How to Work Out What the HELL You Want to Do After Finishing School

Jul 18, 2021

Elizabeth Houghton

Sutton Full Potential Founder

Congratulations! You’re almost at the end of your school life, and it’s time to head out into the world.

But wait a second. While your friends are busy discussing their future career plans and laying down the foundations for their new lives, you realise you don’t have plans of your own.

Maybe this is the first time you’ve realised this, or you’ve known it for a while, but you have no clue what on earth you want to do with your life.


Is it bad that you don’t know what you want to do after school?

Before you start to panic, stop and consider this.

It’s okay not to know what you want to do with your life when you’re about to finish school.

It’s okay to take your time to figure out how you want your career to shape up. 

Sure, choosing a course for higher education or a career is an important decision. But you shouldn’t make these decisions in a hurry. Often, plans that are made slowly are always the smartest. This is because you’ve taken the time to consider what you truly want to do with your career path. You give yourself permission to experience what life has to offer and then make a mindful choice based on your experience. This can have a better impact on your career/life and help you create the future you’ve envisioned.

So, what should you do in the interim?


Top 10 things to do when you don’t have your life after school figured out

Acknowledge that it’s okay to not set everything in stone

The first thing to do when you don’t know what the hell you want to do after school is to accept that life isn’t set in stone. Even your friends who have all their plans made may have to change their plans as life happens to them. Additionally, there are many famous people in the world who at one point did not know what to do in their lives. You’ll figure things out. Give yourself the time to do so.


Make a list of your likes, dislikes, and childhood dreams

One of the best ways to figure out your life is to chart what you’ve always liked and what you’ve always hated. Make a column each for your likes and dislikes. Next, list out what you’ve always dreamed of doing as a child. It doesn’t matter if the career is unconventional (for example, dancer or doula). Write it down, so you can check whether you have the academic qualifications necessary for the job or not. This can help you narrow down on what you can do in your life.


Take a trip to a place you’ve always wanted to visit

Travel exposes us to so many new experiences and new perspectives. You always get a mind shift when you travel and meet people from different cultures. Taking some time off to travel around the country or internationally can allow you to see different jobs that you may wish to pursue someday. Additionally, if you’re allowed to work during your travel to earn some pocket money, you can even use this opportunity to try out the job and see if you like it.


Do activities that you’ve always been inspired by

If you’ve ever been interested in volunteering at a zoo, do it after you finish school. Or maybe you’ve wanted to take up a creative writing course or train with a spiritual guru. Go ahead. Every life experience is a way to better understand yourself, your likes, your dislikes, and your hopes. As you try new things that you’ve always been attracted to, you’ll realise what lifestyle you enjoy. You’ll know how much you want to socialise on the job and where you want to see yourself in a few years.


Read more on your chosen field

Let’s say you’re not sure if you want to pursue a future in the field you completed your schooling in. You can read more books and research papers on specialised niches of your field to figure out if any of them inspire you. It’s also great if you track anticipated trends in your industry to see if you want to be part of this industry because of these trends.


Ask to shadow someone who’s in a job you admire

Growing up, you may have always admired your local vet or grocer, or art teacher. You may have found what they do to be meaningful. Request them if you can shadow them for a few days/weeks to check if their jobs are attractive to you even today. When you shadow someone in their career, you’ll be able to envision what your life would look like if you pursue that path.

In case you don’t have anyone to shadow, consider the famous personalities you’ve always respected. Read about them and learn about their journey to success. Consider whether you’re willing to travel the path they did to reach the position they are in now.


Take up an internship, learn a trade, or volunteer for the experience

The time between finishing school and choosing what to do with your life is a great period to take up an internship in a career you’ve always liked. Experience in the field can help you know if you’re cut out for that career or not. Volunteer work can also help you figure out if that job is worth pursuing.

You can also consider learning a trade or getting certified in a skill that sounds interesting to you. As you upskill yourself, these competencies may give you an idea of what avenues can be pursued after school.


Undergo a career aptitude test

Career aptitude tests use a combination of different psychological assessments to show you what areas/industries you may be good at. You can undergo a career aptitude test and research the results you receive.


Visualise your dream career and life and work your way backward

This is a great way to know what to do after school, especially if you have a very concrete goal in mind. Sit and visualise what your desired life looks like. Imagine and build a story of how you reached this station in life. You don’t have to visualise any challenges, but try to focus on what steps you may have taken to achieve this dream. Keep visualising backward until you reach today – i.e., the fresh graduate. You will have a rough idea about the way in which you can create your dream life.


Consider how much effort you’re willing to put into your future career

Finally, consider how much time, energy, and money you are willing to dedicate to your path. The above tips would have given you a few ideas that you can pursue. But analyse this shortlist based on how much effort each path would demand from you.

It’s okay to want a career/life path that is relatively easy – a career that doesn’t involve years of higher study or rigorous hard work. The objective is to mindfully choose a path that will bring you real happiness and which you will be able to commit to the best of your abilities.

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