Don’t Pick Your Career
When you graduate, you will need a job.
Okay, maybe you won't need one, but you'll sure want one. You could move back in with your parents for a while, sure, but you'll definitely want to be making some money eventually. You will, at some point, be asked: "How did you end up in your current job?"
And like many others, you may answer: "It just happened."
The reality is that with the current level of education in First World countries, your degree doesn’t really differentiate you from the crowd. If you’re like a lot of other graduates, your degree might not even have any connection to the job you end up doing. Which is why you don't need a job, you need a career. But don’t pick one.
We all believe that we have independence: that fleeting and wonderful, yet scary, concept of being apart from the family we've known our whole lives. When we live independently, we are starting lives where we (insert gasp) don't call our parents every single day, and we make unique, focused decisions relevant to only our own lives or, eventually, those of our own spouses and children.
With graduation looming, we're on the brink of this being the new normal. And yet, what we consider real independence is not independence at all; it's going to be things like chasing a higher wage, a new title (maybe Head Researcher? Lead Designer?), or respect from our peers. All of those are external factors.
In reality, this "independence" starts now, while we are hunting for jobs that we'll start immediately after graduation. And there is nothing wrong with a job. You will need money to create your career.
But create it you must.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."
And I don't know what philosophy you subscribe to, but personally, I don't believe in “God's Plan” as it is written by Drake.
I think God intends for people to follow the biblical rules He has set. I think God has set the physical laws of this world into place. Those physical laws—and the nature of human society—sometimes cause us circumstantial difficulties. It is up to us to struggle against those circumstances to create a better world.
Thus, we cannot rely on God's plan alone. We have to try a little bit.
You might not know what you want to do after you graduate. Maybe you have some idea of what you like—hold onto that.
Deep down, somewhere, you already have an idea of what you'd like to do. Something that has the potential to better other's lives and your own.
Write. Create. Teach. Speak. Sell. Buy. Research. Trade.
We all have something that we love. Today, you can make the first step toward creating a career out of that thing. Whether or not that is something you end up doing for the rest of your life isn’t the most important part of this. What matters is that you decide to pursue something—don't wait for something to come to you. Don't pick a job you will end up doing for 20 years just because you need money. Or worse—because your parents want you to do it.
Look at yourself. Find your strengths. You cannot build a career on something you're not good at. You need to build a career on your strengths. Improving on your weaknesses is good, but they won't become your strengths. Author Peter Drucker writes in Managing Oneself, "It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.”
Find an industry that fits these strengths. Good at writing? Music? Art? Find an industry that fits. Make sure you differentiate between things you are good at and things you love. Often these are the same, but sometimes they're not. For instance: I love film and videography. I love YouTube, short films, and creating video. But I'm not very good at it. I've tried, but I just don't have the eye for it like my friends who are great at it. Treat those things as hobbies. It doesn't mean you should stop doing it, that's absolutely not the case! If you love music, go jam. But do it in your spare time. Keep those things as hobbies. Relaxation. Never take your mind off of the career, the skills you were given and the work that betters others. Steven Pressfield, in his masterpiece The War of Art, writes: "Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are, and become it."
Start at the very bottom. Don't be afraid of it. You will want to understand the hard work. There's no honour in getting a free pass. Forget about your ego and your pride, because in the end, the memories of the bottom will make the top that much sweeter. Don’t be afraid of starting anew. Pressfield writes, "Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it."
Keep learning. We have the privilege of studying at a post-secondary institution where we learn every day. When we understand how great that privilege is, we know that we want to keep learning after we graduate. Without the pressure to learn and better ourselves, a job can be discouraging. It's a dead end. With a drive to learn and better our lives, even just one percent each day, the most discouraging jobs become stepping stones toward something greater. Working a job from nine to five and spending the rest of the evening in front of Netflix is no way to live the rest of your life.
A fulfilling career—a fulfilling life—will not be free; the price will be your own hard work and effort. The price will be a change in mindset and, most importantly, an understanding that your degree does not encapsulate everything that you are, and all that you can become.