Whether it’s “what do you want to be when you grow up” or “what kind of job are you’re looking for once you graduate?”, many students encounter questions about their future careers before they really know they answer.
The majority of people with undecided career aspirations respond with “umm… I don’t know yet!”? This is one habit every student should break at their earliest convenience.
Not knowing what job title “fits” is perfectly normal as university is about exploring future opportunities. However, when asked about future work aspirations it is crucially important to have an industry specific answer.
Here’s why: Networking opportunities can be formal meetings with professors and peers, or as informal as day to day conversations. It’s all about building relationships and building your personal brand.
Except, it’s hard to decipher what “I don’t know” means.
You may not know exactly what company, job title or position but at least give your conversational partner something tangible to connect you too. This answer doesn’t have to be permanent, and it can even be a range of options.
Take the marketing industry for example. You could be “exploring PR”. No specifics, just simply a category. Or, for the Finance industry it could be “I like how financial planners help people build wealth”. Even if you change your mind in 6 months, you have at least given people some context about your general direction.
Another way to answer, is to discuss what it is about the industry that has attracted you too it. What is a cool project you’ve seen and what did you like about it? Or which companies do you respect? What aspects of a company’s corporate culture do you identify with?
The most important consideration is to have an answer for people. It keeps the conversation going and the more you give to the conversation, generally the more you get back. People can ask better questions, or can add better commentary and generally allows the person to get to know you better!
It also helps people make an association between you and the industry. People love helping people and giving a specific response helps them match you to people they know in those positions.
Communicating to people that are unsure of what you are looking for is okay – but only when it is paired with something more. Some simple adjustment in language can help students earn job connections even if they don’t quite know what they’re looking for yet.
Here are a few ways to answer without really knowing what you’re looking for yet:
- I’m exploring ……
- This company has the best ….
- I’m attending events to learn more about ….
- I’m building connections in ….. industries
- I’m still researching ….
Fill in the blanks with something relevant to your industry or your preferences. As the school year starts off make a point of changing from “I don’t know” to something more complete. Be genuine, you don’t have to hide the fact you are unsure of where you will end up after graduation. However, make a point of providing enough information to people to at least keep the conversation going.