“So, what do you want to do with your life?”
If this question strikes terror into your heart, and you’re unable to render an answer, you’re not alone. Even some of the most successful people figured out what they wanted to do later in life.
Luckily for you — and anyone else who hasn’t quite figured it all out yet — there are a few steps you can take to help you stay calm and move towards a career you’ll love:
1. Take a deep breath — this is normal.
The first step to recovery is acceptance.
Understand that the way to your dream career is not always a straight path, says Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group and creator of video course How To Get Hired. What's important is that you're traveling in the right direction. 'You may find in your career that the journey getting there is more fun than the destination,' he says.
If this advice isn't consolation enough, consider the many success stories that began much later in life.
Julia Child didn't learn to cook until her late 30s, and she wrote her first cookbook when she was 50. And Jon Hamm was working as a waiter at 29, not a successful actor playing a philandering ad man in a hit TV show.
2. Consider your strengths.
Seriously ask yourself, 'What skills do I have to offer?' 'What are my strongest personality traits?' and 'What do I do best?'
'Lean in the direction of your strengths,' Kahn says.
3. Think about what type of work environments excite you.
In college, did you thrive in large lectures or small classes? Did you perform better on group projects or individual assignments? This could indicate the size or type of company you'd prefer.
If you did better in large lectures, perhaps you could work for a large, established company. If you preferred more intimate seminars, maybe you see yourself at a small startup. You could also consider working on a small team within a larger company.
Also consider whether you prefer to be autonomous or supervised.
4. Make a list.
Write down the job elements and tasks that you enjoy and those that you dislike, Kahn says.
Certain careers are better suited to different personality types. For example, do you like talking to people, thinking in the abstract, working independently, and using your brain more than your feelings? Maybe you should consider a career as a reporter.
Next, write what is the most important part of a job to you. Do you care most about salary, status, or the job tasks? Also, are you more attached to the job description or the industry?
When looking for jobs, refer back to this list to filter through the positions you should and shouldn't apply for.
5. Contemplate your level of education.
You may be interested in learning a new skill, and some jobs will require additional training or education, either now or in the future, Kahn points out. And with an estimated 1,855,000 students earning a bachelor's degree this year, every little bit of edge counts.
Be on the lookout for certification classes, free online courses, seminars, or even graduate schools that could set you above the competition or help you explore a different area of interest. Delving deeper into the skills necessary for a particular job can help you determine if the field is something you're genuinely interested in.
6. Look at your experience level.
Be honest with yourself about the job experience you have to offer and at what level you can enter the fields you're considering, Kahn says. You may be interested in a coordinator or manager position but have to first look for an assistant job. Consider the job trajectory that will get you there.
7. Reach out to your network.
One of the most invaluable things you can do is to talk to someone in the industry or job that you may be interested in pursuing.
Ask friends, family, family friends, professors, alumni groups -- really anyone in your network you can reach out to -- to help you set up an informational interview with this person. Then soak up as much as you can about what they do, what they love and hate about it, the steps they took to get there, and any advice they can offer for success.
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