As young twenty-somethings, we’ve been asked our entire lives to think about the future, and to fabricate these ideas about what we want to do with the rest of our life.
In childhood we were asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
In adolescence we were asked, “What do you want to study in college or university?”
In college or university we were asked, “What are you doing after school?” (Or even worse, “What kind of job can you get with that degree?”)
Now, as recent postgrads we’re being asked, “What’s next?”
“What’s next?” is the most daunting question for any young twenty-something for two main reasons:
1. We just closed a 22 year chapter (give or take) where every single aspect of our lives was mapped out for us. We never had to ask ourselves what was next because our parents, or teachers, or peers, or professors, or shitty summer job bosses told us what was next.
Twenty-two years of never having to make our own real life decisions and now we suddenly have all this responsibility????
2. Forget about what’s next, some of us are still trying to figure out “what’s now?” How can we plan for what’s next when half of us don’t even know what we’re doing right now? Some of us can’t get a job, despite the painfully expensive degree we hold. Some of us can’t get experience in the field we want to work in, because we don’t already have experience in the field we want to work in (how are we supposed to get experience if no one hires us and gives us experience????).
And some of us just can’t stop bingeing Netflix long enough to realize that we have no idea what is going on with our lives.
While personally I have a “real person” job and have managed to
barely survive live on my own post-grad, I still have no idea what I want to do with my life, and would rather die than answer the question “what’s next?”.
Two months ago I began exploring my options and doing a little research on some careers that I might enjoy. That is when I realized that I actually had no idea what I was doing.
Thus, in true twenty-something fashion, I decided to find someone else who could do it for me.
I enrolled in career counseling.
As someone whose mother is a therapist, I have had my fair share of free counseling. However, I think there is a lot to be gained from having an outsider look at your life from an objective standpoint. Plus, my university provides free counseling services to all students and alumni. Given the fact that I will be moving soon, I figured I should at least get something out of the 4 most expensive years of
my life my parents’ lives.
Because those 4 years, 9723412023898756 hours of
crying studying, and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent don’t always equate to a job in the end, in case you were wondering!
I have now been attending career counseling sessions for about a month, and it’s been such a huge help. I have truly learned so much about my interests and my goals, and am starting to take the necessary steps towards perusing what I want. While I highly recommend career counseling to every twenty-something, I understand that not everyone will get it for free, and not everyone can afford it.
Therefore, I have decided to share a few of the best tips that career counseling has taught me for figuring out my life and making the transition from student life to real life a lot easier.
Crash Course: Career Counseling 101
The problem with having to choose a major that will determine the field that you’re
definitely not going to work in for the rest of your life at the age of 18 is that you have pretty much never been exposed to 99% of the potential careers out there.
To get informed, you first need to understand what it is that you are looking for in a career. It’s time to do some soul-searching!
My career counselor had me fill out a 3 page-long questionnaire all about my current interests, the people I look up to, and my favorite jobs/university courses over the years. While you might not have access to something like this from a professional, there are tons of free “personality test” type questionnaires on the internet that will help you explore yourself.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what questionnaire you do. The point is that you will be taking the time to answer questions about yourself that you might have never thought about, and will hopefully get some great insight into what you value most!
2. Do Your Research
Once you’ve done some soul-searching and have a clearer idea of what interests motivate you the most, take those interests and do lots of research on what careers will allow you to explore those.
If you don’t know where to start (like I didn’t), I found that even doing a simple Google search of “careers involving ____” brought up tons of results! While they weren’t the best or most legit descriptions, it was a start.
Through my career counseling, I was able to get access to entire career databases where I could search any field/job/career I could think of and it would pull up an extensive description of its daily tasks, salary range, opportunity for growth, and related careers.
If you can get your hands on one of these databases, do it! Most university or college career centers will have free access for students or alumni. Even if you’ve graduated, I highly suggest dropping in to your school’s career center or giving them a call to see if you can access one!
3. Set Up Informational Interviews
After doing some soul-searching and researching all types of careers that you might be interested in, now it’s time to act!
But before you go off and start applying to a million jobs that you just read about on the internet, take the time to set up informational interviews with people currently working in that field. You can find these people through Linked In, networking groups in your city, or even through your own personal contacts. Ask anyone and everyone you know if they know someone in that field, and ask them to introduce you (it only takes one email!).
Informational interviews are a scary thought, but they are so important. They can give you the inside scoop on all the pros and cons of working in that field or for that particular company. After doing all that soul-searching and research, you don’t want to make a huge mistake and feel like it was all for nothing. Plus, 9 times out of 10, the person will be flattered that you want to take them for coffee to chat about themselves.
Because everyone loves talking about themselves.