We have all been asked this gut-wrenching, heart-sinking, fear-evoking question: What are your plans after graduation? If you know the answer to this question, you are one of the lucky ones. For most of us, this million-dollar question is our worst nightmare. Students spend four years and thousands of dollars on lectures, networking, and sleepless nights, yet still, leave with uncertainty.
Although you cannot see a glimpse of your future through a Magic 8-Ball, you can change the dialogue around this dreadful question to inch closer toward discovering your dream career. It’s simple: you ask the questions. The best way to find your dream job is to learn about the jobs that exist. Next time you’re asked about your plans, ask the questioner about their career and experiences with four simple questions:
What do you actually do on a day-to-day basis?
Make it clear that you are referring to their average daily routines, not their stereotypical role in the position. For example, you already know that a judge evaluates testimonies in the courtroom, but what do they do to prepare? How do they spend their time outside of the courtroom? What does a surgeon do when not in surgery? What does a teacher do outside of classroom instruction?
Daily routines make the stereotypical roles possible and are responsible for achieving effectiveness and success. Many would argue that the activities on a day-to-day basis are more important than the stereotypical role itself. Awareness of daily activities is a vital component when finding a dream career that feels more like a hobby than a job.
What is the salary range?
Money is not everything, but it is important. Our society revolves around the exchange of money and shapes our lifestyles. If it is your dream to own a mansion, you need to find a way to purchase a mansion. If it is your dream to send your three children to an ivy league school, you need to find a way to afford it. On the contrary, after learning the financial aspect of a career, proceed with caution. Your everyday happiness in your career should always be the most important factor to consider, even if that dream exists in a low-paying field. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
What is it like to break into this field?
Should I plan to work for an industry leader first, or can I begin with an entrepreneurial approach? Do I need a license to practice in this field? How do I obtain a license? Is there a minimum requirement for an internship, apprenticeship, or clinical hours? Understanding the legalities to break into a career field is essential to finding a career that fits your dream lifestyle. If you want to be a veterinarian, but you are unwilling to spend four years in vet school, maybe you could consider being a veterinary technician. Your dream career should align with your beliefs and lifestyle.
If you could have a do-over, would you choose this path again?
This question requires transparency and brutal honesty. This is arguably the most powerful and thought-provoking question to ask a professional in any given field. Their answer can go in many directions. Carefully evaluate their response and ask yourself, do the benefits outweigh the costs? If your answer is yes, ask to spend a few days job shadowing. This could be your dream job. If your answer is no, this is not a career path for you.
Our lives are valuable, and time is precious. Changing the dialogue around your unknown plans can lead to opportunities that optimize your life and your time. A job that you do not enjoy is not a job worth having. A job you love feels like a hobby. You deserve to discover your dream job. Dream big!