Whether you’re 22 or 72, the question is the same, “What do I want to do/be when I grow up?” Sorry, you 22-years-old folks. For most the answer is elusive and often distant. Cartoonist Jules Feiffer mused that, “Maturity is a phase; adolescence is forever.


Eric Canton

So since you’re not ready for the big answer, how about some smaller incremental steps toward personal clarity? Climb the mountain to hear the wisdom of the guru? Look for the pop culture wave of the future? Engage in a little honest introspection? The last is best.

One blustery day a few years ago I was walking on the dunes near Monterey. A lone fisherman stood under the gray skies facing the wind off the Pacific casting and then casting again for fish yet to be hooked. I asked what he was catching. He answered, “Couldabeens.”

Career change seekers need to get beyond the gurus and the pop culture magic de jour. There is a certain amount of self-sympathy and mea culpa with which we seem to need to smack ourselves — the Couldabeens — but then we are obliged to personally or with the help of counselors conduct true assessments of our skills and abilities that are enhanced by the experiences we have had.

Here’s what your assessment or personal inventory should do:

• Focus on defining skills that differentiate you from others in your areas of specialization.

• Define abilities that show the soundness and depth of your competency.

• Show successful experiences identifying problems, actions taken and solutions achieved time after time throughout your work history that are transportable to other industries.

• Identify those achievements that have especially changed circumstances for extended periods of time — caused real cultural changes in your work place.

Far too many of our clients have taken to heart personality profile tests and employment aptitude tests only to find out what they already know about themselves. They still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. So what do we do?

• Write the stories from your past that define and get you beyond the Couldabeens in order to clarify what to do right the next time.

• Record the stories where the passion emerges and the flow of real achievement comes out — surprise yourself.

• Dig deep for the “taken-for-granted” that really should be part of your stories after all.

• Let the energy of these victories reignite you, the person any of us would want on our team.

• Most important, rehearse these stories in the context of the prospective employer’s needs he or she hopes you can fill.

Give yourself the chance to be the right candidate, no, the hands-down best candidate for your great new career. You’ll become a solution that will make your new employer proud. Your Couldabeens will dissolve into the I AMs, and you will have grown up just a little more.

Eric Canton is president of Career BreakThrough! Inc. Contact him at ecanton@careerbreakthrough.net This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or toll-free at 866.429.3118.