I don’t know what I want to do or what I’m qualified to do. What do you suggest?

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eat_the_elephant-300x204Greg from Bridgewater State University asked: 

I graduated in May of this year with an Economics degree and a double minor in Accounting & Finance and Management. After a part time job as an independent contractor for a special education technology company over the summer, I’ve been struggling with my career direction. I don’t know what I can do with my degree. I’ve spent time looking through job postings, and I not only don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know what I’m qualified to do. I did well in school academically, finishing with a 3.25 GPA but just seem so lost. What do you suggest I do?

Hi Greg –

It has to be frustrating to not know which path to take.  The only completely unacceptable option is to not choose a path at all – to just stand still and do nothing.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you should consider any and every path equally or make decisions randomly. You have to spend some time exploring who you are, what you want, why type of lifestyle you hope to lead (in the short term and in the long term), what types of industries interest you, and which of your skills, experience and educational qualifications are most marketable.

Finding a good job  is a lot more  like dating than it is like shopping.    If you want to meet that someone special, you have to invest time in the process to see any meaningful result.

Sure, you will find enough “love at first sight” stories to make you think it happens that way for everyone.  Just like you will meet enough people who have “always known what they wanted to do with their life” to make you think that is what most people experience. These are the exceptions that prove the rule!

The reality is this:  For most people, their career is a journey of self discovery. Ask and you will find that most people do not have it all figured out. So – long story short: You are not alone!

Now what do you do?  Well, I have a few suggestions:

Check out your university’s employment outcomes reports for employers and job titles

Most universities produce employment and grad school admissions outcomes reports that often include the job titles and employers the recent graduates reported, usually sorted by major.  To get an idea of what you can do with your major and minors, take a look  at what others have done.

Conduct an inventory of your skills and interests

Your campus career advisers/counselors can be of great assistance on this.  They may even have skill and interest surveys you can take, like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the Strong Interest Inventory or the StrengthQuest StrengthsFinder Survey. Properly administered these surveys can help you sort out and better understand your strengths and interests and identity potential career paths that align well with your strengths, interests and educational preparation.

Be honest with yourself about your lifestyle expectations

Do you have champagne tastes? Are you drawn to jobs and careers that can only accommodate a beer budget?  You’re not going to drive a fancy car, live in a big house, vacation in exotic locations AND be a school teacher, unless you marry well, win the lottery or have a trust fund.  Your lifestyle preferences and expectations play a big role in determining the kinds of jobs and career paths you might consider.  Make sure your job and career expectations are in line with your your lifestyle expectations.

Hold yourself accountable to put in the effort it takes to find a job

Finding a job requires a lot more than just “want to.”  Just about everyone can say they “want to” find a job they will like.  The hard part is putting in the effort on a consistent basis to actually find one.  If you’re not currently employed, your full-time job is finding a job.  Are you putting in a full 40-hour work week as a job seeker?  Are you doing more than just scanning the online classified ads and job boards and responding to whatever seems viable?  What daily and weekly goals have you set for yourself in your job search?

There are two old proverbs I like:

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.


Do you know know to eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!

Both say the same thing:  If you wish to accomplish a goal, you have to make positive progress, one step at at time.  Getting started isn’t necessarily going to make the path any less crooked or the the skies any more clear at the outset, but getting started in necessary if you want to reach your destination.

I know this response has been heavy on motivation and light on details, but without knowing you or the specifics of your situation, motivation and general guidance is about all I can offer. For that direct assistance and advice, ask the career advisers at your university.

Good luck


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2 responses to “I don’t know what I want to do or what I’m qualified to do. What do you suggest?”

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