Some of my ESL clients know exactly what they want to do for work, and they are doing it. I work with men and women who speak English as a second language, and they have found meaningful work here in the U.S. as teachers, financial analysts, caregivers, and small business owners, for example.
I also work with individuals who want to find enjoyable employment, but they don’t know which career is for them. These are talented people who happen to speak English as a second language, but they are no different from my native English-speaking friends and acquaintances who also struggle with the question:
Which career is for me?
I’m here to tell you that there is no shame in not knowing, and you are not alone.
In fact, I understand the desire to find meaningful work all too well. This deep desire to find work that inspires and motivates me has prompted me to try many different career paths until I finally found a career that I feel passionate about.
Trial and error, in my opinion, is a critical component when it comes to choosing a career—especially if you are a person who has many different interests.
Uncertainty = Opportunity
Not knowing your next career step is a great opportunity, especially for people who speak English as a second language. It’s a chance for you to research possible career paths and a chance for you to practice and improve your English skills as you explore your options.
It's a chance for you to get honest with yourself about what you personally need to get clarity on the situation. Maybe you need more information about the industry, maybe you need to ask more questions to the right person or people, maybe you need a mentor, or maybe you just need a little motivation.
If you feel unclear about your next steps, here are a few small yet powerful steps you can take to lead you to clarity.
Small Steps = Big Clarity
1. Join a class or group
If you live in a major metro area like Houston, there are often many free groups you can join via Meetup.com. You can find groups that are specific to English language learning. These groups are filled with men and women who want to meet other people and improve their English speaking skills. Meetups are a great networking activity because you’ll meet other ESL speakers who might have helpful experiences to share or career advice to give.
You can also find groups that are not specifically ESL-related but are geared towards specific interests, hobbies, and industries. Again, these groups are an excellent way to meet like-minded people and ask questions. If you feel nervous (like most people do), grab a friend and go together.
2. Get clear on employment laws.
If you are unclear about whether you are legally allowed to work in the U.S., check out reputable websites or talk to a knowledgeable immigration lawyer. Know what employment options are available to you and the legal paths required to get you where you want to go.
There is power in information.
If you are not allowed to work in the States yet or are unsure of your career, there are many organizations that would love to have you as a volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to improve your English and expertise and to get clear on what you would really enjoy doing.
Volunteering gives you a chance to experiment and to ask yourself valuable questions.
Do I honestly enjoy this type of work?
What do I like about it?
What don't I like about it?
These might seem like basic questions, but you would be surprised by how many people jump into a career without really knowing the answers to these questions.
4. Seek motivation.
One of my favorite motivators is watching an inspiring TED Talk. Business Insider recently highlighted the 5 best career TED talks. If you feel like you have lost motivation, take a break and let yourself be inspired by people who have struggled and persevered just like you.
5. Try visualization.
Before you pursue a path, you need to be able to see it in your mind. That's where visualization can help.
Close your eyes and imagine that you have found your dream job. It's okay if you don't know the specifics. Instead focus on how you would feel waking up every day knowing that you get to do something that you love, something that helps others, and something that allows you to share your unique gifts with the world.
Paint a visual picture of the types of activities that you would enjoy each day at your job, the amazing people you would work with, and the love for your work that you would feel.
If you can do this, you are light years closer to knowing your career path. Your heart already knows what it longs to do.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you desire to find a career that you can embrace, you can. You might see speaking English as a second language as a challenge or barrier, but I believe in my heart that it is an opportunity!