College is a funny thing.
We spend four years working towards earning a major in a topic that interests us, yet there's rarely a clear career path for graduating with that major. An unclear career path leads to incredible stress, confusion, and anxiety for many college graduates as they figure out how to translate their major into a career path (and sometimes even their dream job).
The pressure gets even more debilitating when there's a mindset of needing to figure out the rest of your life!
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the lack of direction you have professionally, you're not alone. With a few simple exercises and steps, you'll have a sense of where to devote your time and energy as you explore job opportunities.
There's a ton of different careers you can set yourself up for. And in our rapidly changing times with new technology coming out every day, some opportunities probably didn't exist when you were in high school!
It's also important to note that you don't have to know what you want to do for your career. You need to know what you want to do for your next job. It's widespread for people to bounce around between jobs, companies, and industries many times over in today's world.
So, don't put so much pressure on yourself to map out your entire career. The goal is to set yourself up for career options - and you'll always be able to make a career change throughout your professional journey.
Focus on the job. Your next job, precisely. The rest will happen naturally.
There are four key ways to gather information on what you can do as a next step in your career:
Take an aptitude test or skills assessment
Talk to a career coach
Schedule networking chats
With this approach, you'll avoid burnout and dead ends. We promise you'll figure it out.
It's time for us to take a look at each of these components in more detail. Each element can help you land a new job and envision your future career.
There are countless resources available that allow you to learn what you're naturally, innately great at. Aptitude or skills assessments can guide your job search. Some of our favorite resources are:
Strengths Finders (which is a supplement to the Strengths Finders book)
Most of these assessments cost some money, but the insight they provide is precious and worthwhile. Invest the time to take at least one of these online resources to learn your strengths and what you're better at than most people. Some of these assessments even make recommendations on what jobs and careers align with your strengths.
This self-reflection opportunity can be enlightening and rewarding. This is especially true as we navigate a global pandemic of COVID-19 when we're constantly navigating challenging times and frustrations.
You can also show your assessment results to your friends and family to see if they agree with the results. Having multiple perspectives is always beneficial.
If you're currently employed, whether in a full-time or part-time role, it can be interesting to compare the assessment results to your current job. Are you currently in a position that aligns with what the assessment suggests?
Job searching under normal circumstances is stressful enough. When you add in the variable of not knowing what jobs to target, the process becomes even more challenging.
Luckily, some people specialize in helping others identify what they want to do with their lives. Career coaches devote their lives to helping others (note that this role is also referred to as a career counselor in some instances).
What you'll get from a career coach is:
A cheerleader who makes the process less lonely
An outside perspective on what you're good at
Fresh ideas on job opportunities and career paths
Resources to position yourself for the top jobs
Resume and interview advice
And so much more!
At Placement, we have an all-star roster of career coaches who are insanely talented and, equally as necessary, super friendly people. They have the magical ability to transform you from feeling lost and directionless to energized and successful.
Whether you choose a Placement Career Coach or go with someone else, you won't regret hiring someone who can guide you through this period in your life. And, since you'll likely land a higher paying job faster, the investment pays for itself!
You can learn more about the Placement Career Coaches here.
Networking chats are a fun, productive way to learn about jobs you might not have considered otherwise. By reaching out to people in your network, or people you have someone or something in common with, you'll get the inside scoop on how they landed their job and what their job entails.
A networking chat is a 20 minute to one-hour conversation that is less formal than an interview and covers personal and professional life. You drive these conversations, so it's essential to prepare with thoughtful questions.
Ideally, you'll schedule these networking chats (also called informational interviews) with people who are in jobs that sound interesting to you. You can find these people by asking your family, friends, and classmates if they know anyone in the roles or industries you want to learn more about.
Then, once you have a call scheduled, you'll do your research ahead of time to prepare your questions. Before the call, you should have looked at the person's LinkedIn page to have a general sense of their career path and current role. It's also important to know what their current company does. Finally, prepare questions to reflect your interest in the position and to get more clarity around what the day-to-day work looks like.
If the job sounds interesting, end the conversation by asking for advice on how you can best align yourself for a similar opportunity. You'll be pleasantly surprised to see how many people are happy to help you!
For more scheduling information, preparing for, and leading networking chats, check out our comprehensive Networking Guide.
LinkedIn is a powerful resource for understanding what opportunities are out there and what you need to do to get an interview.
Use the search bar of LinkedIn to type in the job titles you're curious about. Then, look at the people who come up who are in that role.
Click on their profiles to see the career paths that led them to be in that position. You can also look at their Skills (at the bottom of their LinkedIn profile). Exploring profiles and LinkedIn will give you some data on someone's skill set in this position so you can evaluate if you have the right skills to take on this type of job. You might also realize there are new skills you should learn if you want the job.
You can also use this to evaluate if you want to be doing that type of work. You might be surprised to learn you don't have much interest in specific jobs after getting a better sense of what skills are needed.