This post is part of our special summer series of content for students and new grads. Please reach out to us if you have questions you’d like to see covered in this series of content!
Life becomes increasingly complicated as you get older—but when it comes to your career, simplicity and clarity is necessary. If you aren’t clear on who you are, what you want, and where you’re headed in your professional life, you can spend a long time trying to find your way back.
We don’t want you to waste years spinning your wheels, so even though you may be in your early twenties, it’s time to start thinking about some big questions. This reflection and clarity will aid in your career search because you already know what you’re looking for. Here are three areas where you should strive to achieve career clarity:
#1 Who Are You?
We understand the depths to which this question can take you. But forget about your place in the universe for a moment and simply think about who you are in your career. You may be young, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an idea about who you are.
Start asking yourself questions like:
- “What kind of employee am I/Do I want to be?”
- “What kind of teammate am I? How do I best contribute to others?
- “What’s important to me (what are my values–when it comes to both my personal and professional life)?”
- “Do I consider myself a workaholic or one who highly values their leisure time?”
- “What kind of people do I usually work well with or try to avoid in my work environment?”
Questions like these start to really dig into who you are and how you’ll explain and position yourself to employers, as well as anyone you network with. Understanding who you are as a professional is crucial for finding the positions that actually fit you and the company. These answers may change as you grow and change, but they are incredibly important for getting started today.
#2 What Do You Want Right Now?
Yes, right now. What are you looking for in a job at this current phase of your life? Though looking towards the future is important, you’re not at that point yet.
For example: maybe you find a position at a law firm and you’re studying to go to law school. But, right now, you’re not looking to commit to a full time role or adding another intense layer of responsibility onto your studies. Instead you accept the part-time role with flexible hours so that you still have bandwidth to dedicate to your coursework, as well as that frisbee team you and your roommates join.
While so often you might be encouraged to “go for the gold” and act with long term thinking, there is actually nothing wrong with making a decision of this kind. So give yourself a break!
You’ve already spent years shaping the version of you at the point in your life, so find the opportunities that best reflect that time. Find the jobs and positions that best align with your wants, needs, personal values, and immediate hopes because you are only in your twenties!
Taking the job that fits your future may look good on the resume, but it won’t be something you enjoy or get a lot out of because you’re not at that point yet. That’s a-okay—meet yourself where you’re at right now.
#3 What Are Your Professional Goals?
While it’s important to not to get too hung up on the future, give yourself permission to have goals. Yes, even in this economy where everything feels so uncertain. Many students and new grads struggle with this. “Who am I to be picky, when I have little to no actual world experience?
Here’s the reality: Goals are what drive us to pursue anything. Without them, you’ll be marching in place with others. Sure, you can’t prepare for the unknown and you don’t have to
have it all figured out yet, but it’s useful to begin mapping what you want as a professional.
Even if you’re not set on a specific title or set of companies, you can begin to set goals around the following:
- How far you want to go in your field
- The lifestyle you want when you begin working
- Personal goals: travel, relocation, starting a family, etc.
- “Big” problems you want to solve or causes you want to support through your work
Goals like these and others will help you lay a framework to follow as you get clear on the specifics of where you’ll land professionally. Think of it this way: After years of papers, lectures, tests, and projects you deserve to set a vision for yourself.
Clarity is the secret to success throughout every phase of a job search and your career. When you’re clear about who you are and what you need today, your confidence will resonate with employers better than any elevator pitch. More importantly, when you’re clear about what you’re doing and why, your sense of purpose will power you through any challenge—whether it’s more school, dating, moving out of your parents house, ending the relationship you should’ve ended 6 months ago, or even deciding to get a dog.
Clarity on you, and the values you hold, is the most important step in finding the jobs you want, the people you surround yourself with, and the kind of lifestyle you hope to lead.