Edahn's Formula for Choosing a Career

Dear Edahn,

I just graduated college with a degree in Economics, however, I can't help but feel like a helpless 22 year old, not knowing what to do with the rest of his life. I love playing sports and guitar, though not that good enough to become pro in either. I really don't know what the next step in my life would be, and I feel like I'm having a quarter-life crisis. Any advice? Thanks!

I THINK YOU'RE FEELING like a helpless 22 year old who doesn't know what to do with the rest of you're life because you're a helpless 22 year old who doesn't know what to do with the rest of you're life. Not to worry, it's a good sign. If you didn't, it would suggest that you never contemplated this very important question, so good on you.

I've done a lot of thinking (and worrying) about this subject, and here's the best advice I can offer you.

Ideal Career = Your Talents  World's Needs

In other words, your ideal career lies in the intersection between your personal talents and the needs of the world. If you follow this formula, it'll lead you to a satisfying, meaningful career...and life. It'll help you feel like you're making something beautiful.

Start by making an inventory of your talents. You don't have to be the best in your field, it just needs to be something you do best. You may be good at things you never considered yourself special at. Think broadly. You can be good at listening, at calculating, at analysis, at leading, organizing, defending, offending?, design, construction, writing, speaking, selling, buying, trying, lying, whatever. Talk to your friends, parents, and colleagues, but in the end listen to yourself. Make a list of your top talents. There can be more than one. Using your talents will give you automatic passion.

Next, think about the needs of the world. You don't have to be in Africa feeding hungry children to serve the world. You can do it in more subtle ways too. You can help your community by using your talents. You can help your clients. You can help educate children or adults. You can talk to people, help them get things done in their life, make them laugh, cry (in a good way), or think. There are a lot of options here. But the theme is doing things to help others who need help. For example, working in a bank to help rich people get richer would not qualify. Working at a printer to help people in your community make signs and banners would qualify.

Your ideal career lies in the intersection of these two variables. For me, this formula predicted a few different ideal career choices. Some of them very clear, some of them more conceptual. But they all felt correct, and that I could choose any one and be satisfied. It could change, as you grow and develop new skills, and learn more about the world. That's okay.

In the end, there are all sorts of heuristics and formulas for deciding on a career. You might end up inventing your own formula, and if you do, more power to you.

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