A guest post by Francesca Baker
We tend to have the idea that once we reach a grand age, say around 21, and have completed university, we will have things all figured out. Often told the importance of studying a subject and getting a degree that will lead to a specific career, it’s a bit disheartening to perhaps realise that you don’t really know what you want to do with the rest of your life.
The good news is that we’re expected to live longer than ever - up to 125 years according to scientist Jan Vijg, professor and Chair of Genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. So there’s plenty of time to figure things out. You don't have to do one job for the rest of your life. Forrester Research predicts that today's youngest workers will actually hold around twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime.
So if you're daunted by graduation and wondering 'where next?' here are a few strategies to help you out.
Talk to as many different people as you can
How can you enter a field you’ve never heard of? To start with, you have to hear of it. Speak to your parents, friend's parents, email people with interesting job titles and gather a whole bunch of ideas. At university you will meet and be exposed to people with lives very different to your own, backgrounds that differ immensely, and people who may have parents with completely different jobs.
Keep open minded about the future
According to a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Labor, 65% of today’s schoolchildren will eventually be employed in jobs that have yet to be created. So don't close any doors just yet. At the same time, more industries are becoming automated, and the job market is changing as a result. This might mean that the value we place on certain roles changes too. For example, according to research by PwC, whilst 30% of jobs may be automated by 2030, fields such as education and health and social care are unlikely to be affected to such a degree. These tend to be the markets we value the least – at the moment. Creative roles – those we're often told to veer away from – are in fact some of the safest from automation, say researchers and academics at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology.
Look at LinkedIn
Find some individuals who you think have dreamy sounding jobs. Scroll down through their profile and see what they did right at the start of their career. Chances are it’s not been a linear path and this will help you to develop some ideas of what you can do that might lead to interesting places. These people that you admire might be at the top of their game now, but they haven't always been there.
Think lily pads, not ladders
In The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, Adam Smiley Poswolsky recommends that we ditch the term ‘career ladder’ and instead focus on lily pads. This mindset involves seeing different jobs, cities and pursuits simply as new spots that you are curious about, all interconnected underneath, but not moving up or down. Unlike the career ladder mindset, which forces you to move in only one direction (“up”), the lily pad career mindset visualizes your career as a pond of lily pads, a series of interconnecting leaps you’ve made between different opportunities, his book suggests. What’s holding everything together are the roots: what you care about and how you want to help the world. See something you like? Try it out and see it as an experiment. You can always hop to another lily pad.
Five other lives
In Julia Cameron’s The Artists’ Way, she recommends an exercise in which you imagine five other lives, and then try to bring in parts of them to your everyday. It may well be that your chosen degree means that you can’t be an astronaut, but perhaps you can visit a planetarium. Think you want to be a yoga teacher? Try doing a daily class first. Not only does this help you explore different options, it also helps you think about the why behind a career, not just what career it is.
This doesn't necessarily mean further study, but approaching the world with curiosity. Even if you’re entering a more traditional career field, like law or medicine, your job is going to evolve and change as the world does. Think about other, more transferable, skills you can develop, such as presenting, marketing, facilitation or something else completely. If it interests you, it's worth investigating.