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Every single person gets to eighteen years old and is asked to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives. It’s a disgustingly daunting task, because yesterday in high school you needed a bathroom pass to go for a pee. Today, your first day of college, you are being asked to decide what you want to do for the next fifty years. If you’re the sort of person who can just about decide between two colours of lipstick in the morning, then knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life is going to feel impossible. Don’t panic, though, you’re not alone. Choosing the right path isn’t just going to happen when you are eighteen, even though at that time it’s exactly what it feels like. You could have as many as twenty jobs in your lifetime, which means you would be answering the question about where you see yourself in five years with ‘who knows’. The trick is to get comfortable being okay with that! There is no sure way to know if a particular career or industry is going to be right for you until you try it, but you can get hit with the blow of employers seeing your very full, very busy resume as being fickle and flighty.
There are hundreds – if not thousands – of different career pathways that you could take. Trying to choose just one can feel impossibly hard. Someone who loves to write could probably pick from twenty different creative careers that involve writing and telling stories. Trying to decide which of those careers to do is the difficult part. Finding a job with the best perks such as health care (read here for more details) is important, as you could find a job that you love and yet not feel appreciated for it. It’s so much easier to figure out what you don’t want to do, rather than try to figure out what you do want to do. You can’t just watch Grey’s Anatomy and decide on becoming a surgeon, because that’s not real life (though you may just find a McDreamy!).
One way to find the thing that you want to do with your life is to turn something that you love into a career that you can make money from, but that can mean your hobby no longer feels like the fun thing to do. Not every job you will do will be the best one for you, nor will they all be fun. However, if you can take something from each of those jobs and put it toward the career that you have always wanted to do, you’re going to be ahead of the game in a big way. If you want to find a career that you truly love, want to stick with and progress within, we’ve put together some ways that you can do that – even if you haven’t got a clue what it is you want to do with your years before retirement.
Lists are an amazing tool for discovery. Writing down the things that you know you’re good at doesn’t mean that you are being arrogant; you have to be able to identify with your strengths rather than feel as if you shouldn’t have any. There is going to be more than one thing that you are good at and if you can identify what those things are, you can narrow down your career choices. Self-analysis can really help you to discover what industry you would be comfortable in, and you can write down the physical things that you are good at including things that emotionally strengthen you. Obviously, you could be good at absolutely anything if you try hard enough, but really, the things you are strongest at can give you a good idea of what you should be doing right now. You will always be better at your job and far more motivated to turn up if you are doing something you are good at.
If you find yourself at a place in life where you have lost your job and you are deciding on your next move, you need to take stock and evaluate the jobs that you have had in the past. Decide which pieces of those roles you liked best. Decide which employer personality and strategy worked with the way that you learn. Decide how you learn, because employment is just as much a learning curve as education. The answers that you come up with can really help you to decide the type of company that you want to work for in the future. There is nothing to say you have to continue to find the same jobs that you’ve always done; you can learn a lot about your future by looking at your past, so look there first. It’s amazing what you can find.
Speaking to old college professors, family members and friends is a good way to decide on your career. They may be able to tell you things about yourself that you didn’t even know. Talk to as many people as you can about their careers, their pathways for getting there and what they think of their industry now that they are in it. Go on professional websites like this one and read resumes; before you set your heart on something, you need to learn as much as you can about it. Attending seminars and lectures about the career path you are interested in could see you introducing yourself to the right people in the right business. It only takes a conversation or two to get the information that you need, and you could possibly get yourself a lead into the right company that could allow you to learn the job you want to do. Once you’ve learned everything that you wanted to about the career you have shown an interest in, then decide if your strengths that we mentioned earlier would be a good fit. You cannot be a round peg squashing yourself into a square hole.
You should take some time to go back to school and start again if you don’t think you know enough for the career path you want to do. There is no failure in admitting that you don’t know the answers, and becoming better at what you want to do isn’t just smart, it’s necessary. Owning your weaknesses and choosing to devour the right information to get yourself up to speed on learning new things is a positive, proud thing to have. Watch videos on YouTube, go back to college, read books and get advice from people who are better equipped and in the job already. You can learn so much from others and if you can get the right audience for your questions, you are going to be able to decide if the industry is the right one for you. Educate yourself on what you need to know to make a better-informed decision on your future.
The one thing that you have to consider the most is what will make you happy. Are you going to be happy crunching numbers behind a desk day in day out? Probably not, if you are the creative type who craves a little adventure. If you’re a stickler for numbers and logic, though, crunching numbers could be the dream for you. You should measure your career against the things that are going to make you the happiest, and then you should hunt for that happiness. All those people in the high-powered jobs with the big desk, the window with a view and the bonus that could reflect that year’s house prices may be wealthy and powerful, but they may never be happy. If you choose to live your life happy, that has to include your career choices.
In the end, your career is going to chop and change over the years. You are likely to never be completely happy in the first job that you dip your toes in, and that’s absolutely fine. You have only got one life and if you are wasting your time on a boring commute in a boring town heading to a boring job, your one life is going to be a boring one and you will have no time to change things. And then it’s going to be too late. You need to be able to live your life the way you want to live it, while you still have the time. Choosing a career that is going to help you to learn, grow and develop in ways that you could only imagine as an impressionable eighteen-year-old is going to change your entire life. There’s no need to panic about the job prospects you have as you enter college if you understand that the world is full of choices and options for you to decide from. Ultimately, you should choose your job based on the things that you love, the things that will make you happy and the perks that your dream job could offer. Does it matter that right now, you have no idea what it is that you want? Not a bit.