Career choice: What to do when you don’t know what to do?!

The world is brimming full with great advice on how to get your dream job, how to reach that goal in your work life, how to make it to the position you want to be in.

But what if you simply don’t know what you want?

Some people immediately assume various things about you, like..
…she has no drive, no passion
…she is lazy
…she doesn’t really want to work/ work hard
and my favourite:
…she just wants to get married and have kids!

None of that was ever true for me, I simply did not know what I wanted to do. I had so many interests and there were so many choices. By now I am where I want to be in every respect, so here are 5 tips on what to do if you don’t know what to do:

1. As long as you can, leave all the doors open.
Don’t specialise into one specific branch of education, stick to general education as long as you can and try to achieve a high level in it, like an Abitur in German, A-Levels in the UK and High School Graduation in the US or the equivalent.
Because when you do decide, you don’t want to be limited by your choice of education.
Also, it is a nice thing to consider: When you learn something that you know you will never ever need again in life – just think: I’m learning this for my future freedom.

2. Don’t force a decision
You’re about to finish school and you still have no clue? Don’t force it, and don’t let yourself be forced. Spend a year studying abroad, either as an AuPair or to collect your first work experience in any kind of simple job, or just keep studying your favourite subjects on a foreign school (if your parents can afford it).
This has several great advantages. You get used to living your own life (and your parents do too), you make new friends, you will broaden your horizon in no small way and you learn a foreign language, which is always a plus in work life.
If you aren’t an English native speaker, pick an English speaking country, as fluent English is a basic requirement in all higher level jobs, especially in times of globalisation.
In addition you are building up a skill known as “intercultural competence”, which is also a requirement later on in the kind of jobs that bring in the big bucks.

3. Use your grace period
You do have a certain grace period in which you can do things like back-packing across Europe or doing a voluntary year in Australia or something the like. Later on, HR recruiters who see that on your CV will shrug it off under the headline of “Collecting experience” or generally, being undecided, young and free. This grace period however ends with age 20, at the very most 21. After that, if you haven’t started into your work life in some way, either by further education, an apprenticeship or some other kind of dual training program, it is generally perceived as something that is wrong with you.

4. Approach the question from a different angle
So you know that you don’t know what you want to do. Fair enough. Do you know how you want to do it?
Think about the ‘How’ rather than the ‘What’. Do you know, for example if you’d rather work from home or in an office? Whether you like travelling? Whether you prefer big companies to small ones? What kind of boss your perfect boss should be? If you would like to do something with a comfortable recurring routine or something that changes every day? If you like working alone or in a team…

For many years I didn’t know what job I wanted to do, but I always knew the answers to these questions. So I simply focused on them, tried to make them come true in whatever job I did. And so, bit by bit, I realised also what it was I wanted to do. Which brings me to point 5:

5. Never be afraid to want more – better – bigger!
Of course you’ve also got to work hard for that, both in your job and at yourself, but I can promise you one thing:

The moment you tell yourself that you can’t achieve a change you are looking for in the circumstances of your work, that is the moment you deny yourself any chance of making that positive change come true!

When I was young and something fantastic happened to me, I tended to think “This is too good to be true.” That is a self-fulfilling prophesy (if there ever was one).
Never think that. Anything spectacular can happen for you and as long as you believe that, work towards it and are grateful for what you have already achieved, it will happen!
Chance and luck can only open the door for you, but you are the one who has to see it opening up and walk through it.

6. We live in an online world where it is easy to connect with others – use that!
No matter which job situation you want to achieve for yourself, like for example working successfully from home, there are already people out there who have pulled it off. That should not intimidate you, it should motivate you. There is enough to go around.
Connect with them, follow them on Twitter and on LinkedIn, read their blogs if they have one, ask them questions, be engaged. By learning about them, you also learn about yourself and the better you get to know yourself, the easier everything in life will become for you. Even finding out what you want to do.

Last but not least, don’t let anybody tell you that everybody has to know what he or she wants to do. You can have a very happy and fulfilling work life even if you do not know, simply by having found the perfect circumstances to work in for you, that fit you and your skills like a shoe!
Some of us are simply not born to be extremely good at one thing, but rather are moderately or very good at a whole lot of things. In recent years multi-talents have kicked the specialists off their throne and we are highly sought-after by HR people!

One of the best ways to become such a sought-after multi-talent is to NOT know right from the start what you want to do. It all comes down to knowing yourself and of course… you still have to work hard if you want to achieve anything great. Nothing will ever change that I’m afraid 😉

Yours Julia

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