A recurring question we are asked as we enter the working world is, “What do you want to do?” Having a confident answer is easier said than done.
When I was close to finishing my undergraduate degree I had no clue what was next. There was no career or field that I was passionate about. Consequently, I prolonged my career decision and went to grad school. A year and a half later I had a master’s degree, but I continued to face the same question, “What do I do now?”
I was still not passionate about anything, so I entered the working world with this as my goal: “I want to make as much money as I can while working the least amount of hours to do it.”
Picking the sales field was not the noblest decision I could’ve made, but it was reasonable for where I was at in my life. It took me five years and three jobs to realize my sales career was not fulfilling for me (www.iamontheroad.com). Am I angry that I went into sales? Not at all. The companies and people I worked for provided me a vast amount of training and skills. Sales taught me the self discipline to work from home, the organization to juggle numerous tasks, and gave me the confidence to speak in public and not be afraid of being told no. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my sales experiences.
At the same time, the point of this article is to help you avoid making the huge career shift that I did. As you enter the working world, you need to ask yourself a few questions.
“What do I like to do and why?” One of my book interviewees said the best class he took at Harvard Business School was self actualization; figuring out what motivated him and what didn’t. Once you know that, it is much easier to pick a career and a company that you can be passionate about.
“What is my long term goal?” Realize that your first job is probably not going to be your dream job. And that is fine, as long as you are doing something that is contributing to the end goal. Make sure your first job is giving you the training and skills to move you forward on the road.
“What type of company do I want to work for?” This is the big versus small company examination. These analyses are not set in stone, but big companies are typically great for stable pay, benefits, training, mentoring, networking, and skill sharpening. Yet, they also tend to have bureaucracy, micromanaging, and a perceived lack of impact.
Smaller companies provide a chance to make a difference, give you the opportunity to shine very quickly and are ever changing places where you will handle a wide array of tasks. But, they can also be so busy that training can be hard to come by, less stable in terms of pay and benefits, and if you look for a job in a different city, tend not to be as relevant on a resume.
Regardless of the size of the company, it will help greatly if their culture and focus is aligned with your own personality and goals.
If you are new to the game, my advice is to think big picture. Each new job and experience will be a learning tool. Another one of my book interviewees, a publicist at Warner Brother Pictures, calls this the dating phase. If you are still in school, internships are a great way to see what a job, company or industry is like. If you’re already graduated, then it’s time to do your career version of match.com.
Look at each job as a paid, extended date. Job number one will teach you what you enjoy about working and what you don’t. From there you will figure out how to integrate more of the good into your work life.
The career road does not have to be a bumpy one. At the core, if you take advantage of your talents and your passions you will be able to work harder and smarter, causing you to rise through the ranks.
Good luck. I’ll see you On the Road…