"When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn't know."
"Oh, sure you know," said the photographer."
- The Bell Jar, Sylvia PlathFrom the moment we take our first steps into education, we are asked "What do you want to be when you grow up?", as if this will automatically help us to figure out where we see ourselves in the future in regards to our preferred line of work. However, if you are like me, you have most likely never been able to answer that question, and instead, end up stuttering or even sat in silence because you are simply unsure. This can often lead us to be stuck in limbo, fearful about our future, especially when it feels like everyone else around you knows exactly what job they want to acquire. Nevertheless, the truth is that the only way to get out of this "I don't know what I want to do!" stagnation, is to get out there, be active and take control of your life. Below are five top tips to help you progress in your career-seeking journey.
1. Try not to stressDo not feel pressurised to know first-hand what job you want to do. Although it can be hard to avoid the pushy input from teachers, friends, and family, you need to focus on you and only you. It is also important to note that everyone's journey is different and it does not matter if you take months, or even a couple of years to find the right profession. A career is more likely to be defined by your actions and growth over your entire lifetime, rather than the first step you take (i.e. your first job!). So while you shouldn't rush into a decision, you should also bear in mind that one job is not the be all and end all. It's never too late to start over.
2. Jot down your skill set and interestsIt's time to bring out your inner child. Grab some arts and crafts and create a mind-map, or even go as far as creating a mood board - just have fun with it. Note your passions and interests in big bold letters. These could range from photography to law. Just make sure you could see yourself pursuing them in a job setting. Then write down your strengths, particularly in accordance with what employers call "hard" and "soft" skills. A hard skill is typically a teachable ability such as writing and problem-solving. These tend to display your technical abilities as they are learnt through education, whether that be at A Level, apprenticeship or degree stage. Soft skills, on the other hand, are known as "people skills". Communication and teamwork are prime examples. These graduate employability skills enhance your CV as they are applicable across all job roles, and will, therefore, be vital later on in your journey when applying for prospective jobs.
3. Research career paths that are of interest to youThere are more jobs out there than you think. No, this does not just restrict you to the traditional 9-5 office jobs, unless that is what you prefer. There is a space for everyone in the world of work. Creative roles, although carrying the stigma of being low paid, are now contributing a substantial amount to the UK economy. Social media has also boomed in the last few years. Employers are keen to hire graduates that know how to manage their Twitter and Instagram accounts, so get searching! There are lots of resources available online that can help you in your job research, many of which are designed to guide students to make the right career choice. With information on the various job industries available and what skills you need to attain certain roles, there is so much to explore. Another way to help you to decide is by speaking to others with similar interests as you, or family who might be/know an expert in one of your chosen fields. Why not also get in contact with your institution's alumni through LinkedIn. You never know, they may have your dream job.
4. Trial and ErrorAfter all that research, it is now likely you will have a list of possible career choices. But if you managed to narrow your research down and pinpoint the single job you are interested in, then great! Regardless of which stage you are at, it is now time to gain experience. Not only is this the best way to figure out if the options you have chosen are for you, it is also a way to build upon your skill set, which again is beneficial for your CV. Be willing to try new things by getting stuck in with work experience, internships or paid work. It is all about trial and error. Work through your list of preferred career paths, ticking or crossing them off one by one. If you only had one prospective job in mind, and found that this wasn't for you after gaining experience in it, do not give up; keep researching. NB: GRB (this website) is one of the best places to start! Along with the frequent advertisements of workplace opportunities, Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB) provides insightful, student and graduate careers advice, such as this blog post.
5. Stay positive and optimistic for the futureRemember it may take some time to find your perfect career path and that doesn't matter. In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo: "Just keep swimming!" As long as you follow your heart and never compare your journey to anyone else's, you will find the right job for you.
About the author: Ashley Faith Fontaine is an English Literature and Film & Theatre undergraduate at the University of Reading. She has been a Junior Online News Writer for 'This Is Local London,' and as a Study Abroad Ambassador has created a blog for her university's 2017 Summer Scholarship to China.