Are you seeking the sorting hat?

Image of a battered old witch's hat

If you’ve watched or read any Harry Potter, you’re probably familiar with the Sorting Hat. This battered old wizard’s hat gets placed on the head of every student to Hogwarts, to decide to which school house they belong. The bold and courageous go to Gryffindor, the sly and cunning to Slytherin… there’s a place for everyone, and the Sorting Hat sees and knows all.

As a career coach, many clients come looking for exactly this kind of career magic – seeking the tool that will see deep into their souls, read their destiny and tell them exactly what career they’re meant to be in. Certainly, when I was going through my own career dilemmas, deep down, all I wanted was for someone to work some magic and tell me what to do.

Alas, I’m sorry to let you know that there’s no such thing as a career sorting hat.

There is no one tool, assessment or person who can tell you with absolute clarity what role you’ve been put on this earth to fulfill. If anyone tells you otherwise, tread very carefully! No-one can read your mind, or tell you exactly what you should be doing. And that’s a really good thing.

You are unique and dynamic, capable of learning, adapting and changing. You’re different today than you were 10 years ago, and you’ll be different again in 10 years. This is incredibly liberating. Where you’ve been does not have to define where you go; you can always change tack, trim your sails and move in a new direction. Give up on the sorting hat, and the world opens up to you. So, where do you start?

If you’re feeling lost, then there are certainly ways to gain clarity. A good career coach can help you to know yourself better and then translate that into potential career fields; that process can be invaluable. Then there are great career resources online, to help you explore and narrow your options. Once you’ve done your research and built a list of career contenders, and you’re ready to leap – stop. There’s one last step.

Would you dream of buying a car without driving it? A house, without stepping inside? You’re considering a major investment in your future, so test-drive your career. Talk to people doing ‘your’ job. Ask what it’s like, day to day. What are the best bits? What are the worst? Prepare a list of questions and then really listen… humans have an amazing ability to hear only what we want. Ask how you can get involved – can you help out, do work experience, volunteer? Gaining some real-world exposure will give you better feedback than any tool that’s out there.

You are your own sorting hat, given half a chance. The magic’s in taking those first steps, and seeing where they lead…

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