When we ask students what they want to do in the future, the most common answer we hear is simply "I have no idea". This has a lot to do with the way universities are set up. Unless you want a job specifically in the degree you chose, universities put very little emphasis on helping you to find out what career path you should take.
We have wrote previously about how to find out what you're passionate about. That post was a lot more focused on realising what is it your passionate about, instead of actually finding it. It could be well worth a read in conjunction with this though.
So, let get down to it. How can find out what you should do when you graduate? We have simplified it down into 3 ideas:
- Work in a lot of areas
- Constantly be doing something
- Do homemade work experience
Working to find out what different grad jobs are like
So the first one is pretty obvious. The more areas that you work in, the chances are you will find that thing that you love to do quicker, right? Well sort of. Simply taking an internship at a big investment bank, then in a small tech company and then working with a charity in Africa, might help you understand which type of company you want to work in - a big corporation, small start up or a charity - but it won't give you a great deal of variety, as a lot of what you will be doing as an intern will be operations and admin. For example, you won't be able to get a true feel for trading stocks and shares or creating a short film about how said charity rescues monkeys...
The most efficient way to go about getting experience in different areas is to join a none-profit business or small company ran by students. Companies like these are constantly in need of more manpower, so you can offer to do pretty much anything within the business and they will be willing to let you help. Most people I have known that take summer internships and placement years find it incredibly hard to get client exposure during these roles. With a lot of big companies you have to go though months of training before they let you speak to clients. With a smaller none-profit or a small company they will be more than happy for you to help them get more sales, work on their product development with users or work on their business strategy.
Find out what you want to do? Just do more!
This point ties slightly into the first one, what you love doing wont just come to you in a dream one day - "Oh my god, I should work with animals!". The more you are out there and experiencing new things the more chance there is of finding out what you love. Many people are yet to find what they love but by looking for opportunities in uni societies, by volunteering and getting involved with any of your friends exciting projects you will be constantly be finding out more about yourself and what you like and don't like - you're not going to find it watching those American TV shows (unless your passion turns out to be American TV shows - or cooking Chrystal Meth).
Homemade work experience before you graduate
Homemade work experience is an interesting one, so many people forget that you don't have to be employed at something to do it. Lets first take the example of an investment banker. I studied economics at university. Almost everyone on my course wanted to be an investment banker. However, they all complained about how hard it was to get work experience at an investment bank.
A friend on my course traded stocks and shares in his spare time. He started off on a practice account and then used real money. He made some small losses and small wins at the start, he then went on to make quite a big win with one of his investments. He had just given himself some homemade work experience.
He applied to a couple of hedge funds for a summer internship. Because he had a portfolio of investments (more than most of the other candidates) he was offered a summer internship. Not only was he able to get together a portfolio needed to get a summer internship, he was also able to get an insight into the work and see if it was actually something that he wanted to do in the future (he ended up not taking the internship).
This doesn't just apply to investment banking. You could do it for sales by setting up an import export business. Or if you want to be a journalist you could start a blog or write for a student newspaper.
Finding the right career path at university isn't easy, you need to put yourself out there and try a whole host of things outside academia. It is much better to try to work out what you want to do whilst at university however as you are then able to ensure you get a graduate job in the field and sector that you would like to.