In the run up to the launch party for our You’re Hired! Graduate Career Handbook Korin Grant and I are posting a series of blogs aimed at students and new grads which offer some tips on career building. In this first one we look at one of the main challenges that students experience – making decisions about what to do.
One of the biggest challenges for students and new graduates is deciding what direction to drive their career in. We called the first chapter of our book ‘I just don’t know what to do with myself‘ because we’ve heard this question and concern so many times.
The first thing to remember is that none of us know what is going to happen in the future. There is no point in trying to nail everything down or to try and pretend that just because you want something to happen it automatically will happen. We need to recognise that our careers are a constant dialogue between what we want (and what we do) and what the world can offer us. But, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in thinking about what you want to do and deciding on a direction.
So how do you find this direction? There is so much that is out there (including a whole host of stuff that you don’t know anything about yet). What we can promise is that sitting around thinking about it won’t get you anywhere. So instead we think that there are four main techniques that you can use to help you to move forwards.
- Reflection. Spend some time thinking about who you are, what you are good at, what you like and don’t like. Don’t begin by relating this to career choice, just focus on you and what you enjoy for a while. If you can get some feedback from other about how they see you, that will really help as well.
- Research. Find out about a bunch of jobs, courses and careers. You don’t only have to look at things that you think that you might be interested in, some of the other stuff is worth looking at as well. You might have heard that accountancy is boring – but have you ever looked at what an accountant does? It might surprise you. Speaking to working people is a really powerful way to do some of this research.
- Experience. Try something out. If you are currently a student, take on a part-time job, volunteer or try and get a summer placement. Nothing beats trying something out. Again don’t worry if it is exactly what you want to do – you’ll learn a lot from whatever kind of work experience you participate in.
- Ask for help. There are lots of people in your university or your personal network who can help you to think about your career. Talk it over with friends, family and your personal tutor. Visit the careers service and ask how they can help. Decisions about your career are yours, but that doesn’t mean that you are alone in making them!
If you do all of this we are sure that you will be able to make some progress. But, you need to remember two final things.
- There is no such thing as a perfect choice. Every choice that we make is about holding onto some things and letting go of others. No option will be perfect, but neither will it be final. You can and will change your mind as you move forwards.
- Doing something is better than doing nothing. Moving forwards in your career requires you to do things. Building work experience, skills and ideas about what you want from life is an active process. None of these experiences can do you or your career any harm. If you decide that you need to change direction – no problem, you can always do it later. But, if you sit and do nothing, you will learn nothing, meet no one and have nothing to show for it.
Good luck with your decision making. We hope that this has helped.