Remember when you were in grade school and people asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? Back then, you could name anything that sounded cool—astronaut, actress or baker—it didn’t matter. And you certainly didn’t need to rattle off a plan for how you’d achieve it, and if you changed your mind the next day, it was no biggie.
Well, times have changed. Every day it may seem that graduation is lurking around the corner, pressuring you to make big decisions and generally just freaking you out. We’re here to say…fear not. You’ve got plenty of time to make your dreams come true, even if you’ve no clue what that dream might be. To help you face your career fears, we’ve culled together the advice of some famous life coaches (you’re welcome!):
Dilemma #1: “I’m a senior and I’m just now acknowledging that I don’t actually like my major. But it’s too late to change—panic! How do I totally switch gears?”
What would Gretchen Rubin say? Well, she’d probably tell you, “Hey, I did it!” Yes, Gretchen Rubin—author of The Happiness Project—totally switched gears, too. She left behind an impressive career in law/politics to become the impressive writer/speaker/blogger she is today. She’d also probably tell you that it’s never too late to be authentic and do what you love. Plus, you don’t need to major in something to make it your life’s work.
We say: Ditto! Just finish school, and graduate with the same major you’ve been pursuing for four years. But think about how you can delve into some extracurricular experiences (internships, volunteer opportunities, etc) that more closely align with the new direction that interests you. Build your resume around those experiences. And don’t forget the power of “transferable skills”— for instance, a bio major’s ability to solve problems and tackle details could help her in, well, just about any field you can imagine.
Dilemma #2: “I really don’t know what I’d be willing to do for the rest of my life. No. Clue. Whatsoever.”
What would Martha Beck say? If you need tips on finding your passion, look no further than Martha Beck. Another career-changer who appears regularly in the Oprah magazine, Beck is a master when it comes to helping others chart their course just when they feel most aimless. A favorite quote to address this dilemma: “If your life is cloudy and you’re far, far off course, you may have to go on faith for a while, but eventually you’ll learn that every time you trust your internal navigation system, you end up closer to your right life.”
We say: Yup, trust your gut like Martha says. But if that advice feels too abstract, here’s a concrete tip for you: gain experience. A major part of choosing a career is about ruling things out. So if you think you might want to work with children? Do it. Volunteer. See if you like it. The more experiences you have, the more you’ll learn about yourself. Pretty soon you won’t be able to say “I have no clue,” because you’ll have data to draw upon.
Dilemma #3: “I’m scared to make a decision about a major/career. What if I pick the wrong thing and waste all that time?”
What would Brené Brown say? Seeing as how her entire philosophy is titled Daring Greatly, we’re thinking Ms. Brown would tell you to do just that—be daring. Oh, and she’s kind of an expert on shame and vulnerability, so this question is in her wheelhouse for sure. Her words: “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts… Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”
We say: You have to start somewhere. And if you keep yourself paralyzed until you’re 100% sure about the thing you want to do for the rest of your life, you’ll stay paralyzed forever. Many of the most successful people in the world had to change direction at some point. Plus, even if you switch majors or directions, that first path still provides meaningful and educational experiences you’ll use for a lifetime. (Again with the transferable skills, not to mention transferable self-knowledge.)
Dilemma #4: “I know what I want to do, but I’m afraid it’s not practical. And what if I fail?”
What would Danielle LaPorte say? Danielle LaPorte is living proof that a college degree isn’t even necessary to become successful, if you just know the ins and outs of entrepreneurship. Her take on fear is unapologetic and awesome—“Yep, we may fail, it’s possible. This is risky sh*t. But we’ll still be okay. Because that’s who we are. We’re the kind of people that are okay, no matter what… There’s a new land to discover and the only way to find it is to keep going…you keep your mouth shut and your eyes wide open, we’ll get there sooner. We’re doing this. We’re doing this because we want to. Because this is what it means to do life.”
We say: You said it, Danielle LaPorte! So-called “risky” occupations are the ones that are difficult to explain to your parents, and also tend to have a less clear “path.” But it doesn’t mean they aren’t worth pursuing if that’s where your heart is. The best approach is to dip your toes in and gain experience to make sure these often glamorous-sounding jobs are your best fit. The other key: networking. If you’re looking to make it in a risky field, you need to build your network early and find a mentor.
The final word: All four of these incredible women can be found via YouTube, their websites and even TED talks. But to give you just a sampling (and to help you face your fear) we’ll leave you with Danielle LaPorte. Because, well…she rocks.
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