Alastair Creamer on why the 'why' is more important than the 'what'

Career Advice
03 October 2018 | Career Advice | Guest Author

What kind of working life will you lead?

You’ve got big decisions ahead. You’re feeling pressure and expectations. You’re tempted to leap into the first stable position that covers your rent. You can always change your mind later and move on, right?

Well, you could, but starting your working life from a place of panic or an attempt to meet other people’s expectations might see you disillusioned by your mid-20s, so why not ask yourself some different questions about work before you jump in?

Are your clear about your values? When you wake up each day, what motivates you? What are your own expectations of what a fulfilling life looks like? What role does work need to play in your picture of your future self? Will your professional self be more important than everything else (and if so, for how long and at what cost?) or might you favour a balance of paid work with a sense of purpose, soul-satisfying hobbies and personal development opportunities including meeting new types of people and influencers through your extra-curricular life?

Think hard about which activities and subjects you’re most enthusiastic about. What makes you light up when you describe it? Reach out and speak to people already working in those fields. Can they tell you about jobs you didn’t know existed? What have you got to lose?

Have you been as curious as possible about your options? Think beyond your CV - what you can contribute professionally goes way beyond the skills and work experience you’ve listed. Get creative to get a broader sense of what suits you and what you have to offer to an employer. Consider your whole life experience to date. What do people know you for? What are your unique signature strengths? Are you ready to tell the best version of your story to potential employers? If not, perhaps there’s a bit more work to do…

Have you built yourself a strong support network? Don't face a career dilemma alone, however tempting it is to isolate yourself. Isolation when you’re confused or worried about a major transition is never healthy, so ask for feedback from family, friends about your best qualities and transferable skills and from tutors, colleagues or sports, arts or hobby-related mentors whose opinion you rate. A wide perspective is key. Take some time to find out how you think about yourself and learn from others’ feedback about you. This will push open the door from a fixed “I know myself - don’t need to dig deeper” mindset to an open-to-possibilities mindset. This alone can help you get unstuck.

A myriad of skills, qualities, life experiences and a unique set of connections make us who we are. There is no one like you, or me. So, as you embark on interviewing some employers to see if you’d like to work with them (!), which parts of your story do they need to hear? Articulating the ’story of you’ can be challenging. Practice telling a wider story about your professional (if you’ve already worked) and significant personal life experiences, focusing on what you learned about yourself, your impact on others and your contribution.

A sensible conversation with yourself and willing feedback-givers can be a surprisingly revealing starting point. Be honest about what you value in life and most of all, don’t tackle it alone!


Alastair's team will run ‘Get Unstuck’, an Eyes Wide Opened career coaching workshop, on 24/25 November in London Bridge. For details and for the inspiring stories of people we’ve coached, see

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