Choosing a career- What to do when you haven’t got a clue!
When we are young we are led to believe an age old myth “work hard and you will have a great career”… it is a belief which sadly (and often quite swiftly) evaporates upon leaving school/university/college and entering the ‘real world’.
That is not to place the blame on educational institutions – they do what they have to in order to inspire and motivate their students. However, the realisation of “I really don’t have a clue what I want to do with my life” can be a bitter little pill to swallow!
The situation has become all the more acute in recent years. Whilst there are certainly tentative glimmers of hope on the economic horizon, the grim reality remains that 1 million people under 25 in the UK are unemployed…many of them educated to the eyeballs with little resolution about what exactly they want to do.
Of course it isn’t just the young who are affected… millions of people in this country face a similar dilemma… deciding what to do when they haven’t got a clue!
It’s about time we gave you some tips on moving forward… hopefully these will help!
1. Decide what you definitely don’t want to do – This is particularly important during your job search as applying for jobs you know you will hate is a complete waste of time if you are looking for a long, fulfilling career – if anything it is counter productive. Use your list of things you would hate to do as a pre-screen when choosing a career… for example if you hate sales, then immediately discount careers which have a sales aspect, you will save yourself some serious time, effort and false starts.
2. Research – You don’t have a magically built in database of every career in existence. As kids we are taught the stock roles of society; nurse, doctor, vet, firefighter, teacher etc (which could , of course, be perfect for you) but in the more likely event that they are not, you need to educate yourself in today’s job market. Changes in employment opportunities are particularly fast moving in todays world with countless careers available today which didn’t even exist 20 years ago. Realise that you can’t be expected to make an informed decision when you don’t have all the information!
Luckily there is a huge amount of help that you can get, particularly online and a really good place to start are job boards and posting sites as they will give you a fair idea of what careers in particular are in high demand. This might seem like an exercise in futility, but stick with it because every career option you reject takes you that little bit closer to finding the right fit for you. If you identify an industry or area in which you reckon you would love to work, take a look at the job specifications to give you an idea of what is expected. Career directories (like TheEmployable’s own) can also be an excellent source of inspiration!
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3. Ask yourself some real questions to work out what you enjoy doing – It isn’t enough to just think about them – get yourself a pen and paper and make a list, you will be amazed how many answers will come when you just focus. As a starting point, some useful questions to help get you on track could be…
a) What do I enjoy?
b) What things am I passionate about?
c) What inspires me?
d) What kind of work activities engage me the most? (If you don’t have any experience use your best guess)
e) What am I really good at?
f) What kind of work pattern do I want?
g) What level of salary do I want to start out on? What is the minimum I need to get by?
h) Given my experience what level can i expect to begin at?
i) Am I in a position to enter education or training if need be?
j) How far am I willing to travel? What opportunities are likely to exist in this range? Can I relocate?
k) What is my absolute dream job? (For example, you may not be able to become an ‘academy award winning actress’ but do not dismiss the dream as frivolous – use it to identify what things you crave in a role and decide how these could be applied to a more realistic career- working in broadcasting for instance.)
Now use your research to pair up roles which you think would fit well with your needs and desires…don’t be frustrated if the answer isn’t staring you in the face, you will need to take careful consideration.
4) Don’t discount your hobbies – Many folks stray into the pitfall of assuming that their hobbies bear no relevance on the type of career they have… quite often the space for “hobbies” on applications is filled in with little consideration. It might sound a bit obvious, but examining what you do out of choice in your spare time could give you an indication of the kind of career that you could potentially get paid to do! Here’s a few examples to get you thinking
Cooking/baking – Chef, nutritionist, critic, caterer
Photography – Portfolio photographer, news photographer, wedding photographer
Writing – Novelist, journalist, blogger, editor, publisher, technical writer, critic
Gardening – Florist, horticulturalist, Nursery worker, floral designer
Drawing/Art – Artist, interior designer, art therapist, illustrator
Shopping/Fashion – Fashion design, retail, stylist, buyer
Health/Fitness – Fitness instructor, coach, dietician,
5) Keep an open mind – It may well be that the perfect career for you is something that you have never even considered doing before, but don’t let that put you off. Remember that you will probably have to work in a few different roles and environments before you are fully able to commit to the statement “this is the job for me!”. Don’t make yourself overly concerned that by trying a few different roles, you will appear to be “job hopping” as that isn’t necessarily a bad thing- an employer may well admire your resilience in trying to find a career that is right for you. Most importantly accept that you are only human and therefore won’t magically conjure up your ideal role…take comfort in the fact that most people have been in the exact same position!
Obviously this isn’t a definitive guide to choosing a career when you don’t know what you want to do, but hopefully it has given you some ideas to get your job search moving in the right direction!
There are plenty more tips on finding a job, CV’s, interviews, applications and more here on TheEmployable so why not have a look?