“What are you doing after college?”
“Literally, no idea.”
Sound familiar? It’s time to get serious, get organized, and figure out what you want to do with your life. As the great theologians, the Spice Girls, once said, “tell me what you want, what you really really want.”
Let’s start out with a simple exercise; create your career roadmap by asking yourself these 10 questions. Grab a pen and paper, and get ready to go deep. Once you finish, you should have determined a career path, places you’d like to live, work/life balance preferences, what you know you don’t want out of your career, your strengths, weaknesses and more.
1. Do you see work as pursuing your passion professionally or something you do to make money to follow your passion in your free time? - Making your passion your day job might be not as stable or lucrative, but you have the upper hand of doing what you love all the time. Working a job outside your passion might not be as fulfilling on a daily basis, but you may have the luxury of more time and financial security to pursue what you love outside of work. What sounds right to you?
2. Is my dream job a position I am eligible for right out of school or I will need to work towards this position over the course of my career? - Having realistic expectations of what you can achieve with limited, if any, professional experience coming out of school is important. It’s great to have your sights on a top position at your dream firm, but understand you might need a few jobs before you get there.
3. In what industry sector do I want to work? - Consider finding a job in an industry you are passionate about. For example, if you are a graphic designer who loves food, working at a restaurant group designing their branding, menus, and packaging could be a very rewarding career.
4. Where would I like to live? - Have you always dreamed of moving to a big city? Want to stay close to home? Location is a major factor in searching for a job. It’s important to understand every city has a different cost of living, availability of space, culture and proximity to what you love.
5. What is my ideal work environment? - Does your ideal workspace involve a standing desk and 4K monitor in a state of the art office or working from the comfort of your home? Consider where you will thrive and what tools you need. It might sound silly, but don’t forget to think about company dress codes. If their policies go against what you feel comfortable wearing to do your best at your work, that might be a red flag or it could mean it’s finally time trade in your leggings and hoodies for real clothes.
6. What are my goals in terms of compensation, benefits, vacation and company culture? - What kind of salary are you expecting to make? Do you need health benefits? Would you prefer a higher salary or more vacation days? What are your expectations for company holidays, working remote, sick days, and overtime? Remember to evaluate a job on what is offers your life in addition to your career.
7. Do you value routine, sleep and predictability, or moving up the corporate ladder? How long do you see yourself living this lifestyle? - The answer to this question can evolve over time. When you are starting out, you may prioritize your career with the understanding it will likely require more hours, potential travel or relocation, sleeping less, incurring more stress and having less free time. After a couple years in the field, you may look for positions with a more favorable work/life balance to make room for other areas of your life like hobbies, family, and travel.
8. What do I not want to do? - Are you an introvert who does not enjoy talking in front of large groups of people? Do you hate working in a certain design programs or mediums? Consider what elements factor into your worst nightmare job, sometimes knowing what you don’t want is the most effective way to steer you towards what you do want.
9. What are my professional and personal strengths and weaknesses? - What qualities or skills do you possess that you would like to tap into on a daily basis? What qualities or skills have room for improvement? Look for employment opportunities requesting candidates with your strengths and continue to find ways to improve in areas needing extra attention.
10. What do you want to be doing every day in five years in your personal life? In your professional life? - In addition to thinking about your career, it is vital to plan for your personal life aspirations. If you want to travel the world, have a family, prioritize health, or invest your time in causes your are passionate about, you will need a career to support those goals as well.
Getting through these questions is vital to narrow in on your vision of the future. There is a common misconception that being open to doing anything and being willing to move anywhere will make it easier to find job opportunities. The truth is that route is overwhelming because the net you cast is too broad and shallow. Although it seems counter-intuitive, narrowing your scope actually makes finding a job less daunting because it gives you criteria to filter the millions of jobs out on the market. With a little bit of soul searching and a lotta bit of work, you will finally know what you really, really want and have the roadmap to make it happen.