You’ve probably been thinking about your post-college future for some time now. And if you’re lucky enough to know exactly what you want to do, firstly, congratulations. Secondly, what are you doing here reading this? Hit the job search!
If, however, you’re one of the many (many!) other seniors about to graduate who hasn’t a clue of what it is you’re looking for, don’t fret. You’re in a great place to start making decisions about what you want to do.
So here are a few ways to help you tap into your internal sounding board and figure out where you should be focusing your job search.
What are you passionate about?
What gets you going? What gets you crying with laughter or bawling tears of joy? What angers you to the point of wanting to help or make a change? If you’re angered by the mistreatment of animals, perhaps working in a shelter or on-the-job veterinary training is your best bet. Constantly touched by the encouraging sights of children who have overcome adversity? Maybe working with disadvantaged children is your bag. Tap into those things you truly care about, and you will begin to discover your passion.
What role best fits you?
If you had to decide right now what five tasks and responsibilities you would like to take on at a company, what would you say? Write them down immediately. This exercise is great in determining which roles you would fit in well at and which job listings you should target. Base your answers on your prior experience and on what you enjoyed doing in your internships and classes. Maybe you really love writing, or you enjoy doing in-depth research. Maybe you love working with numbers and statistics. And maybe you want to be in a role that involves a lot of talking and conversations with clients. All these things are great to write down.
There's no rule that says you have to focus on just one primary area of expertise. Often times, the things you enjoy doing come together to form a career theme. Love writing, and meeting new people, but don't care much for selling products? Consider a career in journalism. Love working with numbers and have a strong eye for web development and design? Why not pursue a career in data analytics and visualization. The sky’s the limit, so figure out how your desires translate into a job role that you can take on.
How do you like to play?
Maybe you enjoy going to the movies and blogging about it, gaming for hours and creating gaming videos, or hitting the gym and eating healthy. A big part of choosing the right role and employer for you is understanding what will make you excited to get out of bed each workday morning. How you enjoy spending our down time is a sure fire way to determine what you’d be happy doing, which can then be parlayed into a satisfying job or lucrative career. Look to your hobbies, the communities you are a part of, and the friends around you to figure out what you might want out of your colleagues and company. Then search the internet for companies that seem to fit your style. Company review sites, LinkedIn, social media accounts, and company career pages will give you the information you need to make an informed decision.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
As a child, you were the closest to the essence of the real you. That is, before the grown-up world got its mitts on you and forced you to reevaluate your priorities. You had that boundless imagination, clarity, and creativity that worked at feeding you all those wonderful ideas about what you wanted to be and what life as a grown-up would look. Now’s the time to check back in with your inner child. Thinking like a child erases all those expectations placed upon you as an adult, and frees you up to start thinking about what you want.
Maybe you no longer want to be a firefighter, or maybe it’s no longer feasible to become an astronaut, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live in those worlds. Love space? Work towards a job at SpaceX, NASA, Boeing, or one of the many big and amazing aerospace engineering firms. If you’re not ready for that sort of a dream gig right out of college, find the career path and first job that will let you learn and evolve toward that role. Love the idea of serving your community? A job in government or politics might be the right ticket. Volunteer for your Congressperson’s next political campaign to start meeting people in the field and getting your name out there. Try to remember those visions you once had for yourself and figure out where the grown-up world fits into that mold.
This entire process is meant to help you discover who you are as both an individual and as a professional. That will help you find out what kinds of jobs to look for and which companies you should target. And that is the first step towards a smart, laser-focused job search.