It is very common to graduate college and not know exactly what you want to do. Most young professionals coming out of college fumble around a little before landing on a path. For me, the economy was horrible when I got out of school. I landed in retail and my dissatisfaction with that was what pushed me into graduate school. Ultimately I got where I needed to go, but it wasn’t always a smooth ride. In order to get where I am today, I had to accept two things. One, my career would be a series of stepping stones and two, I would have to push through my comfort zones to get to the place I ultimately wanted to land. This article will help you to take some steps and push through obstacles to get you on your best career path.
Find the Right Direction
You don’t need to know exactly what it is you want to do, you need to just get going in the right direction. This can be through following a field of interest, such as technology, health care, fitness, etc. Or it can be through using your favorite skills such as training, helping others, working with social media, etc. The sweet spot is when you can combine your interests with your favorite skills.
Exploring fields of interests and your skills is the place to start. This is important. I encourage my clients to be practical, but to just follow the money is a mistake. Let your desires, interests and talents be your compass. Start looking for a position that is in a field of interest or one that allows you to use a skill you enjoy. You need to engage with your passions to help you move in the right direction and gain experience.
Talk to People
After you’ve generated some possible career choices you need to take the next step: talk to people in those positions. Talking to people who are in your desired field is probably the best use of your time when trying to figure out what you want to do. It’s much cheaper than going through a degree program only to find out you don’t want to do that thing you went into debt for. It’s also better than having to make a career transition in 5-10 years because you are unsatisfied with the work you chose. Some people find the prospect of informational interviewing intimidating. Asking someone you don’t know to spend time with you takes courage. Remember, most people are very happy to spend 15-20 minutes (or more) letting you know what they do. They can provide a realistic view of what the day-to-day functions are for that job. This kind of knowledge is invaluable.
So even if it feels a little scary it’s worth it to get connected to people who are doing the thing you think you want to do. Pick up the phone, talk to people and make connections. This is the first step in making any big career decision.
The worst thing to do when either making a career change or entering the job market is to stay frozen. At this point you’ve figured out some of your areas of interest and skills you’d like to use. You’ve generated some ideas of possible professions. You’ve also done some information interviewing. Now what? Now you have to get into action. The thought that you need to have it all figured out before you can begin to make movement is faulty. Action is always better than inaction.
Talk to any successful person in their career and they are going to tell you about the missteps they took. They will also tell you how they learned from those missteps and how those “mistakes” actually helped inform them. Sitting and doing nothing does nothing. To begin, just take a step. Sure, think it out and talk it over, but then you need to do it. Stepping stones are rarely linear. They usually zig and zag, as will your career. You can’t get across the river without taking action. Get your resume together, begin networking, keep at it. Action is your friend.
Get Ready to Stretch
The pressure of college is immense. The endless tests, papers, homework and reading make most graduates long to do something mindless after college. However, developing your career will require more effort. The job search itself can be grueling. Once you land in a career, you will still need to exert yourself. This can be in the form or having to learn a new skill that is not comfortable, or returning to school for more education.
Most successful careers require us continually being uncomfortable as we learn and grow. Accepting that you are going to have to stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone can be challenging. But accepting this reality is a great beginning. Throw out the idea that your career is supposed to be fun, easy and exciting all the time. Sure, it should be those things some of the time, but every job has it’s shadow side.
If you aren’t able to find a job in either an area or a skill of interest, don’t stop there. Think about volunteering or interning. You won’t regret the hard work you take on behalf of your career.
Shift The Focus to Learning
The reason why you should move into a career that you are interested in is it will make it easier to deal with these growing pains. New jobs mean learning new information, meeting new people, adapting to a new routine and possibly even returning to school. If you are really engaged in this new career because it aligns with your interests or skills, the learning curve will be less painful.
Imagine doing something you aren’t interested in, and then having to exert yourself greatly. Be patient with yourself as you enter new situations, learn new skills and meet new people. Keep your eye on learning and not on the discomfort of change. Remember too, mistakes are a part of learning. By refocusing on learning (and not on the mistakes), we can be easier on ourselves when we learn.
Call us at Careerfulness if you are out of college and trying to figure out the next best step. Contact us for a free 30 minute consultation.