What to Do When You Don’t Know What You Want to Do

Sometimes it seems as though not knowing exactly what you want to do is unacceptable in this post graduate limbo some of us have found ourselves in. When everyone around you is desperate for a career in publishing, marketing or teaching, with their eyes firmly on the prize, you may feel a little lost if you realise that you don’t know what you want a career in. The vast majority of university graduates will be brimming with ambition and determination for the future.  So what happens when you have all the ambition, but not so much of a clue what you want to do with it?

1. Know that it’s okay. You’re allowed to be clueless right now. When people ask the dreaded question ‘So what do you want to do next?’, it’s alright for you to say, ‘I’m not actually sure’. For your own sanity you might want to come up with a stock response, as many people simply cannot grasp the idea that you are just looking for a good job, rather than one particular role within one specific industry. (I would suggest lining your stock response with big but meaningless words that will stop most people from prying further.)

2. Remember that not knowing might be best for you. Keep an open mind. Those who hurtle straight from their graduation ceremony to the doors of the nearest publishing house, CV and cap in hand, may be doing themselves a disservice. Many skills gained through university study and work experience are very adaptable and transferable, so so by keeping your options wide open you are giving yourself the chance to become involved in something that you may never have thought of, but could end up being the perfect fit for you.

3. Try thinking about what you are able to do, if you can’t think of what you want to do. Have a look at your experience, whether it’s experience through working or volunteering or things you do for fun. Nobody else can figure it out for you but there might be some clues in there, and you may already be gravitating towards the career that’s right for you without even realising it. I simply do not believe that every person out there who is actually in their ‘dream career’ knew what they wanted to do from the start. I bet a lot of them had setbacks, changed their minds, and accidentally stumbled into the field they’re most content working in.

© Copyright Stanley Howe and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

5 thoughts on “What to Do When You Don’t Know What You Want to Do

  1. Thank you for writing this post Emily, definitely reassures me a little to read that you are feeling similarly about careers to me! I have no real set idea of what I want to do, just vague fields that I am interested in and it’s a little scary. Hopefully I will find something to dedicate my time to which actually inspires me…

    • No problem Sophie :) I don’t think I really knew what I wanted to do before I left uni. After I left I thought I knew what I wanted, but now I’m seeking a completely different career than I was at first. I’m sure you will find something amazing that inspires you!

  2. I didn’t have clue what to do when I graduated but I have ended up in a job I really love! I think by not knowing exactly, I kept my options open!

    Maria xxx

    • That’s great to hear Maria :) So many young people feel completely hopeless about their jobs or their careers so it’s wonderful to hear that you are in a job that you truly enjoy. And yep, I bet that by looking for something that you enjoy and want to do rather than arbitrarily deciding on a certain job and chasing it above all else helped you find the best job for you!

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