The end of summer... and the beginning of your career
Now that you've finished your degree, and more importantly, as summer comes to an end, you may find yourself, like tens of thousands of other graduates, under the parental pressure to finally take the leap, and start climbing the dreaded career ladder. But one of the major problems with the traditional university careers services is that you might come to believe that there are very few options. Specifically Lawyer, Accountant, Consultant, Banker and maybe Doctor if you took the right degree. But of course, as you grow up and venture further into the world of work, you begin to realise there are a million and one other options for what to do with the next forty years of your life. And more importantly, you don't have to make the perfect decision right now. You just have to make some sort of decision.
There is an interesting passage in Silvia Plath's book, The Bell Jar, that describes the paralysing fear that if you pick one thing, you are by default, rejecting every other option around you. But this is not the case. You are going to spend the next decade making choices, and therefore making tiny (and sometimes large) adjustments to your career path as you steadily calibrate what you want your life to be. But don't stress, everybody, even those with their dream jobs, has had to go through this process, and it can be far more enjoyable than it seems. There are however a few ways you can start early, and hope to find the thing you really love a little sooner than most.
Here are our tips on making choices about your career path, from day one.
1. What are you good at?
It seems simple to make an assessment about what you're good at, but there are plenty of people who spent most of their lives thinking they were better at one thing than another, before making a 180 degree pivot at the age of 55, quitting their finance job, and becoming the writer they were always capable of being. So when you're doing this assessment, be harsh, and be honest. We can all dream of being a famous actor, but if that isn't actually our strength, we're going to spend our lives being disappointed, unhappy and probably strapped for cash.
If you don't think you can make this assessment objectively alone, either talk to a friend, a family member, or consider visiting a careers counsellor who may be able to help you drill down into your skills repertoire by asking the right questions.
2. Seek out the right options.
Once you know what you're good at, you can start making a list of options for you. There are so many options out there, but you can start by looking on the internet for career lists. That way you can begin to get an idea of what is out there and start ruling out things that really don't fit your skills set. What's more, once you have an idea of how your skills fit into a specific role, you can begin to work out what's missing from your CV or your personal experiences, and you can start tailoring your short-term future to reaching that specific long-term goal.
3. Research, Research, Research.
Many people have an idea of what a role entails, but nine times out of ten, they are simply wrong. In fact, one of the biggest problems with the way people see roles they don't know about is that they glamourise everything. The "Grass is greener" mentality means we idolise things we don't have, and convince ourselves that what we believe to be our dream is going to be better than anything we've ever experienced before. This is simply not the case. Most jobs are boring, to some level, and most jobs are tedious, and most career paths are long and tiresome. But that doesn't mean they're not worth it. They almost certainly are, but they won't be perfect from day one.
Start by reading job descriptions, then read reviews on websites such as Glass Door. Once you've done that, you can start talking to people in those specific careers. Make sure you drill down into their day-to-day. Really find out what they think. And with that, you will begin to piece together what a role and career actually feels like to live.
4. Pick something and stick with it... unless it sucks.
Most people don't make perfect decisions about any part of the lives first time. Accept that you might be wrong, and it might take you a year to work that out, and that is ok. You have to take enough time to really know whether something is the right fit for you, and that is the "stick with it" mentality, but if it really is making you unhappy, then quit. Try something different. And keep trying something different until you find the right thing. Don't forget, this is the rest of your life. It's going to take time to find the right thing. Failure is inevitable, and the best part of working out who you are.
There is a video featuring ex-Goldman analyst turned actress and writer Brit Marling, that fully explains the process of picking to do the thing you love over the thing you think you should do: https://youtu.be/t6ZMaBAlgwM
Everyone should watch it, and everyone should take note.
5. Adjust, adapt, evolve, adjust, adapt, evolve...
Your life is going to be spent growing, changing, struggling, succeeding and forever moving forward. Embrace this without fear or apathy. No, this part of your life should be the most exciting thing. You have the chance to shape everything before you, and that is the greatest creative and logistical process you are ever going to be faced with.
Take the leap!