By Julia Tereno
When I was taking my undergrad course, I used to picture myself in the future as a sophisticated adult; a professional woman walking around in high heels, living in a nice apartment in the city and with a steady job. In my head, the switch to adulthood would suddenly turn itself on, and grown up life would begin, just like that. I didn’t even think what exactly I’d be doing career wise, I thought that would sort itself out naturally.
In reality, it took me five years after college to find out what career path I wanted to take. The “adulthood switch” doesn’t exist and it took a lot of reflection and maturity for me to discover what I wanted to do with my professional life.
What happened for me was that as the end of college approached and I realized I had no idea what I wanted, I somehow got a job in press relations. I didn’t even know what press relations meant, but I needed something to make me feel useful. After all, I’d see my friends doing a lot better than I. They weren’t in their dream jobs, but they seemed to know where they were going.
It’s very easy to panic when you see that all your friends have their life together. They might even have taken internship programs or placements that seem to lead to a promising future in the field of their choice.
However, you’re feeling like you’re not even close to knowing what you want to do. When we start college at 18, some things that made sense then might not make sense now, at 22. And that’s okay. The “end of college crisis” is real and, believe me, you are not alone.
According to a survey by Allaboutcareers.com, 44% of undergrads don’t know which industry they’d like to work in after college and 52% of school students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I have no idea what I want to do with my career”.
I took a job I didn’t like because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But, if there’s one thing I learned is you don’t have to know what you want. Be patient and start by knowing what you don’t want.
Once I started thinking about it through that angle, things got a lot easier. It opened my mind to really notice the things that made me happy and see other potential career paths.
A few weeks ago, I spoke to Claire Murphy, a counselor at the Career Development Centre in NUI Galway, and she said that there’s a way around most things. If you find yourself in a position where the subjects you picked early on don’t make sense anymore, you can always find a way to turn it around and make something work. Of course, you’ll need advice on that, so the first thing to do is to go to the Career Development Centre.
Don’t feel intimidated or ashamed just because you changed your mind. This is your future, it matters. The only way I was able to climb out of my rabbit hole and finally pursue what I love was through the help of a career orientation professional. We built a realistic plan for me to really go after what I wanted.
So, if you are in your last year and don’t know what career path you want to follow, don’t panic. It’s more common than you think and the best you can do now is be true to yourself and respect your own boundaries.