Pundits may argue whether we're in the middle of the 'Great Resignation' (late capitalism is an exploitative nightmare and workers aren't putting up with it anymore), the 'Great Reshuffle' (the pandemic has us all reassessing our priorities and looking for new jobs that better align with our values) or the 'Great Formation' (everyone is quitting to start their own independent thing). 

But whichever one of these interpretations of sky high quit rates turns out to be correct, one thing's for sure -- 2022 is going to be a year of career reflection for just about everyone. 

How should you go about thinking through whether you're on the right career path and, if not, what to do about it? That's the subject of a timely new round-up of 25 tips on career planning from some of the smartest minds in the world of startups from First Round Review.  

The 4 lists approach 

The whole package is well worth a look if you are -- like just about everyone else -- wondering if you took a serious wrong turn in your career somewhere. But one bit of advice is particularly worthwhile for those who haven't been on their career journey long enough to accumulate all that many wrong turns yet. 

The wisdom comes from former Facebook and Google exec Molly Graham, and it's directed specifically at people in their 20s who are still trying to figure out exactly what to do with their lives professionally. 

"I always tell people in their 20s that they should use the first 10 years of their work experience to build four lists," she tells First Round Review. What are they? 

  • Things I love doing

  • Things I am exceptional at

  • Things I hate doing

  • Things I'm bad at 

The goal of keeping these lists isn't just to gather data about your skills, preferences, and weaknesses. It's to then leverage what you've learned to find the kind of role that's best suited to who you truly are as a person. 

"The best version of your career is finding jobs that are in the Venn diagram between what you love doing and what you're exceptional at. This may sound obvious, but oftentimes as you get more senior, the Venn diagram is often 'things I'm exceptional at' overlapping with 'things I hate doing.' You have to know yourself well enough to turn those jobs down, even when someone offers you the super sexy role full of things you hate doing. It's a role that will bring out the worst in you," Graham instructs. 

Other smart people agree 

This might sound like a fairly simple approach to thinking about your career, but it's one that can often get lost in the fog of everyday life and it's many anxieties. No wonder so many smart people recommend something similar. Virgin founder Richard Branson advises those still unsure about their career trajectory to ask themselves, 'What do I love doing?' and 'What do I dislike?' and look for opportunities that offer the former and avoid (or actively fix) the latter. 

Similarly, when LinkedIn asked professionals to offer advice to those just starting out in their careers, the same tip came up again and again: don't try to puzzle out what job is right for you before beginning but instead jump in and learn from experience what suits you and what doesn't. Their message is similar to Graham's. The best career planning is getting your hands dirty and learning what you excel at and hate along the way. 

So if you're in your 20s and feeling a little baffled about what path to follow, don't try to puzzle out your route before you set out. Instead, get to work but keep these four lists handy, filling them in whenever an insight occurs to you. The more you learn about yourself, the better you'll be able to steer your way through the Great Resignation, Reshuffle, Reformation, or whatever you want to call figuring out a non-soul crushing career in the midst of a pandemic and serial political, ecological, and economic crises. 

It really is confusing and hard out there. You'll need lots of self knowledge to navigate your way. Start gathering it now.