The grand exercise.
All these tips are virtually moot if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Take some time to really mull over what career you’d like to pursue. If there isn’t one thing you have in mind, start by figuring out what aspects of your jobs and other jobs appeal to you. This means everything from the type of coworker you like having (or whether you’d prefer none), the managerial roles you enjoy (ditto), the office environment, to the tasks you enjoy taking on, the role of travel, the involvement of a boss, etc. Be honest and be ruthless. If you hate jobs that require analytical thought, for instance, this is the time to get it out there.
Spend time on this list. Get it to be as thorough as possible. Once you’ve done that, take a few days off, then go back and rank it. Figure out what’s absolutely necessary and what you can be flexible on. When you’ve got that down, try and see if any jobs tangentially related to what you do would fit the bill. If they won’t, go further afield – take a look at jobs that you’ve never before dreamed of. Be creative and don’t be nervous. Business executives become lobstermen, editors become farmers, legal assistants become surgeons. People take wild leaps all the time; if it ends up being the case, you can too. After you’ve got a list of potential careers, whittle it down to the ones that really interest you. Test them out. See if you can shadow someone for a week; take as many informational interviews as you can handle; reach out to your network and beyond – tap friends and family, alumni, neighbors. Figure out what you want.
And. Then. Take the plunge. It will be terrifying, but it will also be more fulfilling than you can imagine to take on a job that makes you happy. Good luck.