I binged Indian Matchmaking on Netflix this weekend. Seriously, who hasn’t at this point? And, of course, I have a lot of opinions on the various characters that are looking for love. One of the most engrossing and polarizing of the bunch is that of the go-getter, travel-loving lawyer who knows exactly what she wants in her life and her life partner – Aparna Shewakramani.
There were more than a few times that Aparna’s opinions caused me to raise an eyebrow (full disclosure: I had zero clue about Bolivian salt flats before the show). What really intrigued me, though, were her bold statements about her career.
Aparna knew she wanted to be a lawyer at just nine years old. But, she reveals on one of her dates that she actually hates being a lawyer, and thinks it’s weird that her date enjoys being an attorney. Huh?
While most people were confused by this supposed discrepancy, I could completely relate to her story. After initially pursuing a career in medicine, I transitioned into health policy and advocacy, then to tech startups, and finally to career coach. In a lot of ways, I was following the passions that I had at the time. But, honestly, it can be really tough to find a good fit with a job that really connects.
Have you felt like your career isn’t as enjoyable and fulfilling as you imagined it to be when you first decided on it? Maybe you felt coerced into a more conventional industry due to the promise of financial security, power, or status, but that’s just not aligned with your values. Or maybe you just had different expectations of what your job would entail, and the practical aspect of it leaves you wanting more? Given Aparna’s very strict and opinionated mother and the general grueling nature of the legal profession, I get the sense that she may relate to some or all of these.
Aparna tells her date that she’s been trying to figure out how not to be a lawyer ever since she became one. Sima from Mumbai may not have found the perfect love match for her. But, as a self-proclaimed pivoter extraordinaire, here’s how I found my perfect career, and how you can match with one, too.
Zero in on your strengths.
Medicine taught me so much about critical thinking, time management, and perseverance – key strengths that I have used in my later roles in health policy and tech. As a career coach, I’ve also been able to tap into the empathy that I developed while doing patient care. My talents in marketing, creative writing, and social media have also been crucial in becoming an entrepreneur.
Make a list of all the things you love to do, the skills that you have developed, and the interests you have. Think about how those abilities can transfer into a new role. Confused about what you’re really good at? Consider taking a test like CliftonStrengths or High5 to learn more about your strengths.
Separate business from pleasure.
Do you love to cook? Paint? Drink wine during Fat Pants Friday?
Know that just because you love doing something does not mean that it’s right for your next career move. Envision what your perfect role looks like. What would you want to do for 8+ hours a day every day, even when it’s hard or there are not fun parts of it? Will you still have a way to unwind from that job? Make sure that you’re not removing the joy from your life while trying to be more fulfilled in your career.
Focus on your future.
You may be staying in your current job because it is safe and predictable. You may hate it, but at least it’s a known quantity. Jumping into a new career often brings up the fear of the unknown. It brings up a lot of “what ifs” and “buts.”
When I left medicine, people told me that I was so brave for taking the leap. They also asked me why I was throwing away so many years of training. Honestly, it didn’t feel like I was being brave or throwing away anything. In fact, it felt like I was throwing away each additional day I stayed in a career that wasn’t true to me.
Don’t hold yourself back with fear or concern about what anyone else thinks. Shift your mindset from worrying about your past being wasted effort, and instead consider all of the things that you gained from your experiences and what you can take forward from those lessons.
(P.S. It looks like Aparna did create the perfect new career for herself, as a travel concierge – leading others to the salt flats and beyond. It looks like she’ll make it to country #41 soon!)