“What are you going to do after DU!?” With two months away from graduation it’s likely that most encounters with family, friends, and professors lead to some variation of this question and you might not have an answer.
And, if you’re not at that transition point of graduation, then perhaps you’re in the midst of your undergraduate journey and uncertain about what major to pursue and constantly being bombarded with, “What are you majoring in?” Whatever the case, being in a space of uncertainty can induce all sorts of anxiety, doubt, and questioning, especially when receiving pressure to have it all figured out.
Give yourself permission to ‘not know,’ and consider reframing that uncertainty to one of exploration, which offers you room to pause and reflect. And, consider engaging the steps below as a process to move you towards a state of relative clarity, at least in knowing your first next steps.
1. Conduct an Archaeological Dig— Create some space in your week to pause and evaluate your past and current experiences. What jobs, volunteer experiences, clubs or organizations have you been a part of? Have you traveled, nurtured a particular hobby, sport, or other activity? What did you most enjoy about these things? Least enjoy? Why? What skills did you cultivate through those experiences; and, what came easily and naturally to you? Of those skills and talents, which were most rewarding and satisfying to use? Why? Write your answers down.
2. Return to Your Youth—…and, answer this question: What was it I most loved to do as a kid? Whatever the answer, start to unpack what it was about that thing, or activity, that was most engaging, rewarding, or meaningful, because embedded in your response are clues to where you’re likely to be happy and motivated. Even if the same five people answer: ‘playing with Legos,’ their reasons will be different. One individual might explain that they loved starting with nothing and the process of creating something; while another might describe how their imaginations became activated when crafting a story that corresponded to the Lego world they built. While the answer to a major, or your career isn’t to necessarily pursue Lego building, though it’s an option, take note on how the elements of where you were most engaged could translate into a future role, or area of study, such as a field that leverages your creativity and design thinking.
3. Become an Expert Observer— Each day, start tracking where you light up, what captivates you, and engages you. Notice what are you doing when you lose track of time, and on the contrary, pay attention to what drains you of energy and where you check out, or become disengaged. These details offer clues to where you’re likely to be motivated and vice versa.
4. Pursue your Curiosity— When Steve Jobs dropped out of college he took a calligraphy class just for fun and simply out of interest. Fast forward to the launch of his first Apple computer and it turns out the font he used had been informed by that seemingly random calligraphy class. So, pursue curiosity, because you never know where it will lead. Experiment! Take a class that piques your interest, engage a hobby you’ve been wanting to reignite, attend a lecture, take a road trip, watch a documentary, go swing dancing; whatever it is, you’ve got to get out in the world and have experiences, because it is through experiences upon which we can reflect and learn about ourselves, discovering where we come alive and when our unique talents and personality shine through.
5. Connect the Dots—Brainstorm on the Intersections of your interests, talents, and values. What do you want to do and where do you want to have an impact? (i.e.—be a champion for individuals with learning differences, conserve the environment, build self-esteem, etc.)? Where are you wanting to plug in? (i.e.—Blogging, education/training, fundraising, data analytics, developing a community support group, lobbying, etc.).
6. Seek out Humans— Find the people at the intersection of your interests and meet them! Go pick their brain and build those connections. Use the LinkedIn alumni page and Pioneer Connect to identify alumni who are doing the very things that pique your interest, or for which you’re curious. Request an informational interview to learn more about the nature of their job, the industry, and their career journey. You might also find relevant organizations via Guidestar.
7. Be Kind to Yourself—The decision-making process can be overwhelming for some people; as such, engage daily practices of self-care, whether it’s meditation, journaling, eating healthy foods, getting your body moving through yoga, or other types of exercise. And, keep connected to the community, whether through your friends, family, or other individuals you find supportive.
By Carolyn Sommers