At one point or another, everyone has asked themselves that age-old question: “What should I do with my life?”
If you’re getting ready to graduate, it’s safe to say that up until now, your life has been pretty much decided for you. All you had to do was go to class, work hard, participate in a few extracurriculars and then apply to some reputable schools. College was more of the same, albeit a bit more focused on the major you (and hopefully not your parents) chose. Finally, unless you decided to attend grad school, the next step is getting your first job.
Even after graduating, the weight of infinite career options outside your major can cause your stomach to do somersaults. How do you know what kind of job is “right” for you? While you may be tempted to ask the nearest adult (at least one of car-renting age) for a complete career blueprint for the next decade, our goal is to empower you to make the best decision on your own based on the information available.
Whenever we get objective advice from someone on a big decision, deep down we already know which way we are leaning. Sometimes making the best choice for yourself requires peeling back the layers of uncertainty surrounding what you should do to ultimately arrive at what you will do. We’re here to help you find clarity and stop wondering “What should I do with my life?”
1. Define what drives you
What are a few things that bring can bring a smile to your face for days? It may differ from what you majored in, but allow yourself to pursue opportunities you will love rather than what will pay the most to start your career ahead of the game. Money will come in time through persistence. Additionally, you’re much more likely to stick with a job that you actually enjoy on a daily basis. Think about it: how do you spend your free time? Try these ten-minute challenges for at least 10 days to gain more clarity on your next steps.
0:00-5:00 – Just be (a.k.a. meditate): Try sitting in silence with your eyes closed focusing on your breath, or walking without music for 5 minutes every morning or evening. But if you decide to walk, please keep your eyes open.
5:00-10:00 – Journal about what’s on your mind for another 5 minutes immediately following your meditation, listing activities you’ve enjoyed in the past 24 hours.
2. Understand that there’s more than one “right” way
Whenever we try learning something new, it’s easy to be stifled by the fear of getting it wrong or making repeated mistakes. It can feel safer to take no steps at all in order to completely sidestep failure. After all, if you don’t really try your chance of failure is zero percent. Sounds pretty good, right? Well that all depends on your definition of failure. Every step forward, even in the “wrong” direction, helps you grow into a better, more evolved person. Finding out what you do like is much easier when you first find out what you don’t like. Perhaps you love to post on Instagram, but would you be a solid social media manager? Maybe you love to cook, but could you actually hack it as a chef? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to try. How can you get your foot in the door? What’s an entry point where you can prove yourself and, over time, make something you enjoy into a career?
0:00-10:00 – Research a dream job, even if you’re not sure it exists, and compile a list of relevant titles and companies, along with the best email or phone contacts at these companies.
0:00-10:00 – Craft a simple email, even if it’s a cold email, and send it to your points of contact. After a week, send a follow-up. Worse case scenario: you don’t hear back and you move on to your next opportunity.
3. Always invest in yourself
In a different time, you’d apply for a position right out of school, work from nine-to-five, get a steady paycheck and, if you’re a good employee, predictable raises. Eventually, you’d retire after forty years of tenure, hopefully with a nice pension and live happily ever after. Fast-forward to present day. Whether you’re applying for permanent or contract roles, chances are you will be there for a much shorter time. Maybe the startup you work for folds, or a big company outsources your department overseas. The point is, things happen and you need to make sure your position serves your best interest at the end of the day. In this new age of work, even a “permanent position” isn’t permanent. The only thing that should remain permanent is your dedication to yourself.
0:00-10:00 – Create a business card with your name and contact information then order some to pass out. You can usually get 250 cards for under $20, and it’s worth the investment!
0:00-10:00 – Use the free Good&Co career app to learn more about your strengths and personality. It’s the perfect way to understand what it is you’re really looking for in a career.
There are no shortcuts to understanding what drives you personally and professionally. It’s always going to be a work in progress, but trying the exercises above is a great way to catapult your career. Now you’re ready to embrace these less-than-typical ways of getting your foot in the door and challenge yourself to be the CEO of your career!
About the Author
Still wondering “What should I do with my life?” If you have any questions or comments, feel free to tweet: @StephanieThoma!