Blog: Help! I have no idea what I want to do with my career! by Peter Engering

Date: 24 May 2023

“Help! I have no idea what I want to do with my career!” is a frequently heard phrase during my time in high school, my university years, and even when I was already employed. People who do not (yet) know what profession they want to pursue or where they eventually want to end up. Personally, I suffered from this a lot, even throughout my career. The question is: Is this a bad thing?

Some people know what they want from a young age, go for that job and are happy when they obtain the position. For example, one of my friends had a dream as a child to become a pilot at KLM. Now, he flies around the world and he really enjoys it!

Others know their career path, however, fail to achieve their goal and end up with a sub-optimal outcome because the are not willing to give evertything (or give up certain things!). For example, one of my friends wanted to become a film director, but now “settles” for editing TV shows. This is something he still enjoys doing, but it still gnaws at him that his dream has not come true. Did he have opportunities to make his dream come true? Absolutely. However, in those moments, he wasn’t willing to give up what was needed for it. Something always came up in between. Is it still possible now? In my opinion, definitely! It’s never too late!

Then you have another group of people who particularly know what they would like to do or achieve privately, and who see work merely as a means of earning money to keep doing what they enjoy in their private life. That does not mean they hate their work, I know plenty of people who still greatly appreciate their work, but it is not as important to them as it is to others. Family and family life often is an important factor here.

I want to focus here particularly on the group who actually do not really know yet what he / she wants to do, or even doesn’t know at all yet. First of all, for this group I want to share an interesting fact. According to research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2019, the average number of jobs a person will have over his/her entire life is about 12. In addition, it is regularly suggested that a person born now will practice 7 (!) different occupations in his/her lifetime. Not employers, but occupations! In the end, people often choose a study that is close to his/her interest, but even with a “wrong” study or once choosing a “wrong” job, is not so bad at all. You can achieve anything (!) you want to accomplish.

From an early age, I had the vision that I wanted my own business but I had no idea in what. It ended up taking me 13 years of full-time work experience to know what I really like to do. Now that I’ve taken that first step in June 2020 by setting up Notwork ( it feels like all the opportunities are flowing right towards me. Started the company Compliance Champs with my close friend Leon in 2022 feels like the icing on the cake. With this blog, I’d like to share my experience to make sure this doesn’t take 13 years for you, as well as the advice not to worry too much about it if you don’t know yet!

The following are 10 tips I would like to share:

  1. Ask people who are very close to you what they think suits you well and what they think what your specialties are. Others sometimes know you better than you know yourself. Often they can judge what energizes you. Think of it as free advice! In addition, take a good look around you. Look at who your friends are. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said you become the average of your 5 friends you spend the most time with. It may be difficult but some “friendships” turn out to be not worth investing energy in afterwards. You will learn this especially at times when you are not doing well for a while. Which friends are there for you unconditionally? And, for whom are you unconditionally there?
  2. Furthermore, learn to discover your strengths and weaknesses and focus on the things you are good at and make those even better. This will be your differentiating factor. It is often said that you should focus on weaknesses. Here I disagree. Be conscious of your weaknesses and especially of how to work with them. In your job or your company, find people who are good at the areas where your weaknesses lie and work together!
  3. Always use personal goals and opportunities for learning and make them as concrete and measurable as possible (make them SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely). Above all, these goals must be realistic because if you set goals that you fail to achieve time after time, this can demotivate you. In addition, they must be challenging enough to push you forward. Also make efforts to obtain degrees and certificates that can verifiably demonstrate that you have accomplished something;
  4. Get a mentor/coach and do this immediately! For this you don’t need to be employed yet! This doesn’t need to be someone from the organization where you work, but it should be someone who pushes you to act outside (there you have it again) your “comfort zone”. A coach isn’t someone who tells you what to do, but who asks the right questions that allow you to make your own choices about what to do next. I sometimes get to hear, “but why would he/she be interested in helping me?”. People by nature want to help other people. The fact that you are asking for help also shows that you value this person’s guidance. It’s worth the try! Besides, try to stop making assumptions (assumptions are the mother of all screw ups);
  5. Invest in your health! Make sure you have a balanced diet, make sure you set aside enough time to exercise and get enough sleep. The time you invest in exercise will pay off immediately with being more efficient in your job. Besides, you cannot always work ‘around the clock’ . Also, make sure you find a way to relax after work;
  6. Get satisfaction from moments of failure and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. No one (!) reaches his/her goal in 1 first shot. To cite a very good quote by Nelson Mandela: “either you win or you learn”. In addition, I recently heard another great quote: “”entrepreneurship is the collection of failed projects.””. I have made so many mistakes in both my career as an employee and in my short time as an entrepreneur that I have stopped counting. In the beginning, I even thought this might be the end of my business. Now I realize that these were the very moments that boosted my career and made my business even bigger;
  7. Networking, networking, networking. And no, I don’t mean going to all the networking get-togethers and only attending the people you think are relevant to your career. Show genuine interest in people. Help anyone where you possibly can. Ask for help when you need it. Those who are afraid to ask for help won’t get anyplace. Alone you really won’t make it. In the future you will benefit enormously from your built-up network (both business and personal!). In addition, always treat everyone with respect, even if someone doesn’t treat you with the same respect. Personal circumstances can have a huge impact on someone and they often react in a different way than normal. If you respond with respect it will pay off later;
  8. If you know what you want, never give up (be persistent)! Unfortunately, success is often begrudged. We know the stories of great successful entrepreneurs (e.g. AirBNB) who were laughed at because of their ideas but persevered. There will be plenty who quit because of the opinions of others. When I wanted to start my business last year, a lot of people advised me not to do so. Even my father questioned whether I should do this, particularly because I started during the COVID pandemic. Follow your own instincts and have guts;
  9. Grab every opportunity you can. This sounds like an obvious tip, but unfortunately I often notice that this is not being done. I have often heard: “I don’t need help with this”. I now mostly regret the times I didn’t accept any help! In addition, always be truthful and have integrity. Sometimes the path with lack of integrity to success is quicker but of shorter duration.
  10. Do not be tempted to join “the rat race”; the craving for status, always more, bigger, faster, more expensive and comparing yourself to others. In business, you are quickly confronted with these issues. With every promotion, my spendthrift got bigger and I wanted more. Now I only look at what I really care about and am also investing much more in my future (e.g. by investments). My goal? Full financial independence (and passive income!) as soon as possible and to decide for myself when I want to (stop with) work. My tip? Start investing now. Invest a portion of your salary each month and make it larger with each salary increase. Building up capital early also makes it easier to make a choice later to take a new job where you get lower salary, for example, or it is a nice starting capital for your own business.

I absolutely do not want to give the impression with this blog that I know everything. However, I do think that the lessons I have learned can be valuable to others. Everyone will hopefully get something out of it that is helpful to them! Do you have questions, comments or the need to discuss? Dare to ask (me)!


Book tips:

  • Think and grow rich – Napoleon Hill
  •  Rich dad, poor dad – Robert T. Kiyosaki
  • The magic of thinking big – David J. Schwartz
  • Solve for happy: engineer your path to joy – Mo Gawdat

Podcast tip:

  • Jong beleggen, de podcast (Spotify)