Graduates, It’s Ok Not to Know

We are at that magical time of year when the seniors are donning their Caps and Gowns and are anticipating the excitement of graduation and the anticipation of the future ahead of them. It is normal to feel some level of apprehension; it’s a big deal to head off on your own, whether that is off to college or one’s very first job out of college. Some of you may be choosing a different path completely.

I am starting to experience first hand what the journey is like for today’s seniors and it is very different than it was when I was in high school. I remember growing up in a small farming community where just the thought of going to college was considered a big deal. We really had no pressures on what colleges would accept us, who wouldn’t and the big one of deciding at 17 years of age what I would be when I “grew up”. I never took an ACT or an SAT to slot me into which school would take a serious look.

So today I have both my Mom hat and my Executive Search firm owner hat on when I talk to my own daughter and all her close friends. Bottom line is this. It’s ok not to know what one is going to be for the rest of your life. Frankly, unless you are on the path to be a doctor or a lawyer, its more likely your career will find you, you won’t find it. You will find a company you like (for some this takes longer than others) and you will wind your way up and around the corporate ladder and bang – you have found your life’s vocation. Rarely do we see someone decide and the path goes as smoothly as anticipated. Heck, I didn’t even know what a recruiter was and twenty-one years later I still love my job.

The following are some suggestions to finding some answers, surviving the pressures and most of all, enjoying the journey:

*  People who do well in their careers focus on two aspects to get there. One, they follow their passions. Every day will not be a bed of roses, but the passion piece creates the resiliency needed to get through the tough stuff and enjoy their career. Two, they are working to their natural strengths.

So let’s unpeel this a bit. I remember my father telling me, “Figure out what you love to do and figure out a way to get paid for it”. Not that all passions can lead to income, obviously some are just hobby worthy, but you will enjoy your career more if it speaks to your head and your heart.

On the natural gift side, all of us have competencies we are good at in our core – the DNA skillset. These competencies were not something we educated or trained to in order to get better; we just had the gift from the beginning. An example of this is the natural athlete in high school who played every sport and excelled – it was in their DNA. Or the student who rarely cracked a book and still got straight “A’s” – again, it’s in their DNA.

Understanding what your natural gifts and passions are will help to unveil a great start for everyone from a new graduate to a person looking to change careers – it will shed light into what would speak to your heart and also gives insights into why some things just don’t work out.

* Another key factor in finding and loving your college, career, life’s partner; really all big decisions we make in life, are based on a foundation of Shared Values.

Shared Values are the fundamental values that dictate from what lens we each view life. They also dictate behaviors – how we interact and build relationships with others. Through Shared Values we see companies that have extraordinary cultures or candidates who tell us they finally found a company where they “fit”. All relationships are better if there is a fundamental agreement on how we respectfully engage with each other. An example of this is the noticeable difference between the Midwest way of life versus people raised on either coast. While we are all people; how we engage, interact and build relationships with each other is very different. Different Shared Values dictate what is important within each of these geographies. The Shared Values are not right or wrong in any geography, they are just different.

Bottom line is this. Let’s give our kids a little bit of a break if they aren’t sure in high school where they want to land or what they want to be. If we truly look in the mirror as adults, we’d probably see that the apple really hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Trust me, they will figure it out, We did.