Escapee Iris Louwerens created Dig Mondays, a lifestyle blog to help people in their 20s and 30s create a career they’ll love to bits by giving them tips and access to the right tools and resources. You can follow her @irislouwerens.

If you’re feeling stuck in your current job or career and have been thinking about doing something completely different, I’m sure you’ve had the following question fired at you: “what do you want to do?” Apparently, this is the holy grail to switching careers. You need to be able to answer that question first, so you can research your chosen market(s) and speak to people who know the industry.

A valid question, but for a lot of people this questions is just too confusing and even daunting. Chances are it paralyses you, because you simply don’t know the answer. You can’t pinpoint it and are unsure where or how to start.

Sounds familiar? Then “what do you want to do?” may not be the right question for you. There are other, more subtle and effective ways to figure this out. Here are some tips:

Write a list of all the things you dislike about work

Is it the way your boss manages you, the environment, the location, the culture, the hours, your colleagues, your actual tasks and responsibilities? Make it as specific as possible: what is it exactly that you dislike about it? Next… ask yourself what you’d like instead. For example: you dislike working in a formal, dull, corporate environment. Instead, you’d like to work in a more creative and funky environment (maybe something like a converted warehouse?), with lots of colours and breakout places. Oh and instead of a suit you’d actually prefer to wear jeans to work.

Go through your list of dislikes and write down what you’d want instead.

Identify your values

Once you’ve done the above and have written down things you’d like instead, try to identify commonalities – overarching ‘themes’ if you like.

What you’re trying to do is understand your values. Values are the things that you find important in any given situation and these (subconsciously) drive you. Values are things like: adventure, authenticity, contribution, creativity, flexibility, freedom, fun, helpfulness, independence, influence, intelligence, recognition, status and so on.

So, if – for example – you’ve identified creativity as one of your values and you’re currently find yourself working in a risk averse and process controlled environment, there’s a clash in what you find important and what you do on a daily basis. This will inevitably feed its way through to how you feel and how happy you are with your job. The goal is to get a job (or career) that fits with the things you find important.

Experiment with things you may like

If you have a particular interest, such as nutrition, journalism or storytelling, you could enrol in a course to learn more about it or even get qualified. You could also start a blog to share your knowledge. Or, if you’ve always thought of starting your own business, attend a start-up workshop. It doesn’t really matter if you’re not yet sure what product or service you’d be selling – just going to a workshop and surrounding yourself with like-minded people will help you to focus on something else, something new, which will stimulate your brain to come up with ideas.

Ideally, you’d want to combine these three tips because you’ll get the best results if you combine thinking with taking action.

These tips should give you a whole lot more clarity than trying to find an answer to the potentially paralysing question “what do you want to do when you want to get back?” So, next time someone pops this question – don’t break a sweat. don’t break a sweat. Instead, simply say that you haven’t figured it out yet, but that you’re working on it.

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