Career 101: What If I Don't Know What I Want To Do?
Picture the scene. You’re on the job hunt. You’re desperate to start work so you can start earning some money. You’ve got a degree in a certain field, but you’re not sure if you want a job based on that. Basically, you’ve got lots of great interests and a whole bunch of awesome skills but you’ve no idea what to do with them.
Welcome to the scenario for, probably, more than half of young people across the globe.
One of the most important questions experts in the career industry are asked is: How do I find my passion? But I bet it’s actually one of the most difficult to answer.
It’s frustrating to have ideas of what you want to do for a career but no direction. Sometimes it seems like there are endless possibilities and so many various routes to take that choosing your career can be highly overwhelming. I spoke last week about how our careers make up quite a huge chunk of our lives, so it's really important that we get it right. It's all well and good saying that, but how do we actually know where to begin?
Sometimes your career path is carved out for you from day one. Say your parents own a farm. You live on the farm, work on the farm when you're a kid and probably carry that on into adulthood. It's the same with quite a lot of family businesses, unless it involves something you just really don't want to to.
Some of us follow in the footsteps of our parents but in a different way. For example, your parents might work in the theatre industry and you grow up wanting to work in the same industry, or a similar one.
Then for the rest of us, we have to go about it on our own. We have a dad who's, for example, an accountant, a mum who's a teacher, and we don't want to do either. What do we want to do? Well, that's the tricky part. But I think it'll all become slightly easier and clearer for you with these five tips.
We all love a good daydream but actually, the thoughts you have during this time are some of the most important. As I spoke in a post last week, Don’t Detox, Renew (Your Mind), our best ideas can come to the surface when we daydream. When we think about something for such a long time and so deeply, we can lose track and never find the answers we’re looking for. So the best thing you can do for yourself is to make a conscious effort to daydream. Take fifteen minutes out of your day, lie down on your bed or sit on your favourite chair, close your eyes, and try to empty your mind of everything. We can’t start thinking about something new when there’s already a million other thoughts spinning around in our minds. When you’re relaxed and ready, that’s when you can start daydreaming about your career.
What is it that you really want to do? Picture yourself in the top three jobs you’d like to have. Then in each of those, think about what would give you value in these roles. These are ultimately things that will make you happy at work.
If an idea strikes, jot it down. This is sort of a daydream and free writing session. Plus you’ll need this list later.
If money is important, that’s never a bad thing, please try and remember that. But it’s not the be all and end all. Would you take a rubbish job for more pay or take a job you enjoy for less pay? I know what I’d choose. The money side of things needs to coincide directly with the job itself. In terms of creating value, money is obviously important to me, only in the sense that I want to feel and know I’m being paid enough for what I do. Other values that are important to me would be:
- To know that I’m accomplishing things
- Not sitting at a desk all day – attending meetings, having thought sessions etc
- Pushing myself creatively every day
So before you actually start strategizing and putting things into action, daydreaming is really important. Just close your eyes and see what you can come up with.
Make a list
Now here comes the part where you put your brain up a gear (and where you need your notes from task one). All you need is one sheet of paper. Put a line down the middle so you’ve got two columns. In one column, you write down your interests. Everything you’re interested in. Blogging, fashion, beauty, music, films, horse riding, DIY – everything you can possibly think of. Then in the second column, you write down your skills. What are your strengths? What are you good at? This can include your personal characteristics, such as ‘helping people’, or ‘listening’, as well as academic and self-taught skills such as ‘SEO’, ‘social media’ and so on. It doesn’t matter how long your lists are, but the more points you have on each, the more opportunities you can create.
I’m guessing you want to know the point to this list, right? Well the trick now is to look through your interests and strengths to see where anything overlaps. Can you pull an interest and a strength together to create a career role? How many times can you do this with the things on your list? You might even be able to create a new job which is even better. The point is that you’re bringing together what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at – that’s how you know what you want to do.
So, for example, if a key connecting feature on your list is design, then that's your path. Obviously there isn't one designated career for ‘design’, just like there isn’t one for ‘writing’, but identifying what you value, where your skills lie and what you want to be known for, are perfect for understanding what you want to do for a career.
Chances are that a few things will leap out at you and that's your starting point. Read, research and talk to people about the roles and ideas you’ve found - you never know what opportunities might come your way.
Listen to what you want
I’ve always been the type of person to follow my heart. But more often than not, that’s usually the right way to go about things. Our passion for a particular type of career starts because we’re interested in something. We’re all unique and so our personalities will direct us to different things in life. Refreshing your mind on what you’re truly interested in could be as simple as going to your local supermarket and picking up the magazines that catch your eye. Or going into a bookstore and seeing what sections you spend most time in. Cut out your favourite articles of magazines – what do they say to you? Even if you’re at this stage where you don’t know what to do, only you truly know what you want.
Just start trying
It’s unlikely that your first job will be your dream one, unless your path is carved out that way. I read something on Chapter Friday recently. It was an interview with Stephanie Broek, the fashion features editor at Glamour magazine. She studied journalism at university, contacted various fashion and art websites to ask if she could write for them voluntarily, attended her first ever show by Jan Taminiau, worked hard and got a job as a fashion editor at Glamour. She was interested in fashion and writing was a skill – so the two came together and she eventually found a job.
It sounds easy but it’s not – you’ve got to be prepared to work and work for it. But that’s the thing. You’ll never get to your dream job unless you start.
Employers will be more impressed if they see you’ve tried different jobs rather than if you’re unemployed. And if you don’t like your job, change it. I’ve spoken a lot on this blog about how you only have the power to change aspects of your life. It’s okay if you only stay in a job for three months and then leave. I truly believe that we should be spending our time enjoying what we do. If we don’t enjoy it, then we make an effort to change it.
Be open and keep going
Once you start, opportunities have a way of developing. The more you do that isn’t expected of you, the more you’ll achieve. At least that’s what I keep believing. This year, I’m making a conscious effort to do more than what is expected of me at work, including side projects that I’m starting and carrying out by myself; along with putting in more hours during the evenings for my blog and trying to somehow find freelance work – if anyone has any tips for that, let me know.
It’s just so important to keep your patience. My brother said to me the other day that he thinks it’s great how driven, motivated and hungry I am. But when you want something to happen for you and your life that badly, you do it.
The world has a way of noticing things and will reward you eventually. The only way you can get there is to keep going. Take the first step and see what journey it takes you on.
Have you ever been in the place when you've not known what to do? What's your advice?
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