Haven't got a clue?
For many of us, deciding what to do with our lives feels daunting. "What if I make the wrong decision? How am I supposed to decide in the first place? Why does everybody else already seem to know what they want to do?"
You're not alone if you're feeling unsure about what to do next, whether you are starting your degree, have recently finished it, or are somewhere in between. There's no need to panic, but nor is it a good idea to sit back passively and hope that clarity will eventually come of its own accord. (You might be waiting a long time.) That's where these pages come in: the intent is to help you pull some of your ideas into sharper focus by offering prompts and tools to pinpoint what you're looking for in a job, as well as how to take action towards your desired role.
We've broken this down into four stages: reflect – explore – decide – and act. In reality, this isn't a one-off, linear exercise. Rather, career planning is a cyclical process – one that you have already started, even if you didn't know it, and one that you will continue to go through at various points in your life.
Before you start
Before embarking on the reflection and research strategies recommended here, it's important to go into it with the right mindset. Here, then, are three key things to bear in mind when it comes to your career:
- Nobody, not even a careers adviser, can tell you what you should do. You have to answer the question for yourself. But talk to people who know you and gather their thoughts – it's all useful data, whether you agree with them or not.
- There's no scientific or hard-and-fast way of answering what you want to do in your career. More to the point, there's no singular 'right' answer to the question. Most people would find any number of career paths satisfying. Take some of the pressure off yourself: this is simply about deciding what you're going to do next, not what you'll be doing "forever".
- In other words, career planning is very rarely about taking one colossal decision in which you pick the type of role you'll be doing for the remainder of your professional life. This may have been true as recently as your parents' generation, but the current landscape is very different. In fact, some studies show that the average worker will have between ten and fourteen jobs in his or her lifetime, entailing up to four career changes.
See also: 1-hour talk on choosing a career