the mid-career people are in the cubicles next to you. This leaves younger people feeling baffled by it all. “I did all the right things, how the heck did I end up in this mess?” 

To express our true nature requires breaking the rules, we have to mold the circumstances to fit us, not the other way around. If you don’t design your life, someone will happily give you their grunt work. Pathfinders sees lots of creative, uber-educated 30-somethings who are frustrated that they haven’t found their career sweet spot, and it’s often because they are hoping to “find” something uniquely their own, but that doesn’t exist other there—you have to create it.

When you’re ready to go on your career quest, Pathfinders can help you design and choose your career path wisely. Contact us to ask questions and explore a fit with your career situation:


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