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4 Secrets to Figuring Out What You Want to Do With Your Life

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Crystal ball

One of the hardest things for GenY is to grasp is how to actually sit down and choose a direction.

And so we waffle and jump from job to job. In my personal (and humble?) opinion, we should be spending more time interviewing people from various industries, reading career books and actually doing trying things, traveling the world, apprenticing, etc. Sitting around and whining that we don’t love our jobs isn’t enough.

Here are four things you can actually do right now to figure out the next step in your life:

1. Travel

I know, I know. It’s a bit of a stereotype, isn’t it? 20-something gets job post college. 20-something quits job after a few months. 20-something packs bags and goes somewhere like Thailand or Germany and fucks around for a year.

But I can’t emphasize enough the benefits of travel for figuring out what you want from life. I’ve lived in three countries in the past year-and-a-half, and during that time I’ve learned more about the world and myself and what I want to do long-term than I ever did at my plush Manhattan PR gig, while waiting for something to happen to me.

Travel opens your mind to possibilities. It takes you outside of your comfort zone, helps you appreciate what you have at home, or, on the flip side, helps you discover an alternative, expat lifestyle.

So what are you waiting for?

2. Work an internship

Not getting paid for work is a bit of a joke. Even if you’re making coffee or filing all day, just because it’s called an “internship” instead of “bitch work” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get paid.

HOWEVER. The beauty of internships is that they can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. There’s not a ton of commitment involved, and it allows you to try lots of new things without making a long-term investment with one company. Through internships, you can meet and talk to people honestly from various industries, pick up a few solid skills and learn whether or not you want to actually pursue a career in that field.

For those of you whining that internships are almost as hard to get as real jobs, don’t forget that internships don’t have to be “prestigious” to be beneficial. Tons of startups, websites, freelancers and family-owned businesses would eat their right arm for an intern and will be just as accommodating and useful to your eventual career (if not more so) than a major corporation.

3. Get a hobby – or five

One of my favorite stories ever is of Sydney Owen, who runs the awesome blog over at Sydney: Unfiltered. Sydney got into skydiving while working at her day job, developed an addiction, and ended up quitting said job, going freelance starting her own business and now does work for a skydiving company on digital strategy and events.

If I hear one more person bitch about how they don’t have any passions but sit around on their computer all day dicking around, I might scream. Trying heaps of new hobbies can introduce you to passions you never might have discovered. It gets you out of your house and meeting people.

And, hey, maybe that book club makes you realize you want to own a book store or that windsurfing lesson makes you want to jump on the next plane to Bali and teach. You can’t discover what you want to do with your life if you don’t take advantage of everything life has to offer. (I’m torn between whether that line is significantly too corny for me or really profound. You choose.)

4. Talk to someone

Life coaches. Therapists. Your old high school career counselor. Writing “dear diary” every night isn’t enough. While using something like 750words.com can be really useful in getting to root of whatever block you might be facing, sometimes we need an outside observer to point out things we never would have noticed otherwise.

Above all, the beauty of being GenY is that we’re the first generation to have been given permission to just not know. So calm down. We’re career changers. In the words of Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock, “We are an immigrant nation. The first generation works their fingers to the bone making things; the next generation goes to college and innovates new ideas. The third generation snowboards and takes improv classes.”

Amen.

Marian Schembari is a blogger, traveler and all-around social media thug. She’s based in Auckland, New Zealand, hails from Connecticut and blogs at marianlibrarian.com.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • Me

    I would love to read an article for once that is not aimed towards the independently wealthy only. When I can pay my bills with butterflies and rainbows I will be able to use these techniques to find some direction.

    • http://twitter.com/stuckaholic Alex Dogliotti

      Well, you hardly need money nowadays to travel. When I was younger (I can’t believe I wrote that! What did turning 35 do to me????) I traveled a lot with very little money, just working part time here and there. The point is, do you feel travelling could give you answers? It did to me, but not to many others I know.

    • http://marianlibrarian.com Marian Schembari

      Ha! I graduated university with $100 in my bank account. I moved to New Zealand after a year of saving and still only landing with $10 in my account. I began my freelance business by funding side projects working at a sex museum. Trust me, wealthy is NOT what I would call myself. But I’m not lazy and there’s a big difference.

  • http://twitter.com/stuckaholic Alex Dogliotti

    Hey Marian. Another thing that gives you direction is understanding what motivates you at work. It’s important to understand that and behave correspondingly, resisting the temptations that come from other paths. I just wrote an article about that feel free to see if it’s helpful. It’s called King vs Rich.
    Not sure I can put an external link here – especially cos it’s my own blog – so moderator please remove it if it’s not ok.

    http://www.stuckaholic.com/2012/01/23/king-vs-rich-the-work-decision-you-probably-havent-made-but-should-have/

  • http://www.yTravelBlog.com/ yTravelBlog

    Travel is the best way to figure out what you want. It’s how you get to know yourself and your place in the world. You understand your strengths, weaknesses and your passions.

    I can’t recommend it enough. I left three days after I graduated from Uni in 97 and have been travelling and living aroud the world since. And no, you don’t need lots of money. I have turned up to several countries with very little money, like $70 when I arrived in Dublin. I found work straight away and had an amazing time living in the city centre. You can do it.

    • http://marianlibrarian.com Marian Schembari

      Agree 100% Every time I meet someone who doesn’t feel this way I try desperately to convince them. It may not be for everyone but for me personally it’s worked wonders.

      Awesome to hear about all your travels!

  • http://sydneyowen.com Sydney Owen

    Girl, love this and love you! And to be fair, I’m not “freelance” – I HATE that phrase. I started my own company. I’m an entrepreneur. But still, same message. Get your world in order and and do the damn thing. :)

    • http://marianlibrarian.com Marian Schembari

      Fixed! I’m totally with you on the word “freelance”. Good on ya for starting your own gig. And for clearly being awesome.

  • http://kharlamovaa.wordpress.com Arina Kharlamova

    That Alec Baldwin quote is a keeper. The article is great too. :D

    • http://marianlibrarian.com Marian Schembari

      LOVE him in 30 Rock. And I love this quote too ;-) Glad you enjoyed!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZJXKBUDFQ3NUJNU62PV6CXONUU ramandeep singh

    talk to someone and than going after my hobbies as even i started a blog http://www.jasica.in/ i love it

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lia-Adair/10234036 Lia Adair

    Ha! Love how you state things! Very true about a lot of it. Especially how you said you learned more traveling than sitting in your PR job in NYC “waiting” for something to happen to you. That really struck me.

  • http://www.theunlost.com Therese

    Great advice, Marian. Straight up my alley and I couldn’t agree more, especially with giving yourself permission “just not to know” and taking the time to explore, whether through hobbies, internships, travel or other. :)

  • http://wwwportraitsbyandy.co.uk/ Portrait Artist

    I absolutely agree with the benefits of participating in hobbies while trying to work out where you want to go in life, but career coaches I have never found to be of any worth. But then again, I am in my late 30s and still don’t have a career plan! It is going okay so far!

  • Elinor

    I already know what I want to do with my life, the problem is it is going to take a big chunk of change. I absolutely LOVE travel, but I feel too guilty to spend a penny on it because I just see it as delaying my “plan”.

  • Emma

    “Talk to someone” – or interview someone who does what you might like to do. If you’re curious about Communications, Education or Counseling – here are interviews with women who work in each field – the pros and cons – http://whenatwork.tumblr.com/post/14137569579/considering-a-career-change-insight-tips.

  • http://TeachMeAwesome.com/ Ben Winters

    So I already know what I want to do, only problem is I’m stuck year round for the next 4 years! i’m gonna travel like crazy when i’m out though.. Now as hobbies that’s where I’ll try and shine!

  • Zumabeni

    I totally agree with you thanks for this
    replica orologi

  • Peter W Fast

    I had to chuckle when I read #1. Thats pretty much how I felt the first few months on my job. Sadly, there were bills to pay.

  • Peter W Fast

    I had to chuckle when I read #1. Thats pretty much how I felt the first few months on my job. Sadly, there were bills to pay.

    Peter
    http://www.creditopedia.com

  • Aubrey

    seeing the world, visiting other countries really opens your eyes. Do it while your young!

  • Fred

    I wish I read this type of blog when I graduated I 1996. Now it is too late for me to travel. Or to nurture my hobbies into something lucrative. Have a house i can no longer afford, family, a bad career and just started a job I hate. Learn from me. Do what this person says.

  • Ks_zaman

    I want to be a web specialties.
    web mind
    health opera

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1718748974 Josie Gunning

    good insight reading into the feelings of today >.<.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=810678218 Zena Amir

    I love your spirit, and enjoyed reading your blog, thanks for inspiring me..

  • lakshit sharma

    I want to know what are the different travel-centric jobs that i can take up as a profession. I am an MBA in marketing. I stay in INDIA. I Love traveling but find a lack of careers to pursue here in INDIA. Please advice..

  • ashley

    Okay, how do you find a random hobby?

  • Chris

    All of these suggestions are great… but they require money to do! My supermarket job just covers the bills and allows me to go back to work again. I have no money at the end of every month, but can’t get another job and quitting my job would be letting my 5 other flatmates down… so what the hell does someone in my situation do? I can’t even retrain…because that costs money, I cant afford an apprenticeship or an internship because they pay little or no money. Travelling is an impossibility – can’t even afford a new passport never mind air fares! Hobbies, unless you count something like walking which is generally solitary all cost money too. I’m nearly 30 and STILL have no career nor do I know what I want / can do!
    Every week I look for another job, every week I’m disappointed because the only jobs available to me are other retail jobs.
    It just feels like an impossible situation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=550847086 Nora Mounce

    how oes one have $$ to travel w/out that j.o.b.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001669077409 Yurani Cubillos

    Great advice

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