By GGTW Co-founder Amanda Way
My dad always told me to get real world experience. Even though he is in academia and higher education is important to him, the phrase “go to school and you’ll figure it out” was definitely not something he subscribed to. My father knew that you can’t truly figure out what you love just by going to class. You need real world experiences to understand what a typical day-to-day in that career would be like before you know you’ll really love it. The past 15 years or so have proven to me he’s right. (Thanks, Dad!)
If you don’t know, or are somewhat unsure about, what you really want to do, then getting out in the world—go getting the world—will help give you your answers. I recently dealt with three different people who had unique experiences that illustrated my dad’s point to a tee.
The Intern. The first example comes courtesy of our recent intern who thought she wanted to go into retail merchandising. After working with us getting her hands dirty and wearing many hats in the start-up space, she realized she loved healthcare IT even more than fashion. So, she’s now pursuing a career there instead focusing on the retail business!
The nurse. Some people have a solid idea of what they want to do, but then find out that they are not suited for the work (like I did when I started school as a chemistry major). Or, they discover that what they thought their career would be like, is not at all what it really is like. That’s what happened to a nurse I recently met. After spending years in school, taking the rigorous national board exams and qualifying for her state license, she got a nursing job (yay!) only to discover a year later that she hated being a nurse. (Ugh.)
The Professional Student. Then, there are the people who go the route of getting a bunch of degrees because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do, not because it’s what they want to do. Recently, I was talking to a woman who was wrapping up her master’s degree but had little to no true work experience in that field. I asked her what her next move was and she said (without enthusiasm) that she might “get her last degree.” With the cost of school nowadays, what is the “last degree” really worth if you don’t even know if you really like the career? Maybe it would be safer and wiser to try the field out first, and see if the next degree is even necessary.
Of course, you may also find that your chosen career is exactly what you’re meant to do! And hopefully, you will always feel jazzed about your work. But if someday you don’t, you can always make a change. (Yes, you can!)
Part of being a go-getter is taking a risk, embracing uncertainty, and taking the first steps on the career path that is best for you, whatever “best” may mean at that time. Maybe it’s making more money or wanting to travel. Maybe it’s having less responsibility or working part-time. Figuring things out and finding exactly what you want to do is hard! And sometimes you first have to eliminate the things you know you DON’T want to do (like the nurse in our example) before you can decide what you really want to do (like our intern).
Here are some other ideas to think about as you figure out your life’s work:
- #EnjoyTheJourney. Treat the twists and turns of your career journey not as a right or wrong paths, but rather as lessons you learn along the way. The experience and emotional intelligence you develop will attract employers more often than your degrees will.
- #ImagineYourLife. Consider what you want your life to look like and make your decisions based on that image. And be realistic about how to make that happen. If you want to travel for work, then don’t pursue a desk job. Likewise, if you want to spend a lot of time with family, then fields that require long hours away from home won’t be a great fit for you.
- #CareerCopyCat. Find someone who has a career that you admire, then reverse engineer it. How did she get there? What roles did she have? What companies did she work for? Read biographies and check LinkedIn profiles to see how people got to the place you want to be. (And remember, you can always ask our team of Go-Getters for advice, too!)
- #Reflect. Reflection and listening to yourself will help guide your choices to better outcomes. What do you like to do? Find a job that lets you do that. What do you absolutely hate to do? Don’t look for a job that requires you to do that.
- #AlwaysDoYourBest. I get it. Bills need to be paid and you have to support yourself. Sometimes you have to do what you don’t want to do in order to get to where you want to be. You never know where that less-than-perfect job might lead. Take that job anyway, do your best, and see where it goes.
- #Intern or #Volunteer. If you’re still in school, get internships to get a feel for what you really like to work on. If you’re already working and want to find out about other fields, seek out volunteer opportunities in your areas of interest. That way, you will have realistic expectations of what the career really is.
When you feel as though you still haven’t found the exact right thing, life can become frustrating. Maybe you feel stuck, or maybe you realize that you really want to do something else but you’re not sure how to get there. That’s why we have our badass team of Go-Getters here for support. Just go to our contact page and tell us what’s going on. We’re here for you and would love to help you go get the world…whatever that world looks like!