You have a degree in fine art, but your passion is business. You studied French literature, but you’ve just discovered the exciting world of engineering.
It’s not unusual for graduates to find themselves in a quandary over a seeming disconnect between what they studied at university and their future career. Perhaps a better question to ask yourself is why you went into higher education to begin with.
Many undergraduates don’t know what career path they want to follow when they enter university. But if you think about higher education concerning skill development, rather than locking down a career, it’ll be easier to begin to make the changes you want.
1. Recognize that Your Degree Isn’t a Lifelong Contract
It’s true that many degrees have discipline-specific knowledge that, on the face of it, doesn’t seem transferrable. If you think in terms of transferring the knowledge from your degree to a career, you’re likely to feel stuck. Instead, don’t think of your degree as a lifelong contract, but instead as preparation for how to learn.
2. Focus on Your Skill Set
You will have taken many courses during your time at university. If you focus on the skills you acquired, rather than the specific information you learned, you’ll see a range of applications that will be transferable to your career.
3. Get your Priorities In Order
You’ve got to know who you are and what you want out of life. Your career has to be rewarding in more ways than one. Sure, it’s how you earn your living, but it also gives you meaning and is emotionally and intellectually satisfying.
Conduct research and contact people working in the areas you’re considering. Ask them about their lives. What do you have in common with them? Do they know anyone in their field who became unhappy with their career? Why? Part of your goal with this set of exercises is to envision the identity that comes with the career.
4. Be Ready to Break Old Habits
If you want to change your career, you’ve got to be willing to break old habits and behaviour patterns. This involves some self-analysis. Which of your habits and behaviours, if any, are going to enhance your change, and which, if any, are going to hold you back?
You also need to think about what is essential to your wellbeing. What gets you excited about getting up in the morning? What are the activities you find so enjoyable that time flies while you’re doing them? Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? The answers to all these questions will help you determine what sort of career will suit you.
5. Distinguish Between Short and Long-Term Planning
Depending on the career you decide on, you’ll probably need both short and long-term plans.
For example, if you want a career in law, you’ll need a short-term plan for getting accepted into law school, and a long-term plan for getting through your course and establishing yourself in your newfound career.
Typically, short-term planning ranges from one to three years. Long-term planning generally covers five years. Establishing benchmarks for each year, or every six months will give you clarity on what you want to accomplish in the interim.