Listen, its O.K. if you don’t know what you want to do immediately after graduating. Most people don’t, myself included. All I knew during my undergraduate days was that I loved public speaking and my writing skills were getting better. But I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
Not knowing what you want to do right now isn’t a problem, it’s actually pretty normal. The problem is following other people’s dreams for you. We frequently internalize parental expectations (i.e. you must be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer) or peer influence (lets backpack across Europe!)—and, before you know it you’ve found yourself in a career you hate and you don’t even know how you got there.
Figure out what you want to do by listening to yourself more often. Easier said than done, right?
Please know that there’s no perfect answer for what you should do after you graduate. I don’t have the answer and neither does anyone else. There is no single path for you. You’ll take multiple paths down roads you never thought you’d be on, as long as you’re open to taking risks and going outside your comfort zone.
The most important thing you can do as you figure out your vision for your life is to learn something new. You must acquire new skills and never stop learning in whatever job you take after school. Each job doesn’t have to be “THE JOB” (i.e. the perfect job, in the perfect industry with the perfect salary), BUT each job you take must provide you with an opportunity for growth and challenging work, otherwise, why would you stay there?
Throughout my 20s I worked in retail sales. First I sold high-end fitness equipment for 5 years and then I became a makeup artist and worked for various brands within Holt Renfrew. I wouldn’t change this experience ever, because the sales industry taught me so much! It boosted my self-confidence and helped me practice my public speaking skills on a daily basis. It was also a challenge to take a “no, I won’t buy that,” to a “yes, I’ll take that, do you take VISA?” I loved getting people to a “yes”.
Although these retail sales positions taught me about failure (oops, I didn’t make the sale and I didn’t get my commission), I eventually outgrew these jobs. Then I got into the world of research where I worked for the next 10 years. Each and every job has taught me a new skill. And the jobs that I stayed at longer than I should have were the jobs that I had long outgrew and weren’t challenging anymore.
As long as you’re learning new skills and challenging yourself with each job you’ll eventually figure out how to align your ultimate vision for your life with your daily goals.
Welcome uncertainty and go with it. Nobody has it all figured out all of the time.
Stop aiming for perfection. Seriously, stop it.
Recognize the internalized gendered norms ALL AROUND YOU. Are you socialized to be helpful, a nurturer, to be nice, friendly, and the all-mighty people-pleaser?!
Whatever job you’re contemplating taking, ask yourself: what can I learn in this job? What new skills can I acquire? Is this job challenging? Will I be able to grow?
It’s never about achieving one skill at a time, but rather building upon each skill set continuously and working towards your ultimate vision which will become clearer along the way.