My clients who are still in college or just graduating worry that they’ll cut themselves off from opportunities by choosing one path over another. When you’re in college, you can take any class that interests you, join a club or do an internship or volunteer gig—all without making a commitment to one specific thing.
Yes, it’s tough to choose and yes, you can change course at any time. Careers are fluid and today it’s not uncommon to have numerous careers during one’s working life. However, to move forward towards a career, some important questions need to be asked and some decisions need to be made.
In my assessment, here are the three key pieces of the puzzle new and recent grads need to address: the sector, the role and the organization. Until you’ve decided to at least explore a career path, you must identify these three things. Here’s how:
The Sector or Industry
What sector (s) captures your imagination? For some clues, try paying attention to what industries attract you. Do you like to read articles about politics? Technology? Healthcare? Journalism? What classes have been your favorites? Any noun that appeals to you can represent a sector in your career. Try plugging in a sector name, followed by the word “careers” in the Google search bar and see what comes up, for example, “Scuba diving careers”.
The Role or Function
Do you imagine yourself being the creator or designer of something, or would you be better served leading, presenting and promoting a team of experts by matching “client” needs with solutions designed by others? This question can be tough to answer without concrete work experience, but understanding your personality type and taking some career assessments can give you some clues. Speaking very generally, most people who create or design things show up on the “Introvert” side of the scale on a Myers-Briggs assessment . Those whose types are “Extrovert” derive more energy from working with groups of people, presenting and guiding, and therefore tend to choose professions enabling them to lead. This distinction can get fuzzy at times, but it’s a good general rule to consider early in your career.
The Organization or Company
Do you imagine yourself working in a large corporation? A small non-profit? An NGO? Some recent studies suggest that Millenials are more comfortable in small, entrepreneurial environments, although that may not necessarily correlate to job satisfaction. Because cultural fit, how well an individual fits in at an organization, is the single most important determinant of long-term success, factors such as chemistry with one’s boss may be more important than working at a specific organization. This means that interviewing with many different prospective employers and in many different environments is the best way to find your right career, once you’ve figured out the sector and role.
The most important thing is: Don’t get discouraged. Keep track of the choices you are making—write them down, discuss them and assimilate them in your job search. You will be rewarded by becoming a much better candidate and more successful in your career in the long run.