When I was little, I dreamed about becoming a paleontologist. Maybe it stemmed from the fact that my dad and I would pore over scientific books about dinosaurs before bed, or the fact that we volunteered at the local science museum. Whatever the cause, I wanted to be a paleontologist before I had ever studied science in school. Of course, time passes, and dreams change. I began to imagine being a lawyer, a psychiatrist, a high-school teacher, or a college professor. I enjoyed school, but as I got older it became clear that my talents lay outside of math and science, and the old dream of being a paleontologist died entirely.
After graduating high school, I went on to get a BA in English. The four years I spent on my undergraduate degree were relatively focused. I was going to be a high-school English teacher. Maybe it lacked passion or imagination, but I was relatively certain of my path. Student teaching opened my eyes to the fact that I was not cut out to be a full-time teacher in the traditional sense. I enjoyed working with students in smaller groups, but working with twenty-five students felt more like being a ringmaster at an out-of-control circus than a professional.
With the loss of my high-school teaching dream, I grew listless. I had no sense of direction. So I went to graduate school. For me, this was the biggest mistake I could have made. For some people, graduate school can provide direction. For others, it can just be a way to distract yourself from the larger issues at hand.
This crisis of what to do for a living can strike anyone at any time. Here are a few tips that I’m planning to use as I begin to seek out my own “when I grow up” dreams again, and hopefully they’ll prove useful for both of us!
Try It Out
So you think you want to be a journalist? Try writing for your school newspaper! Want to be a lawyer? Spend a day in a law firm shadowing a lawyer! The point is, everyone has an idea of what doing a certain job would be like. The reality of that job can often be quite different than you imagined. Whether you spend a day following someone in the career that appeals to you or you try something similar to that career, it can only help you make a better educated decision. Even if you have no idea of what you want to do, get out there and try different things! Find careers that you think match up with your strengths and interests, and figure out a way to learn more about them. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. For those who are in college, you can take this to the next level with an internship. The people I knew in college who did the most internships seemed to have the best idea of what they wanted to do. So take advantage and do as many as possible!
Throughout my entire life I’ve had people telling me that I should be a lawyer. Maybe they thought it would suit my sometimes contrary personality, or maybe it was because of my love of talking. Either way, I’m starting to think that maybe they had a point. Think about the things that people say you’re good at, or would be good at, and try them! Sometimes, it takes an outsider’s perspective to show you something new about yourself. If you’re at a total loss, ask friends, family, or teachers what they think you should do. You don’t have to take their advice, but it might give you some good ideas!
So you don’t know what you want your perfect career to be? Don’t let that stop you from taking different jobs while you’re figuring it out! Take jobs that sound cool to you, and that will give you skills to put on your resume. If you love traveling, why not try working at a hotel or campground? You’ll get to meet lots of tourists while beefing up your communication skills and knowledge of the travel industry. If you think you want to start your own business, find a small local business and get a feel for the day-to-day running of a business.
What are some other tips you have for figuring out what kind of career would best suit someone?