It’s the end of a life of studies and exams for millions of university graduates. You’re marching to get a diploma and embarking on the beginning of “real life” as an adult, where you are now the CEO of your own life. You’re in charge. So, what happens next?
Picking an industry where there’s a greater upside can lead to greater success, for certain. But how many of us would bristle at the thought of choosing a career path in an industry that is growing when you have absolutely no interest in the field?
The industry you choose to build your career in will have a huge impact on your success. And while many can excel in that profession, the path you take to get there will have as much to do with your success as anything else. But does that mean you should pick a career path in something that doesn’t appeal to you, just because it’s a hot growth spot?
A growing industry attracts people with the opportunities being created in it. Over time, more players enter that market, reducing the best opportunities for any one person. So if you’re not sure where the intersection of opportunity and your interests lie, what can you do?
It is a fundamental truth that most people really like to do things that they’re good at. So, what are you good at? What skills do you have; what work do you enjoy doing? Make a list, and then ask: In what type of job or career track is this skillset really valued?
In contrast, if you end up in a job where your particular talents aren’t highly valued, you’ll not only be unhappy, but you’ll also be wasting valuable time. If you’re great working with people, why sit in front of a computer all day doing social media?
What if you aren’t really sure what you like, what you’re good at or what you want to do? There’s nothing wrong with that but you need to be smart about your next steps.
I suggest a strategy of maximising your options and experiences. That means engaging in as many different types of projects, extracurricular activities like joining a club or even creating one and internships while at school. The greater the variety, the more you’ll learn about yourself. For every year you are in university, you should have at least one new type of internship. And if you’re still not sure after you graduate, keep seeking new opportunities to test out.
There’s one more thing to keep in mind if you want to give yourself more career options. Focus on the most important skills that apply to the world we’re in. These are skills that can be applied to all sorts of jobs and are least likely to be replicated by machines, making them especially valuable since they’ll put you in high demand for whatever direction you end up going in. According to the World Economic Forum’s report on The Future of Jobs (January 2016), these top skills are: Complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management and emotional intelligence.
The key message I want you to take from all this: Your career isn’t something beyond your control. It is in fact one of the absolute most important things you need to actively manage as CEO of your own life. If you can make Sunday night feel no different than Friday night, you’ll know you did it.