Starting a Career Search… When You Don’t Know Where to Start

You know that starting your career search early can pay off big time. But if you’re like a lot of college students, you may not know where to start.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the big Career Question—“What do you want to be when you grow up?”—so break it down into small, manageable questions. These three easy brainstorms will get the ideas flowing about your passions, interests and strengths.

If You Had Your Own TV Show, What Would It Be About?

This is a great question because it allows you to zero in on your passions. What lights you up enough that you’d want to share it with the world?

This is also a handy trick to start thinking about the wide range of careers that can be connected to a specific passion. For example, if you’d host a food show, think about the guests you’d invite—specialty food buyers, wine journalists, food chemists, nutritionists, etc. This exercise can reveal possibilities beyond the most obvious choice of “chef.”

In Your Ideal World, What Would Your Work Location Look Like?

Turn your search on its head by starting with location, rather than specific skill set or interest. Think where—not what—by picturing yourself on the job. Is it in an office? Outdoors at a national park? Are you on the road?

This isn’t to say that location should rule your career choice, but sometimes tackling an issue from a totally different angle can open up your mind to options you may never have considered.

Fill in the Blank: When My Friends Need Help with __________, They Come to Me

Recognizing your own strengths can be half the battle when trying to pick a career area to explore. But identifying your own aptitudes can be hard. This brainteaser lets your friends do it for you. Are they always asking for you to edit their papers? Do you often settle arguments? Or is party planning for the group more your thing?

Don’t be too literal about this exercise—just because you’re great at mixing a perfect drink doesn’t mean you should go be a bartender. Rather, these ideas can help you pinpoint specific skills and talents like having an eye for details, being able to resolve conflicts, or possessing a knack for social situations.

Each of these exercises can get you started, but be sure to follow-up by getting concrete information on career options that interest you. Instead of working from vague ideas or assumptions, do some research. You can start online with career exploration sites like Inside Jobs, and reach out to connect with people already working in the field.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Degrees of Transition!


About the Author: Annie Favreau works for Inside Jobs, a site that helps people discover careers they’ll love and find the education to make it happen. Join the Inside Jobs conversation on Twitter!



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