Self awareness

Everybody knows what they are doing…but me

So you thought by now everything would have magically dropped into place. That you would know exactly what it is that you are going to do for the rest of your life. Indeed, you look around your friends and they all seem to have a clear idea of what it is that they are going to be doing for eternity and beyond. Family ask you at every social gathering yet you still have no idea of what it is that you could do. You feel under pressure. Fellow students all seem to have assessment centres and interviews and you only have a CV that you haven’t amended in the last year. So, what can you do? What does your future hold for you?

Firstly, relax! As much as you think that it is just you – it isn’t! You are not alone, lots of people don’t know what it is that they want to do for the rest of their career or even the beginning of it! Some of them may have some rough ideas, some may have made an application and even got the odd interview but it is ok to say I don’t know what it is I want to do. You do need to think about it though.

Secondly, you picked a degree because you were good at the subject and it interested you. It doesn’t mean you can only do this. It is worth noting that up to 70% of graduate schemes don’t specify a discipline. All degrees are designed to give you a broad range of skills, experiences and knowledge. You can add to this work experience (of all kinds) and extra-curricular activities such as sport or exec positions to the mix and this is what makes you highly employable.

Thirdly, don’t assume anything about what recruiters think – talk to them! You may hear people making comments about various degrees but recruiters value skills and each course offers you specific ones that you have developed. Not quite sure what yours are? Look at the Prospects ‘What can I do with my degree’ resource to see what jobs directly linked to your degree are and others where your degree would be useful  – as well as the key skills you can evidence and what people have gone on to do previously.

So, what do you need to do?

  • Stop, it is time to think about what your values are. What is important to you? Is it making a difference to people’s lives? Constantly developing your skill set through experiences or further study? A job with clear career progression and development. Thinking about this will help you to consider the types of career you may want to do. Think about what resonates instead of conflicts with your beliefs.
  • Accept what you hate and minimise it in your life. If you don’t enjoy working under pressure you can’t just go on a course and learn to love pressure. You can learn to deal with it though. You can also look at careers that put you under less stress and pressure.
  • Think about the skills that you have and consider which you enjoy using the most. What are these skills? Why do you think that you enjoy using them? What makes you so good at this skill? What roles need this as an integral part of the job? Look at the Prospect Occupational Profiles to find out more.
  • Have you listened to others and their career journeys? Read case studies? Sometimes it is worth hearing what others have done and their experiences to give you ideas and a perspective on options.
  • Don’t rush into applying if you can’t answer the question ‘So, why are you applying for this company and this role?’ honestly. Motivation is the key part of an application. It is not enough to say ‘because you are the market leader in…’ or ‘you are a successful consultancy/company’ they know they are but they want to know what motivates you to want to join them and how much you know about them. Why? They want you to be making the right decision so that you want to stay with them.
  • It’s ok to change your mind – we all do. Look at where a career can take you – who is offering the role and who else may. What can the role lead to? What skills do you have that match the role and what other ones do you need to work on? How can you work on them? Volunteering? Work Shadowing? Also consider the networks you have and can have! How can you widen them out? Who can you chat to about a company or a job role? Networking is a conversation so start having them with as wide a range of people as you need to.
  • Talk to a Careers Consultant. It is never to early (or too late) to talk career ideas over or ask about what you can do if you completely lack them! Graduates often talk regretfully about never taking the opportunity to talk career plans over. Indeed if I had a pound for every student and graduate who said that at the end of a conversation I would be a very wealthy woman!!

One thought on “Everybody knows what they are doing…but me

  1. It’s actually a phenomenon called the quarter-life crisis. More and more people in their mid-20’s are confronting it, more than ever. One of the reasons suggested is because previous generations had a lot less options then Millennials have these days. Another is because the rise of social media is presenting your colleagues and peers through a rose-tinted filter, which leads to implicit comparison: “their life seems so perfect, what am I doing with mine?”. Thank you for the post. It’s a topic that needs to be addressed, to make people feel less isolated and alone in this.

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