3 ways to discover your direction and make it a career

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The more choices we have, the harder it can feel to figure out how to move forward and in what direction. It doesn’t matter if we’re new to the workforce completely, or applying to colleges for the first time, or ready to transition to a new phase of our career – with what feels like a limitless supply of options (because we have transparency into those options like never before), decision fatigue is oh so real.


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If I’ve learned anything, however, in years spent talking to extraordinary women around the globe, it’s that our personal experiences, no matter how different and regardless of how specialized, can lend insight universally. That’s exactly what happened as I spoke with Capital One’s Jennifer Lopez, a Senior Director of Product Leadership and an expert in Design Thinking (a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions).

When speaking to Jennifer, I was reminded that the advice we’re looking for, especially when we’re seeking that spark of motivation to change something or to create success bigger than what we currently have, is so often in the stories of those around us. And her story was no different.

First, make new rules

If you want something you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done to get it, as they say. “It is our duty to define new rules and break the current ones. Do no harm but provide more value in the universe,” Jennifer says. She explained that old rules and ways of doing things will only allow you to replicate previous success. If you want to experience the next level, you’ll have to determine a new way to do that for yourself. This touches not only what we do but how we do it. Jennifer, while noting that this is something she’s always looking out for in the women she mentors, gave the example of being in a meeting and feeling uncomfortable. Choosing to speak that discomfort and see what happens will give you new information to inspire your next steps. You need the data points that playing by the norms and rules wouldn’t have given you.

Second, experiment

Whether you’re experimenting with what you say, how you say it, or what you do, new rules for yourself give you new input for what’s next. And according to Jennifer, future innovations depend on experimenting. Breaking the rules, making new ones and experimenting can happen in small moments like the time a few years ago when Jennifer was leading a workshop with her Capital One team in a room that was not conducive to standing up, moving around, and doing the work. So instead of sacrificing the experience of the workshop, Jennifer got down on the floor, unbolted the table, and moved it in order to create the space she needed. The team she was working with thought that was a crazy choice and that they’d get into trouble, neither of which was true. Experiments depend on us being willing to experience the fallout, which is why small-scale experimentation is best.

We all know the stories of people who rushed to change their career or industry because they thought it’d be the golden ticket to whatever fulfillment they were looking for. But if we’d experiment more, we’ll get closer to what that really is, faster. According to Jennifer, it’s key because we have to see what it feels like for us personally. “I’m a really big proponent of when there are paths you might be interested in, find a really simple way you might experience it yourself,” she says. And if you experiment with experiences enough, you’ll get closer and closer to what feels right for you.

Third, get back up

Always. Jennifer explained to me the art of Innovation Resilience, which is the ability to fail multiple times, learn through that process, and get up with the same amount of passion and vigor that you started with before you failed. “There are so many things out of our control. The only way to get closer to impact is to take a step forward. We will fall in those steps but get back up and use what you know,” Jennifer says. She went on to explain that this is truly the only way to have massive impact, which we all possess the potential for. “The only way to do it, is just to do it,” she says.

So, if you have a big move that you feel on the horizon, take a few lessons out of Jennifer’s book: make new rules, experiment, and when you fail (which you will – and that’s ok) always get back up. And if you want to meet the woman with this mind-blowingadvice, you can do that at the Capital One booth at Grace Hopper Oct 4th through Oct 6th.

This article first appeared on MaxieMcCoy.com.