10 steps to define your career and re-discover your happiness

By Ashish Avasthi

Júlia Müller Dias wears multiple hats but is most importantly known for being the founder and CEO of Peculiar Design. She is an impeccable artist and down-to-earth person whose goal is to bring happiness to each and everyone, which, in itself is no easy task.

The following image perfectly captures her essence:

Board with the text “I am a woman on a mission to” with post-it notes describing her different missions.

I attended a career development workshop organized by the MCAA which was moderated by Júlia Müller Dias. Here’s what I gathered from this workshop and hope it helps all the readers too.

Before I move forward, keep a notebook and a pen with you because the idea is to write down your thoughts and plans. #YouDecideYourFuture

Notebook with a highlighter

Starting a career or switching to a new career is no easy feat, both require hard decisions and planning. It’s a whole process. Just trust the process and follow the steps. In the end, you will find what you are looking for. #TrustTheProcess

The first and last question to ask yourself is and should always be — will doing this make me happy? If the answer is yes, the battle is half yours already.

card on a desk with the text: “Trust in the you of now”


So… Are you ready?

  1. As a first step, make a chart starting from when you were a kid, and highlight when you experienced pure bliss and joy in the simplest things up until now. List what you have gained, what you have lost, and what you have experienced. This does not necessarily have to be defined by skills; it can be feelings or emotions too. Just write it down.
  2. Then, ask your friends from over the years, whom you trust and love, — why they are your friends. It’s a weird exercise but it will make your personality traits clear to you. It will also make you understand how far in life you have come (if you ask multiple friends over time) and most importantly, tell you about your key characteristics.
  3. Now, ask yourself 5 vital questions and jot down whatever response comes to your mind –

Julia’s advice #StartWithWhy

  • Why do I want to switch careers (or why do I want to work, if you are starting your career)?
  • What do I want to achieve?
  • How will I be able to achieve this?
  • If you have some negative thoughts about your plan, think about how you can get rid of those?
  • How can I improve myself?

Once that’s done — take a short break (or longer) and move your body because thinking about such hard questions can tense up the muscles. In words of our beloved Taylor swift — #ShakeItOff

4. The next step is to write down all possible career paths you think you can have using the skills you have or could have with new skills acquired within a reasonable period of time.

Scrabble blocks spelling out: “Be fearless, Be you”

Since this is your career, don’t limit yourself, don’t judge yourself. If you can think it, you can do it. #JustDoIt

5. Make a list of everything you desire to do or ever desired to do, everything that brings you happiness, everything that you would like to do given money was not an issue.

Thinking that there are too many options or too little options? It doesn’t matter. No one’s judging you but yourself. You are only half-way there. #StopJudging

Now, let’s make it a bit more interesting.

6. Imagine your current job or profession (or the degree you studied) doesn’t exist anymore. What can you do now? What would you like to do now?

Laptop, earphones, and a mug with pencils. A black board says: “You’ve got this”

You see where she was going with it yet? If you didn’t: don’t worry, neither did I. #JustKeepGoing

7. Now you would have at least some ideas. You need to work out what works best for you in order to attain the eventual goal — HAPPINESS. You need not be afraid to create your own niche.

A bike parked near a street sign saying “Follow that dream”. The background has tropical trees.

What about combining two of your passions, Julia would say just go for it. #CreateYourOwnNiche

8. If you have connected the dots easily, that’s great. If you haven’t, don’t worry. Write down the following three scenarios with pros and cons for each. Bear in mind to incorporate other aspects of life in those scenarios as well, such as — location, family, kids, love, work-life balance etc.

  • Realistic scenario — Career that you can achieve realistically
  • Ideal scenario — Career that you desire the most and would be ideal for you considering every aspect.
  • Different scenario — Let’s say you are denied the first two scenarios, what would be your career now?
minimalistic/geometric world map

Did you do it? Were you able to #ConnectTheDots and come up with a world of ideas? #CreateYourOwnWorld

9. If you were able to figure something out, that’s great. If you did not: try going back to step 1 and try to reconnect the dots. Now, it’s time to get started with an action plan to achieve the career you long for.

  • Try to find other people doing the same or similar thing you wish to do using your friends, social media, LinkedIn etc.
  • Try to gain experience in the field by making a quick visit to their office, shadowing them for a day, talking to them, interviewing them, doing short-term work with them if possible, watching videos about it, or attending seminars, reading books etc.
Three people in an office space sitting behind a desk and having a discussion.

To gain certainty about your goal, you need to do everything that you possibly can #WhateverFloatsYourBoat

10. Once you are done with these exercises, it’s time to decide and smart decisions require a SMART plan.

  • Specific (Specify your career goal and position as much as possible)
  • Measurable (Make sure you can measure your goals)
  • Attainable (Make sure the goals are attainable and do everything possible to achieve them)
  • Relevant (Make relevant changes to your profile to be the best fit for the job)
  • Timebound (Make sure to give yourself deadlines (realistic ones) to achieve your goal)

These steps described by her pointed me in the right direction in my career. I hope it does the same for you. #GoHustle

However, it must be taken with a grain of salt that dreams can differ from reality. So, make sure to talk to people who are in the field or just bounce your career ideas off people. You never know what career might await you. #ChaseYourDream #ChaseYourHappiness

Photo of Ashish wearing a black sweater

About the author:

Ashish Avasthi is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie early-stage researcher currently pursuing his Ph.D. at BIONAND, University of Malaga, Spain. His research is currently focused on molecular targeting of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) for early diagnosis and treatment using surface-functionalized nanoparticles. He likes to distribute his time among his varied interests of science, sports as well as writing.



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Valerie Bentivegna

Valerie Bentivegna

Science communicator and science writer — sharing my thoughts on efficiently communication complicated stuff in a clear, compelling and engaging manner.