What to do if you don’t know what you want to do

I’m extremely experienced in the field of not knowing what I want to do later on in life. I’ve always felt an immense pressure placed on us (not by my parents) at such young ages to decide what we want to do, university? Apprenticeships? Working? What do you want to study? Where do you want to study? What job will it lead you to?

We’re expected to have our lives planned out, or at least many significant parts, by the age of 17/18 depending on when you finish school, something I have always felt is too premature. I must say that for the most part, other options besides university weren’t really promoted at my school, whether its conditioning to genuinely the intention of my school, it seemed we all followed the same path, GCSE’S, A-LEVELS, UNI. Despite not begrudging this at all, since university has undoubtedly been some of the best years of my life, I felt a huge pressure to conform with everyone else.

I’m sure lots of other people felt and feel the same way too, and so my purpose for this blog post is to give some advice to those who, like me, don’t (I still don’t completely)    know what they want to do. Do not panic.

  1. Experience is crucial, even if you don’t know what you want to, to find out what you don’t want to do is just as valuable, since it can help you narrow down your options. So get in contact with friends and family, there will always be an opportunity out there, ask for a week at a company, send some emails, no experience is wasted experience.
  2. Don’t feel as if uni is the only option. Something I have learnt in the last couple of years is that Uni really is not the be all and end all, there are so many other ways to get into jobs, a degree is not everything. I think having experience is much more valuable. This leads me on to my next point…
  3. I think that unless there is a subject you want to specifically study at university, then consider other options first. University is a big commitment, averaging at 3 years, this is a fair chunk time that you could potentially be attending lectures, reading, writing, thinking and talking about, so it just has to be something thats going to keep you interested. I personally feel that while I have loved university, for what I (think I) want to do, I didn’t need to go to university. I have spoken to several people in the industry that I want to go into, who have been to a fashion school instead of A-Levels or University,  and do great jobs now. I only wish that these possibilities had been explored and shown to me whilst I was at school, it could have potenailyl saved me from studying biology at A-Level!
  4. I can’t however, discredit how much I have loved university and still think that its been so worthwhile, attending university shows commitment and enthusiasm, and has led me to so many amazing people and opportunities. The previous point wasn’t to knock university, merely to point out that it isn’t the only option, and that this isn’t always clear at school.
  5. Getting a part-time job can be so beneficial. Whilst bar work might not be a career path you’d want to explore, any part-time job can lead onto other opportunities or give you new ideas. Whether that’s talking to someone at work who has a career plan that sounds really interesting, or knows someone who does, or even a work colleague doing something different within the same workplace that you like the sound of, talking to people to hear their opinions, plans and goals can be so inspiring and motivating. Another thing, part-time jobs teach you so many skills that are applicable to any work place, whilst you might not know what it is you want to do later on, having that experience and those skills will come in handy in the future..not to mention strengthening the CV for when application time comes round.
  6. Just.say.yes!! Sounds odd but what I mean is that if you see an opportunity flying round on social media or through your emails, really consider it, consider what it might bring you, how it might benefit you and its a great way to test out loads of different areas of work. I recently applied to work for the times as a student researcher, before I would have made the excuse of ‘oh I don’t have time’ or ‘I won’t be successful in my application’ but I fought that, and I was successful, and now I can’t wait to start! You don’t need to know what you want to do to make the most of opportunities that can help you further down the line.
  7. Try spending sometime writing a diary, making notes of what part of your day made you feel positive and happy, what parts of your course you enjoy, anything you saw on tv that interested you. Taking some time out to reflect on what makes you tick, can help you decide what sort of thing you can see yourself being happy studying or doing as a job. Maybe even assessing what your interests and hobbies are and seek opportunities that incorporate those things, you have to do something you love, my dad always says to me “if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”. It’s so true, don’t feel like you have to go down the route that most go down, do what makes you feel good.
  8. If you have or are just about to finish your A-Levels, consider taking a year out, a gap year is something that I really wish I had done. Not because I wanted to do nothing for a year, but I think that its really beneficial for us to take a break from learning, do something productive, and start uni feeling refreshed and ready to begin learning again. From the age of 14/15 we begin learning loads of information and having continuous exams and revision to complete, its 3 solid years of worrying about how you’re grades are going to go, so I really think a year out of the school / learning bubble is worthwhile. Especially if you do not know what it is that you want to do, taking a year out to really assess what path you want to take is invaluable, it might even be worthwhile applying to university for a course you think you might like doing, securing your place and then deferring. This takes off the pressure for feeling throughout your year out that you have the uni application looming, but also that you always have a back-up plan.
  9. Do not worry, it’s totally fine to simply not know, it will come to you, but for now, guide yourself as much as you can to make any preparations for any ideas you may have and to strengthen your applications when they do happen. Don’t think that not knowing is foreshadowing your successes later on. For me my parents never told me I had to take any certain career path, whereas others are given clear ideas and also feel they must meet certain expectations, but I was lucky enough to feel free to choose to do whatever I want, and that’s something I’m tremendously grateful for!

I hope you enjoyed reading, and that if you’re feeling something a bit similar, that its either given you some ideas of what you can do in to either help find out what you’d like to do, things you can be doing in the mean time or simply made you feel at ease and made you feel not alone!

Until next time 

Megan

x x 

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