Is your young-adult child struggling with options after graduation? Here is what we would tell them if we could. Graduation is over. Finally. The world is at your feet. You can do anything you want to do. Now only two questions remain. What do you want to do? What are your options?
With infinite possibilities and so many choices, how do you decide? Maybe nothing really excites you. Maybe lots of different things interest you; but you are really not sure if you want to do them for the rest of your life. Spending time and money on college or trade school seems like a waste if it is just something to do and not something that will get you to the fulfilling life you desire. Don’t panic. There are some things you can do to help you sort out the possibilities and find your way on the path you are meant to follow.
Take some time to reflect. Think back to your childhood and remember the things that brought you the most joy. What made you lose track of time and forget everything else? Those things are your passion. Now, you may not be able to make a career out of playing with Hot Wheels or Barbie Dolls, but think about what made you love those things so much. Was it the adrenaline rush? Could it be the creativity of fashion design? The underlying skills are the things that made you love the activities. You may have been a natural-born leader or loved the cooperation of team work to make a giant sand-castle town. Look for career choices in which you can use your talents and passions.
Talk to people who you think have a fascinating job. Ask them about their days. What do they love most about their job? What really bothers them about it? Pay attention to their body language as they answer you. Do their eyes brighten as they talk about their career and the possibilities in it? Listen to what they don’t say as much as what they say. Every job has some aspect that is necessary drudgery; but when the negative aspects outweigh the positive, it isn’t the career that will bring you joy.
Try a part-job or volunteer a few hours a week in a field that you think you would enjoy. Even if the job isn’t exactly your idea of a dream job, you will meet people who have a great career and get a real taste for what the career is all about. Waiting tables will tell you if the field of restaurant management or hospitality is for you. A summer position as a camp counselor will let you know if you really like working with kids or if the outdoor environmental field is your true passion. Answering phones or customer service in just about any field will give you valuable insight into that field. Work and life experience are a vital part of any career choice.
Education is never a waste. If you think you want to go to college, try a few classes at the community college. The expense is less than a four-year school and you will find out if it is the right path for you. Plan your classes so that you are working towards an Associate’s Degree that can transfer to a four-year school. Take advantage of every bit of career counseling, cultural events, and job placement services that the school offers.
Question your professors and other students who are ahead of you in the program. If community college is too big of a commitment for you right now, try adult education classes that are offered at the local high school or even some free online college classes that are offered through places like MIT Open-Course. These won’t lead to any college credit, but they will give you an idea about whether or not this topic really interests you. Gather as much information as possible to find out if you think you are on the right path for yourself.
Remember that there is no time limit on finding your path. Explore and try different things while you are able to do it. Everything you do will give you valuable knowledge and skills that will enhance your life. From personal experience, we can tell you that you may be surprised at the odd bits of experience that employers find fascinating and come in handy in your job!