Have a career and still follow your heart. This is how.

Follow your heart at work. Do what really makes you happy. It sounds so incredibly simple. But how do you do that? It's time for something new; you want to find something better. Human Resource Management lecturer and career coach Elisabeth Wijbenga often sees this struggle at the workplace and has some handy tips for us.

Dare to dream

"Thinking about what makes your heart beat faster often takes shape when you know the answer to this one question: 'What would you really want to do if anything was possible?' I regularly ask this to find out what someone really wants. I often talk to people who are stuck in their career and are longing for something else. Knowing what you really want enables you to see the possibilities. Irrespective of money, background and a lack of knowledge. If you know what your dreams are, you can go from there and explore what suits you best and what the next steps are to achieve this." 

Make it visual

"I sometimes hear people say that after years of employment, they want to start something on their own. But is that really true, or are they just longing for freedom in their job? And that urge to go abroad, is it really Spain that attracts you or do you just need more rest and more space? You can find out by making a mood board. This is because visually, your brain works differently. Visually, you can let go of your thoughts much more easily. By looking through magazines, books, journals you can quite clearly see what suits you. A mood board gives shape to your vision and helps make it much easier to make career decisions."

Go back to your childhood

"If you have no idea where to start, but you do know that something has to change, go back to your childhood. What did you enjoy being a child? What made you happy back then? People often already develop certain traits and skills as a child. I was always building huts, for example. But I enjoyed sitting in them much less. As a child, you are often busy with something that you are naturally good at. Did you always play house with dolls or were you already creative at an early age? Maybe you can do something with that and it will help give you direction."

Ask around

"I can already hear you thinking, 'Yes, that's all very well and good, making a mood board and reminiscing about your childhood, but you can't live on ideas and dreams.' That's true. Luckily, there are many good ways to figure out which professions may suit you. You can ask your family and friends, for example, to describe their work, what they like about it, and what it involves in practice. If you hear anything that appeals to you, why not ask if it is possible to follow them at work for a day? Also interesting: sometimes, a job at one company is awful but fantastic at another company. Perhaps the organisation you are with doesn't suit you, but the same profession elsewhere may be the perfect match." 

Know that learning can also be painful

"People often tell me that they are afraid of what will happen if they let go of everything that has become so familiar to them. Understandable. But what have you really got to lose? When you try something new, you will run the risk of failing. You learn from this. Changing your mind-set can help. A nice metaphor for this is going on holiday and your flight is delayed. Will you get upset and say, "Oh no, I have a six hour delay" or is it just a small part of your trip? Will it ruin your entire holiday or will you see it as a part of the journey that takes you to your wonderful holiday destination? I think this same idea can be applied to your career. It doesn't always have to be perfect."

Want to follow your heart, too?

Come discuss it with students and lecturers on the Work & Study Info Night (in Dutch).