Hey, you. Yes, you, the one reading this right now. I’m going to guess that if you are anything like many of your peers, you aren’t 100% sure of what it is you want to do in the future (the one that feels like it’s sneaking up uncomfortably fast). Maybe you have some sense of the area you’d like to work in, or even the company or job that you want to work for. Maybe you think you have no idea. Or maybe you fall into this category: you know what you want to do, but don’t even think seriously about trying to do it because you believe it’s near impossible.
As little kids, we all dream big and have grand, amazing plans for ourselves and our lives. And the best part is that- truly- we believe in the magic of our dreams and in our ability to make them come true. But somewhere along the way, a lot of us get caught in the drift otherwise known as “adult life” and “responsibility”.
Those are just really bad excuses for not going after what you want most out of life. In my mind, there’s one big thing that consistently stops most of us from going after our dreams: Fear. Fear of failure, financial instability, powerlessness, being wrong, making mistakes, and disappointing our parents who want us to be: doctors, lawyers, __fill__in__the__blank__.
Fear often stops us from getting what we want most because, frankly, it’s terrifying to dive head first into a pool of dreams when we aren’t sure we can swim. If we have an immediate choice, we’d rather not go there. As a culture, Americans have “need for speed” syndrome. We are a seriously impatient population of people. But like it or not, reaching our biggest goals often takes time, compromise, and lots of hard work.
If you are currently on the fence about what it is you want to do, I’m going to guess that it’s not actually because you have no clue what you love. Of course you know what you love- it’s hard to ignore what makes you happy!
Rather, it’s probably one (or both) of these two things:
1.) You attempt to find a career you love from the short list of those you already know exist – instead of figuring out what you love and turning it into your dream career…whether it exists yet or not.
So, you say you have no idea what kind of career you want to pursue. Take a step back and think about what you love doing. Is your favorite part of the day the time you spend playing video games? Think about working as a marketer for a company like Nintendo, or as a video game designer for Xbox.
Do you enjoy proofreading your friends’ college papers? Do your friends come to you automatically for advice on the structure of their essays? If you have a gift for writing and/or editing, you may consider working as a copy editor, reporter, or magazine journalist for a large publication. Or, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, think of ways to create a job that doesn’t necessarily exist yet- like finding a niche you really care about and starting a blog that becomes a key resource for your niche audience. It may seem like a “small” thing to start a blog, but how do you think wildly popular sites- such as Postsecret and Brazen Careerist- came to life? They came to life because someone dared to make a dream come true.
Perhaps the best part of your week is hosting parties for your friends (OK, we all love doing this. But I’m talking about those of you who live to host parties). And, maybe one of your biggest hobbies is reading books. Did you ever think about merging two or more things you love into one career? For instance, perhaps your dream job would be working at a publishing company to plan fun events for book launches.
There are a number of other ways to further explore your interests. After college, many graduates are furthering their education by taking classes through schools online or pursuing graduate school- the MBA being a popular choice for people who are interested in business across a wide range of industries. The MBA is one of many great ways to develop a richer understanding of business- and your personal passions within the business sphere. Wake Forest University is a great example of an MBA program that encourages you to “find your passion.”
The point is this: think outside the box. Take some time to really think about what you enjoy doing, and what your friends and family come to you for advice about (sports, fashion, hosting an event, studying, editing, relationships, etc.). That is the best starting point. Once you’ve figured out what you love doing and what you are good at, choosing your ideal career becomes less of a mystery.
2.) You’re Terrified.
If you already know what you love to do, but are still having a hard time deciding on a career, I’m going to guess that part of you (if not all of you) is terrified about going after the jobs you really want.
Let’s start with the good news: you know what you really want to do! I’ve met people who went through the majority of their lives with no clear sense of what they were passionate about or what careers they wanted to pursue. If you are one of the lucky people who fall into the category of knowing what you love and having a vision for what it is you’d like to do, congratulations.
Now for the bad news: you have ZERO good excuses for not pursing the career you are passionate about!
What’s holding you back? What are you afraid of?
Maybe your heart is set on being an artist and opening up a gallery, but your fear is that you will never make money. Ok, that’s a possibility- but only one of many. I am a big believer in seeing possibilities where others see problems. You could be a starving artist who lives close to the poverty line. Or, you could be an artist who learns how to market and sell your art better than most. And who says you can only be one thing? If you love painting, but also love fixing computers, who says you can’t find a way do both and make a decent salary?
Perhaps you come from a family of doctors, and your parents are practically the older versions of Meredith and McDreamy. While you feel the pressure to become a doctor as well, your heart really lies in the non-profit sector or management consulting. Whatever you do, do not choose a career based on what your parents, friends, or anyone else wants! As difficult as it may be to break the news now, you will seriously be kicking yourself for the rest of your life if you don’t go after what you really want.
Leap, and the net will appear
Your dreams can always become a reality- you just have to choose for that to be possible. The road may be long and challenging- but if you want something to happen enough and you make the choice not to stop until it does, it will happen.
Never give up what you love. Never settle for a career you are apathetic about because it’s easier. Challenge yourself to do what it is you really want to do, and don’t settle for less. At the end of the day, you are far more likely to regret what you didn’t do than what you did do. So find the five-year-old in you and believe in the ability to make your dreams come true.
Melissa is the Editor-in-Chief of studentbranding.com. She is also an Assistant Brand Manager at Time Inc. Home Entertainment, where she manages brand extension projects for numerous publications including: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, People, and Entertainment Weekly. Melissa majored in Psychology at Hamilton College and currently resides in New York City. To find out more, read her blog, follow her on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.