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May 1, 2014 at 1:00 AM

6 tips for discovering your true path

Graduation time is nigh, and a new crop of freshly minted college grads is about to burst upon the employment scene. A fair number of them, despite the fact that they’ve just undergone at least 16 years of schooling, have no idea what comes next.

If you are (or know or love) one of these people, you might appreciate this pearl of wisdom: Few of us start out life knowing our true paths.

Life is, as they say, a journey. We start in one direction, and — after a host of responsibilities, mistakes, false expectations and fears have done their number on us — we end up in a completely different place from where we thought.

This is unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to be painful. Building the self-knowledge you need to identify your true path can make the process a lot more pleasant, as well as shorter. Try these:

Notice what you notice. What objects/processes/ideas make you stop in your tracks, filling you with joy, energy and excitement? Take note: These are major clues to who you are.

Go on a trip by yourself. In unfamiliar surroundings you are free to think unfamiliar thoughts. In addition, you’ll have a big block of time to notice things (see above).

Talk to a professional. OK, this is not an original idea, but a good job/life coach, a counselor, a clergyperson or even a smart friend can serve as an invaluable sounding board.

Go shopping. No, not that kind. Shop for a life! Talk to people living lives and doing work that you admire. Volunteer in fields that interest you; take classes; travel.

Read and write. If you are a word person, you should 1) research (books, magazines, the Internet) and 2) journal. You might just find yourself writing down a blueprint for your life.

Reminisce. Think back to when you were a small child. Who were you then? In love with numbers? A word nerd, an artist, a talker? You are still that person. The more your work reflects the real you, the happier and more successful you’ll be.

Happy graduation, and good luck finding your true path.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at wg@karenburnsworkinggirl.com.

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: entry level, finding your passion, job search

Blog contributors

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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