A guide to help you find the answers to one of life’s hardest and most profound questions.
If you’re currently in college or recently graduated, or even if you’re just in the midst of a midlife crisis, chances are at some point you’ve probably had a moment of existential dread and asked yourself “what should I do with my life?”
We’ve all been there. Everyone has a moment of uncertainty about their career path, finding their passion, or what they’re meant to spend their life’s work doing. We’re all human…unless you’re some sort of superhero, and in that case what you’re meant to do with your life should be pretty clear.
Unlike a lot of other questions you may have concerning your career, you can’t just Google this one and get a straightforward answer. The answer to this question requires some introspection into what you really want and how hard you’re willing to work for it. It’s about to get deep, y’all.
“What should I do with my life?” is a question that can send even the most confident person into a tailspin of panic and insecurity. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a few steps you can take to ease your mind and help you figure out what exactly you want to spend your life doing.
So relax, sit back, and get ready to figure out how to decide what to do with your life.
Contact people who have careers that interest you and talk to them about their experiences. By talking to people who have careers that could be your dream job, you can gain insight into their motivations, ambitions, and how they got to where they are today. This will help you decide if this is a path you could see yourself on too.
Laziness is the enemy of success, so just do something, you lazy oaf. Get your portfolio going, start a zine or newsletter, or learn a new technology. Even if you don’t know what you want to do, trying different things will help you rule out what you like and what you don’t.
It’s never too late to learn a new hobby or have a breakthrough in your field. Harrison Ford didn’t cast as Han Solo until he was 30 — so don’t worry, you have time to perfect your craft.
Nobody’s born knowing exactly what they want to do. Research people you admire and read up on how they discovered what their passions were and how they achieved their goals. If you want to be successful, it’s not a bad idea to follow in the footsteps and use the methods of someone who’s already gotten where you want to be.
Unfortunately, figuring out exactly what you want to do with your life isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to have one euphoric moment of extreme clarity and then have your entire life planned out — if this does happen, you’re probably in a deep state of denial. Snap out of it and embrace the thrill of your existential crisis.
Our lives and interests change constantly, and you’ll have to reconsider your path as you go along. Expect to make new decisions and be excited for them.
Ask yourself “What skills do I have to offer?” “What do I do best?” and go in the direction of your strengths. Be honest with yourself about what you have to offer and at what level you can start in the fields that interest you. Maybe you’re interested in learning a new skill, and will at some point require additional education or training.
Be on the lookout for certification classes, online courses, or graduate schools that could help you get a leg up in your field of interest and put you above the competition, or even introduce you to a new area of interest. It’s important to be open to new experiences.
The best way to find out what you love is to try new things. If there’s something you’ve always been interested in but you’ve never gotten around to, this is the perfect time to try it out and see if it suits your interests and skills.
It’s easy to feel like you have no other options than what you’re currently doing, but by taking a step out of your comfort zone and trying new things, you could open yourself to whole new world of opportunities and career paths.
You’re not doing yourself any favors spending your entire life building the same old lego models you’ve grown to hate. Try new hobbies and take internships or jobs in fields that could be interesting to you.
Some careers are better suited to specific personality types. Make a list of what job elements and tasks you like and which ones you hate. Consider how much you care about salary, status, lifestyle, and what you contribute to society.
If you really care about making a lot of money, you’re better off not working for the Peace Corps. If you enjoy sitting at desk all day, then you probably wouldn’t like a job working as a park ranger. If you really care about spreading the message of Jesus or whatever it is you’re into, it’s probably a good idea to not work for the Church of Satan. These things are important to consider when figuring out what you want to do with your life.
What kind of work environments excite you or make you feel the most productive? When you were in college did you enjoy large lectures or small classes? Do you prefer to work on your own or in a team? Are you okay with being inside all day, or is it important for you to work outside? Asking yourself these questions can help you figure out what kind of career or type of company would fit you best.
If you liked small classes, maybe you could work for a start up. If you like being outside, you could pursue a career in forestry or renewable energy. Don’t let yourself end up at work environment that drives you crazy.
Realize that it’s okay to fail sometimes, and that not everything you try will work out in your favor. If you rule out everything that sounds hard because you’re afraid of failing, you’ll miss out on so many opportunities to discover things you love and might want to spend your life doing.
Learn to accept failure and realize that it’s an opportunity to keep learning, experimenting, and growing your skillset. Don’t just use failure as an opportunity to give up and abandon all of your dreams to sit in the same cubicle you hate for the rest of your life. Then you’d be failing at failing, and that’s just embarrassing.
Sometimes figuring out what you want to do with your life requires you to appreciate the fact that you’re still figuring it out. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to create the perfect future. When you focus on taking your life one step at a time, you might get your answer when you’re least expecting it.
Figuring out what you want to do with your life takes a lot of reflection into your interests, your strengths, and what you hope to gain from what you do. You have to be willing to work your ass off to get to where you want to be, otherwise you might as well just accept that you’ll have your mediocre job forever. You can expect to get out of your life how much effort you’re willing to put toward it.
It’s okay to not have it all figured out yet. And even when you do figure it out, you might change your mind a few times before you finally get all settled into your ideal job — and that’s okay! The road to your dream career isn’t always a straight one. As our friend Gerald once said,
Zippia empowers you to make the correct career decisions, not just find your next job.
You can access millions of others' career paths with the Career Graph to help you identify what skills and experiences you need to achieve your career goals. And when you're ready to take the next step in your career, you can research jobs and really understand the implications for your career aspirations.