Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What to do when you don’t know what to do

Everyone has one of those friends. You know the type: you suspect they could debate the finer points of the law before they could walk, or their first words were ‘business and management internship’, or they probably used to sing ‘Your metatarsus is connected to your navicular bone’ as a child. They’ve known they wanted to be a doctor since they were 5 and ¾ and they’ve never looked back. They’re right on track for getting the exact career they want. 

And then there’s you and me. We’re reaching the critical moment of ‘Hang on a second – was I meant to have figured out a career path by now?’

The truth is, I think the ones who definitely and passionately know what career they want are the statistical anomaly; those of us who haven’t got a great master plan yet are probably the majority, so you’re not alone. Some of us have gathered together some sort of idea and direction, and some of us still haven’t got a clue. So what should we do when we don’t know what to do?

Step one: don’t panic. You’ve got (or are getting) a degree and you can get a job if you try hard enough. You are not going to starve/be forever unemployed/have to live in a ditch. If you end up in a job you don’t like, so what? It’s not the end of the world – you could (and should) try something different after a year or so.

Step two: think about what you might like to do. It sounds obvious but list all the careers you could potentially enjoy and consider what industries you’re interested in. Weigh up your strengths and weaknesses and what sort of job marries well with them. Ask your friends and family to tell you, with brutal honesty, what they think you’d be good at. Use our career planner tool. Think about whether there is any flexibility in the career you might be interested in. For example, if you reckon you might like retail management, you could always use it as a base for going into other retail careers, such as buying or merchandising, or other management careers if it turns out it’s not right for you. You don’t have to pigeonhole yourself just yet. Then, you need to actually write the whole lot down – it will make you realise you have a better idea than you thought you had.

Step three: do your research. There are more jobs out there than you might think. Browse our list of job descriptions to see if there’s anything you haven’t considered yet. Do you really know about all the options that are open to you with your degree and experience? Do you know about all the job adverts out there that don’t specify a degree subject, such as jobs in management, sales, finance, admin or recruitment?

Step four: just try something. Once you’ve figured out what careers might interest you, if you can get some work experience, do it. You might find out it’s not for you but that’s part of the learning curve (and then you return to step two).

Step five: keep your chin up. Scrolling through listings of jobs you’re not interested in and feeling stranded in the career desert can be a real knock to your confidence. Don’t let it get the better of you. Look at your list of strengths again. Stop comparing yourself to your friend with the freakishly shiny CV and golden career path. You are worthy of a good job – you just have to find the right job that’s worthy of you.

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