Can anyone advise graduates who are ambivalent and uncertain about what roles to take up as a career?
Yes I can, and here goes.
You will be happiest when you are working in areas that you enjoy. Start by making an inventory of your life up to now. Note all the stuff you loved doing. Note particularly the stuff that so engrossed you that you lost track of time, went to bed thinking about it, and got up excited to work on it in the morning. Don't leave anything off, or consider anything too small or too silly. Note all the skills you've developed up to now. Which ones do you most enjoy using?
Walk away from the list and come back to it a day or two later. Keep looking and noticing. See if there are any skills and areas you might want to combine into a job.
Then start looking at what organizations might have good use for that combination, whether they've posted a job or not. Do research. Find out everything you can about the organizations that interest you and the kind of work they do. Use your connections (you've usually got more than you are aware of), and start reaching out to people in those organizations and talk to them. Find out what their pain points are, and start thinking about what value you could add, how you could ease their pain, make your potential bosses life easier, make the organization more profitable.
Come up with a list of ten ways you could add value, and start reaching out to your contacts until you reach the people who could hire you. Never settle for a no from a person who does not make the ultimate decision.
When you reach the person, listen amazingly well, and offer up your ideas for how you can make that person's work easier.
There are a lot of plusses to this approach:
- You might be creating a position that was never there before. Then there would be no competition. No job has been posted.
- You establish that you are already invested in this organization, and that you will hit the ground running. Employers aren't particularly enthusiastic about training new hires who might not even be around that long.
- You've shown you already get what's going on, and that this is the place you want to be.
- Since this is the work you want, you show up with a different level of enthusiasm. (Enthusiasm is contagious by the way, and people like being around it.) You're not a best fit, you are a great match.
- You've established that you think. This is a big deal. Employers want people who are constantly looking for how they can grow; it also helps the organization to grow.
- Five, you'll be having a lot more fun doing what you love.
But maybe this job doesn't show up right away. It takes some work and some time to go through this process.
In the meantime, bring excellence to anything you do do. Maybe you've got school loans to pay and have to work right away. Let's say the only thing you can find right away is being a busboy in a restaurant. Be great at it. Constantly look at how you hack the job to make it better or run smoother. Be constantly looking at how you can add value. You don't know who is sitting at the table. Always bring a smile. Notice the great tie or the beautiful purse.
It might just be that that person has a job for you. They might say to themselves, “Wow, I could use someone with that energy.”
On the other hand, you might find you like restaurants. You might find a hundred ways to add value, you might work your way up to host, bartender, manager, or run the next franchise that your boss opens.
You will definitely learn from the experience, and if you market it right, it will always be a plus. Let's say your next job is in customer service. You've served hundreds and know how to talk to people. That's a big deal. Or in marketing: You've seen what brings customers around again and again, and can apply that in the next job.
You're young. Never forget that you can pivot on a dime. Maybe you get an idea for better restaurant lighting. Now you want to go do that. Find a company that designs and builds restaurants, or lighting, and share your ideas with them.
My point now is not taking a job, any job, keeps you in a holding pattern where you are not growing. Always be growing. Always be noticing where you can make a difference, and you will always have work.
Let's say you can't even get a job as a busboy. Then your job is to reach out to your people and ask them how you can make a difference in their lives today. You might find something opens up there.
And just to keep yourself sharp, I'd start with writing down ten ideas a day. Things will start showing up. Your ideas will have sex and new avenues will show up with crazy regularity.
And last, I suggest you keep a journal, get enough sleep, and get some exercise every day. In your journal, write down at least three things you are grateful for every day, and reach out to at least one person to thank them.
I know I've probably gone way beyond the scope of what you were asking. What I am asking you to do is live an intentional life. Take care of yourself, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and you'll be ready for anything life can throw your way.
These ideas aren't all mine. If you want to read/hear/see a bit more on these themes, I highly recommend Shawn Achor's Ted Talk on The happy secret to better work. James Altucher's Podcasts on Choosing Yourself, see Altucher Confidential - Ideas for a World Out of Balance, his great book The Rich Employee, or Jeff Goin's book, The Art of Work.
And if you want some help sorting it out, get in touch.