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What to Do When You Don’t Know What You Want to Do

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My friend Sara went to school for graphic design and now has a job as a marketing designer. My friend Joe majored in computer science and just got a software development job earning six figures. My friend Michelle studied environmental science and just got into one of the nation’s top forestry science graduate programs.

They are a minority among my friends from college – they knew what they wanted to do going into school, and now they’re doing it.  Most of my friends who have graduated still have no idea what they want to do. Their diplomas are just a reminder of the thousands of dollars in student loans they owe, with no fulfilling job and no paycheck.

Unless you’re one of the lucky few people who is graduating with clear career goals, you might also be wondering how the skills you developed in college are going to translate into a profession.  Here are some tips for entering the job market when you don’t know what you want to do.

Identify Your Strengths

Everyone who is trying to figure out what they want to do has heard this question before: What do you enjoy doing? This question can be deceivingly difficult to answer. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, think about what aspects of study you excelled in and the kinds of assignments you enjoyed doing. What skills did you utilize to succeed?

Career Paths Aren’t Always Linear

Some people graduate from college, get a job, and work their way up the company until they’re CEO. This is not common. These days, most people have more than one career, and this is especially important to keep in mind when you are looking for a job right out of college. Don’t focus on finding your ultimate dream position. Instead, look for a job that will let you use and develop your skills.

There Are Jobs You Haven’t Heard Of

You probably didn’t grow up dreaming of being a Content Evaluation Specialist, or pick a major hoping to become a Regulatory Affairs Manager. There are so many different industries with different positions that you may never have imagined. How can you know what you want to do when you don’t know what the options are? You can learn about job options by researching companies, networking with established professionals, and by getting a job and learning from inside an industry.

Find a Mentor

Seasoned professionals with established careers can teach you a lot. Find people to talk to – relatives, neighbors, alumni, professors – and ask them how they got to where they are today. Seeing the different paths people take can be inspiring, and you may even discover career opportunities you hadn’t thought of before.

You don’t need to know your long-term career path when you graduate. Follow your interests, gain exposure to different fields and industries, seek advice from people you respect, and be open-minded.  You’ll be on the right track to a fulfilling career.


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