Do you feel like you don't know where to start in terms of preparing for your career? Are you frustrated by advice to obtain experience related to the career you want to pursue because you don't feel like you know exactly what that career will be?
I remember being extremely frustrated when I would browse job announcements as a student and think, "Well, this job looks so cool, but I have no way of knowing if this job or another one like it will be available when I graduate." It can feel pointless to try to prepare for something that you can't see right in front of you. You might worry that all of your work will be for nothing because the type of job you are preparing for might not be an option when you are ready to hit the job market--especially today when organizations, businesses, and industries are changing so rapidly. However, preparation today can pay off in the future, even if you don't know exactly what jobs you will be applying for years from now.
The goal is to focus your preparation based on what you know about your interests today. In other words, pay attention to what you can control. Some jobs might be eliminated. Others might be created that you can't even fathom yet. You can't control the future job market. You can focus your energy toward obtaining the best experience that you can. How can you focus your efforts?
1. Do your homework.
Spend some time learning about the various jobs that are currently available in your field. (See my webinar if you need job search strategies.) Invest the time to truly look at the current job market. Don't worry about the fact that these jobs might not be available in the future. Your goal is not to apply for these jobs. Your goal is to obtain information about them so that you can learn more about yourself. Save the job announcements that sound interesting to you. Highlight or note what you specifically like about them.
2. Map your overlap.
Look for commonalities between the jobs that interest you. Are they are working directly with children? Are they all in a healthcare setting? Do most of them involve program planning? Do the most exciting ones all involve working out in the community instead of an office? Do they all require a specific certification or graduate degree? Look closely at these overlapping features. They will help you to focus the types of experiences you should be obtaining now. You might not know what you want to do in healthcare in the future. But, if most of the jobs that are exciting to you are somehow related to healthcare, you know you need to look for an opportunity to gain experience in that industry. If all of the most exciting jobs involve working directly with children but you only have babysitting experience, it might be time to broaden your work or volunteer experience with kids.
3. Build relationships.
As always, remember to talk to people about what they do. Remember that many people are employed in jobs that you have never heard about. Which aspects of their job sound interesting? What sounds awful? What sounds like it would be worth putting up with if you got to do the other aspects of the job? Also, with your newfound insight, share what you are interested in as well. They might be aware of opportunities related to your interests that you haven't heard about.
4. Take action.
Do something to begin obtaining experience that is related to your interests. Find volunteer, internship, or work experiences. Then, when you get there, don't simply do the minimum that is asked of you. Watch, learn, talk to everyone, and look for opportunities to make meaningful contributions. Eventually, you want to be able to demonstrate what you can do that can be helpful to an organization or business. How can you make an impact and help them achieve important goals while you also learn new skills? Remaining focused on this question can help you to increase the quality of your experience.
It can be uncomfortable to feel as though you don't know exactly what you want to do. But this does not have to paralyze you with fear or anxiety. Take small steps to learn about various jobs, reflect on your interests, connect with others, and obtain high quality experiences that will benefit you no matter where your path ultimately leads.