What to do when you don’t know what to do!

When you start university it’s fair to say that a good proportion of students think they have their future figured out. When starting a course a lot of us have a vague idea at least of where the course could lead. I started a degree in Sociology in 2001 and truly held the notion that I was going to become a sociologist. A life of research and lecturing lay ahead for me on a road that I felt I understood and even desired.

Then my course started and 4 years down the line (I did my 2nd year twice I loved it that much) all desire to become a sociologist had melted away like a piece of chocolate left out on a summers day.

What I was left with was an undeniable truth – I had no idea what I wanted to do and desperation was starting to kick in. Rent was due and los parentés had moved to France so going home wasn’t even a viable option. After considering everything, even the army, I managed to find a job on the phones offering information about courses. Fortunately that led me to qualify as a careers adviser, which in turn took me down the road of blogging, social media and into my current role as a digital marketer.

Whilst I am incredibly happy with where I have ended up, I consider myself extremely lucky and there are many who could do with a helping hand at taking a more structured approach into exploring what it is you’d like to do.

With that in mind, here are my top 3 tips for what to do when you really don’t know what to do!

Are you lost, with no idea what to do?

Are you lost, with no idea what to do?

  1. Ask yourself; what really turns me on?

And no, I’m not talking about blue movies or Brad Pitt in his underwear; I mean what is it that makes you tick? Think about all the experiences that you’ve had up to now. Work, school, university – what has stuck in your mind of all these experiences as something that has really excited you and given you a buzz? For every interest that you can pinpoint try to work out what it is about it that gets you most excited. If you really enjoyed being part of the debating society, work out whether it was the public speaking you enjoyed, the political debate, organising the debates or winning. Working this out will help you to understand what drives you and what you need to explore in more detail.

It might also be useful to try out some things that will let you explore your interests – volunteer projects, business dabbling and even informational interviews. Any little tasters that you can get to help you explore your passions a little bit more will certainly help in the long run.

  1. What does your dream job look like?

The best way to start off this question is to imagine there are no barriers to you doing the job. So, if you had all the money in the world, you could train overnight, you had no family commitments or confidence issues and you could just click your fingers, what would your job be?

Firstly try just thinking about aspects of it. Is it creative, does it involve helping people, is it academic or is it going to involve selling a product or setting up your own business. Is money more important or are you hoping to learn or teach others? List those things in a job that are important to you, these are your career drivers. What sort of things are coming up?

Then try to see whether there is a pattern in your drivers that could lead towards a particular role or industry?

  1. How does any of this fit in with your current situation?

For this question I want you to remember that whilst some people do have one particular dream job that will make them happy, most of us actually have a multitude of roles that could make us happy. This is why keeping an open mind and trying out different things can be useful.

If questions 1 or 2 have helped you to explore your interests and career drivers a little more closely, you will hopefully have some ideas to work on. The important question now is; what would it take for you to make any of these ideas happen and how does that tie in with your current life? Do you need to train? If so, do you have time to train?

Or, do you need to gain experience?

Do you need to earn money now or do you have a buffer or a parental home to fall back on whilst you aim towards your goals?

This is the time for reality checks and contingency planning. Not all dreams can be achieved, but so many can with the right sacrifices and determination.

Is your goal realistic or is it a pipe dream? It can be very difficult to tell with any certainty at any given time but imagine your friend was asking you whether it was possible for them, what would you say?


Are you completely stuck for ideas and inspiration? Or have you got so many ideas you don’t know which to choose? Post your situations below and let’s see whether the knowledge of crowds can’t help you move in the right direction!


About Leo Woodhead

Leo Woodhead is an experienced careers adviser with a passion for empowering clients to manage their own careers. Since graduating with a degree in sociology, he has put his analytical skills to use trying to understand the changing face of the labour market. When he’s not writing or climbing mountains, he can be found spreading resources and engaging in lively debate on Twitter @thecareersblog

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