It’s practically the end of the year (and what a year it’s been) and while I’m rubbing my hands in glee in eager anticipation of my summer holidays, I’ve been speaking to several students who are feeling quite the opposite. They’ve finished their degree and are trying to figure out the next step in their career journey and most are putting pressure on themselves to become Decided. They are getting questions from family about “what are you going to do now?” and they are angsting about what is the ‘right’ way to turn. They want to feel Sorted. Most of all, they feel that their decision is going to impact on the remainder of their life so they better choose wisely…..
Making a Decision and feeling Sorted is hard. I’ve realised it doesn’t matter if you’re a fresh graduate or someone who has been out of University 5, 10, 15 years or more, that feeling of needing like you have to have things figured out is common amongst many of us. The thing is, it can take time, sometimes your whole life and frustratingly of all, it can feel like it never happens. That’s when people can stress out because they feel if they don’t have it figured out then they’re failing or doing something pointless or wasting their life. But things are never a waste. That’s where the proverb ‘life is a journey’ comes from and so too is our career. Even when you think you are Decided and Sorted or that other people seem like they are, life can come along and change that…think natural disasters, health issues, relationship breakdowns, redundancy etc. And it’s not just life that is ever changing it’s work patterns and jobs as well.
Because of all of this, one of the things I focus on is that the decision of what to do next doesn’t need to be The Decision. It’s a lot less stressful if you ask yourself ‘what do I want to do for the next 1-2 years’? rather than ‘what do I want to do as a career?’ The latter places career as a fixed goal, something we have to Decide on whereas the former is open to change. As I said in a previous post ….here’s the thing about figuring out what is right – it changes. It changes through people we meet, classes we take, books we read, shows we watch, activities we do etc so our path in life is always going to be evolving. In today’s busy and demanding world with people wanting to know outcomes of a decision we’re not even sure about making, this can be confusing and frustrating. What’s key is making a decision or trying a path that feels right for us for now. Maybe that decision ends up being one that sticks for many years or maybe it will only stick for six months. It’s about being ok with that and not regretting a path we took because there is always value in what we learnt, even if it’s just to say ‘that’s not for me’. It’s not a failure or a waste of time; it’s growth, it’s learning, it’s skill development, it’s life.
So, it’s ok. It’s ok to not be sure if the next step is the ‘right’ step. It’s a step and it will have value. You may just need to talk to someone to realise what that is. And whether you have two steps or twenty steps in your career, if you remain open to potential life (and job market) changes then you’ll be more than ok. Bring on 2017.