The UnCollege Blog

Finding a Future


The following post on finding a future is written by teacher and former college counselor of they year Jim Patterson.

Here's the question all young adults hear far too often:

         “So, what do you think you want to do?”

         And maybe this is your response – or at least the response in your head:

        “Who knows?”

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with that reply. You should understand that you have time to decide and you should be patient. Also, you can change careers – maybe several times. But there are several ways to explore some different ideas for jobs, and it’s a good idea to think about where you might want to spend so much of your time, even though it may change.

First, there are all sorts of assessments where a you can answer a few questions and get some ideas about careers you might like. Often they use the Holland codes and measure whether you realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising or conventional (RIASEC) and link those qualities to potential careers.

You can find those tests and other information at O-Net, the US Department of Labor’s extensive career center. A company called Truity offers a variety of personality and career tests, including a free Holland-based assessment. Some of their tests cost money.

There are other assessments and lots of information online, and you can even hire someone to help.

Putting that aside, here are 10 questions you also might ask yourself to get some ideas about things you’d like to try. It’s a good idea to record your notes and other information you gather.

1) What did you want to do when you were little? It might have been silly or it might now sound totally unrealistic or uninteresting or unpleasant, but it also might give you some ideas or tell you a little bit about yourself. Ask people who knew you about your interests and things you loved. 

2) What do you dream about doing now? It also may be a bit impractical – maybe less so than you think. But… what’s your fantasy career? Could you get there in stages? Could you do something related?

3) What classes have you liked best? From early years until now. Don’t think of it terms of the teacher who you liked or what you have been told you are good at. What class did you get into studying for – or enjoy sitting through without falling asleep? 

4) What three jobs are unfamiliar, but sounds interesting? Sometimes we gravitate toward things that are familiar rather than those we really want –  and don’t really consider some things that are unknown.

5) Who do you look up to? An international leader who kept the peace or a person who lovingly runs the local center for troubled teens. When you consider what some of your favorite people did, it might lead you to ideas about where you want to go. 

6) What would you be proud of? What sort of job would you enjoy telling people you do? Skip curing cancer or winning an NBA championship – and make it a bit more practical. Not too practical, though.

7) What would you like to spend every day doing? How would you like to spend around half of your waking hours? You may only be officially on the job 40 hours a week, but you’ll be thinking about it, preparing for it and probably doing it more than that. And, in some ways, it will define you. If you find something you love, it is much less likely to feel like work. 

8) What do you like to read about – or search the Internet for. What piques your interest online or in the books you choose? What have you enjoyed? If it’s crime fiction, what is about it interests you? If it’s non-fiction, what sorts of topics? Biographies? Who? Is there any pattern? 

9) What is a challenge to you? The things that challenge you might be opportunities to improve and move toward your goals — and they might suggest areas of study and work that will keep you interested long into the future.

10) What’s involved in a practical solution. Dream, but think about what you need to earn and what’s available. If you want to drive a Porsche, you may have to drop the idea of being a teacher, and if you want to be an oceanographer, you might have to give up on the dream of living in Kansas. Life would be really easy, predictable and possibly boring if our first choices always worked out.

Job Exploration Guide

Jim Paterson is a writer living in Lewes, DE.



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