Google The Future of Work and you get 720 million results. Much of the focus is on how increasing automation will affect the nature of work and the jobs and skills employers will need. However, another side of the equation is you and what you want. “What do you want to do?” is the predictable question young people face during their education years. Increasingly, it’s unhelpful because new roles are being invented faster than ever. Also, it can create undue pressure because of other people’s expectations such as parents, friends, and peers. Here’s a different perspective.

What does not help job searching in your 20s is trying to focus on who you are right now. Really try to focus on who you want to be and build your network and CV around that.

This wise advice is from an employed graduate a few years after graduating (gathered as part of some research I’m doing). Refreshingly, her emphasis is on the future rather than the present. It reinforces the well-known quotes attributed to Mahatma Gandhi and influential management writer, Peter Drucker.



Both are saying you have the power to shape your future by being proactive and values-led. Align the future of you with the future of work.

Future being v future doing

By asking yourself ‘who do I want to be?’, you shift from reason (doing) to emotion (being). And engaging our emotions is a key element of job and career satisfaction.

The idea that you can increase your emotional intelligence by broadening your emotion vocabulary is solid neuroscience. Your brain is not static; it rewires itself with experience. Lisa Feldman Barrett

Here are some prompts to help you explore:

  • What contribution to the world burns within you?
  • What difference to other people’s lives would be fulfilling?
  • How do you want to feel at work?
  • What stirs your emotions (compassion, joy, drive, desire, anger etc – name them)?
  • Describe a time where you made a difference, felt fulfilled or nourished. How did you feel and why?
  • What would feed your soul?
  • What environment or context would nourish you?
  • How will you explore what you want to be?
  • What next step will you take and when?

Unfortunately, recruitment processes do not always encourage job seekers to be themselves. The result can be playing a game of what the employer wants to hear. So, it’s hard to ‘be yourself’ when the interviewer is ticking off a checklist. Also, an over-focus on ‘who you are’ right now doesn’t always reflect your developmental stage as a young adult. More often than not, maturity comes with experience.

Encouragingly, employers in some fields are placing increasing emphasis on personality and cultural fit and less on academic qualifications. This is another compelling reason for you to be clearer and articulate about who you want to be.

Picture your future

Answering ‘who I want to be’ gives you a sense of purpose that is within your control. In turn, that creates a greater sense of internal certainty in an uncertain world. Yet, it’s not a fixed position but one that allows you to explore and adjust as a result of trial and error. To picture your future, notice how you feel, take more risks, and tap into your curiosity as you build professional relationships. Paint a picture that reflects your true colours. And if you want a coach to support and challenge you…