There’s no careers crystal ball, you have to take a leap of faith
You won’t find out what career you want until you get out there and try a few jobs on for size
Benefit of experience: do a job, any job really, learn from it and work out your next move. Photograph: Getty Images
Q Dear Ruth,
It won’t be long now until I have to enter the big, wide world of the job market. I’m itching to get out there and make a proper start in life, but there’s one problem: I have no idea what I want to do.
I find myself getting jealous of people doing vocational degrees like medicine, even though I’d probably be no good at it anyway, because at least they have a guaranteed job in their chosen sphere after their six years in education.
By no means does everyone at my stage in life have it all planned out, sure, but I’ve always been the sort of person who knows exactly what’s coming next and it terrifies me that all I can see in my future is a tangled mess of ideas floating around the top of an infinite abyss of terrifying possibility.
Should I postpone the future until I’m sure of what I want to do with it? Should I go travelling until inspiration strikes? Should I stay in academia, collecting qualifications until I run out of patience/money? Or should I bite the bullet and make a decision? How does everyone do it?
Anon summer intern
A Life decisions, especially on the job front, only ever make any sense in retrospect: when you look back upon your career, as you no doubt will one day, you will conveniently see how each shitty job you ever had was somehow an essential stepping stone to get to where you have arrived.
One of the most paralysing things to do is to approach this with the mindset that if you make the wrong choice now, it will somehow kill off a vital avenue of opportunity and dictate the course of the rest of your life.
This is never the case. And there are no wrong choices. All that really matters is that you do make a choice – an informed one – that the choice you make plays to some of your strengths, that it appeals sufficiently to get you out of bed every morning and keen to do whatever it is to the best of your ability, at least most of the time.
Because the reality is, unless you are a doctor or vet or some other such professional, you are bound to go through any number of different jobs, possibly in completely different industries until you find your thing.
Enjoy the ride
This journey can take most of your working life. Or all of it, and you may still never feel you got there at the end. Which is why it is so crucial that you enjoy the ride.
The fatal thing to do (second to doing nothing at all) is to choose something half-heartedly, always with an eye on someone else’s job or career choice as somehow being better than yours.
Every career choice has at its centre an opportunity forgone: that is the essence of choosing. You choose and you lose.
That medic you envy has made enormous sacrifices, not least of which is the opportunity of all those other careers they have not pursued.