If you don’t have a career goal, you don’t have permission to stand still. While you’re waiting to figure our your career goal, you should be working to ensure that once you do figure it out, you have everything you need in place to achieve it.
You have to set yourself up for success by laying a strong foundation for reaching your goals. Here’s where to focus your energy:
1. Educate Yourself and Sharpen Your Skill Set
The first thing you should do to maximize your chances of career success is gain academic or practical qualifications and training. Even if you don’t have a clear career goal yet, you probably know what topics interest you. If you’re into health care, pursue a medical degree—any medical degree. If you like the idea of having a secure health care job, but aren’t into blood and guts, look into radiology.
If you love drawing, take art classes—especially digital art classes that might help you find a job as a graphic artist or designer. If you love the idea of travel, find a study abroad program that will strengthen your language and cultural relations skills. Businesses love to hire bilingual employees with strong cultural relations skills.
When you aren’t sure of your career goal, you should be constantly trying new things, and taking classes of any sort will help you narrow your goal and gain skills in the process. If nothing else, see what local classes you can find on Groupon. There’s usually art, cooking, and finance classes listed there for less than $40.
2. Ask for Advice
Even if you don’t have a clear career goal, you can start gathering information about your options. You can even start networking (and you should). Fill your LinkedIN account with people you meet that have interesting careers. Make sure to add your classmates and professors to LinkedIN, too. You never know who might be able to offer you advice or recommend you for the perfect job once you’ve defined your goal.
If you’re in college, you should talk to your professors and advisors about career options. Ask them for advice, or if they can recommend a mentor for you. Mentors can help you network, clarify your goals, and find new things to try.
You should go to career fairs while you’re in your search for the right career goal. You can meet recruiters from all career industries, and they can offer you advice on whether or not an industry is right for you.
You can also set up informal meetings with careers advisers and recruiters. These professionals specialize in helping you get the job you want, so they have a lot of expertise to offer, even if you don’t know what you want yet. At the very least, they can help you with your resume and refer you to experts in industries you’re considering.
3. Assemble Your Support System
No man, or woman, is an island; you need people around you who encourage you and help you stay focused on your goals. If you’re a parent, you need a village to help you with childcare and to vent your frustrations in a healthy way.
Some careers put a huge strain on families. First responders, like firemen, paramedics, and police officers, have higher divorce rates than people in other careers. Military families also face the strain of constant moves, deployment, and work-related stress. Finding support, like Military Spouse Appreciation Day, can help. Having a strong support system before you start a high-stress career path can mean the difference between having a happy, fulfilled life and being married to your job.
4. Gain Experience
No matter which career goal you eventually choose, you are going to need experience. Any work experience is better than no work experience, so start looking for jobs and internships that will allow you to try new things and meet new people.
Once you’ve chosen a career path, internships are one of the best ways to gain the right experience. Sure, you may have to forgo a wage for a period of time, but if you impress the boss, you may end up with a lucrative job offer. Companies hire interns all the time. Even if you don’t get a job offer at the end of your internship, you will still have industry contacts that can help you find a job other places and valuable experience to take to the competition.
You can also volunteer to gain experience. Look at charity organizations like your local food bank, Habitat for Humanity, or the Red Cross. You can meet people from all career industries while helping your local community at the same time.
5. Get GRIT
If you’re the kind of person who quits things when they’re hard, work on your perseverance. Employers want to hire employees who problem solve their way through tough situations. GRIT is key in most any industry.
If you haven’t heard of GRIT, start by reading Angela Duckworth’s GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. You will be amazed how much you can achieve by simply not taking “no” for an answer. Life isn’t always going to be easy; in fact, most of the time it will be quite hard. Gain the skills to deal with it and you’ll be ready to tackle any career goal—opportunities will come your way.
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6. Believe in Your Own Ability to Succeed
To achieve any career goal, you have to have confidence in your own abilities. We gain confidence by trying new things and leaving our comfort zones. Challenge yourself to do the things the scare you (as long as they’re safe), and you will quickly build the confidence you need to succeed.
It’s ok to not have a clear career goal, but it’s not ok to sit back and wait for a career to fall in your lap. While you’re looking for your goal, there are still plenty of things you need to do to set yourself up for success. Get to work!