Don't Know What to Do with Your Life? Neither Did I! [But It All Worked Out]
5 minute read
Back in high school, I wasn't one of those students who always knew they wanted to be a vet, firefighter, or a math teacher. I didn't spend my teenage years obsessing over my future like some of my peers. Instead, I was already swallowed up by the moment and striving for good grades in the here and now.
Let's be honest: the school system didn't exactly encourage us to ponder philosophical questions like "What do you want to do with your life?" - they had enough on their plates teaching students the basics!
I find this is a familiar story throughout our education system. And as I ventured out into the world on my own, I found myself feeling lost. I hadn't reflected on how I wanted to spend my short time on our tiny blue planet. In this article, I'd like to share my own path and suggest how you can go about finding out what the heck you want to do. And if you're feeling lost like I did, I promise you can find your way in this beautiful, vast world.
My own story
Let's start with my career search to give you a taste of how winding and dynamic they can be. As a young girl, I was known for my insatiable curiosity and academic aptitude. Early on, I showed a relentless thirst for knowledge across the board.
Picking a major was a grueling challenge—how to know what to do!? At the end of the day, I couldn't pick just one and majored in both chemistry and biology.
So, what do you do with a biology and chemistry degree? Well, I didn't want to go to medical school, so I followed my curiosity into a Ph.D. in immunology. During graduate school, I dabbled in a variety of techniques, from molecular biology to biostatistics.
After graduate school, I was hit with the overwhelming sense of needing to know what I would do with my career. I had followed my gut and intuition from one step to the next, but now my path was unclear. So, I took a chance and jumped into bioinformatics.
And it was so wrong for me. [But that's okay!]
Through direct experience, I quickly learned what I didn't want. For example, I didn't want to work alone. I didn't want to work on the same projects day in and day out. I didn't want to work in a hospital setting. That painful learning about what I don't want helped me find what I do like, and now I'm happily working as a writer.
Embracing the Unknown
Now that I've shared my story, I'd love to lay out how you can find the best path for you and embrace the bumps along the way.
The uncertainty of the post-high school years can be daunting. A wide-open world replaces the structure of school with countless possibilities, and this transition can be intimidating. If you find yourself feeling lost, the first and most crucial piece of advice is to go easy on yourself. You don't have to have it all figured out right now. Life is both incredibly short and remarkably long. It's okay not to know exactly what you want to do, but what is important is to explore your passions so you can gently move toward a direction that is fulfilling for you.
So, how do you explore your passions?
Pathfinder Career Discovery Program
Pathfinders is a 3-session, one-on-one mentorship program that lets middle school and high school students take 3 careers or academic subjects on a test-drive.
1:1 sessions with experts from 3 different fields
Student-generated ideas for further exploration in each of the 3 disciplines
1 Passion Diagnostic reflection session with a Polygence educator that assesses the strengths, interests, and areas of growth for the student
Step 1: Make a List
Begin by making a list of things you enjoy. Take out a notebook or a piece of paper and list 20-30 activities or interests that genuinely excite you. Don't hold back; this is your opportunity to brainstorm and connect with your true self. Once you've listed these activities, look for common threads or recurring themes. This can help you identify the things that truly matter to you.
Step 2: Try Them Out
Now comes the challenging part: taking small steps to try out your interests. This is often easier said than done, but it's crucial for self-discovery. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Volunteering: Consider volunteering for causes that resonate with you. It's an excellent way to determine your passion for a particular field.
Part-Time Jobs: Part-time or internships sometimes provide valuable insights into industries or professions.
Social Media: Use social platforms to connect with people who share your interests. You can join online communities, follow influencers, and learn from others in your chosen field.
Taking Classes: Enroll in classes or workshops related to your interests to acquire new skills and knowledge.
Hobbies: Exploring hobbies can be a fun way to get in touch with your passions. Whether it's painting, playing an instrument, or cooking, hobbies can help you discover what truly makes you happy.
Talking to Folks: Engage in conversations with people already pursuing paths similar to your interests. Their experiences can provide valuable guidance.
Reading Books: Books can offer in-depth knowledge about various subjects, helping you better understand your interests.
If you’re looking for a great place to get started exploring your passions with expert mentors, Polygence has a series of wonderful programs to help you along your journey. You could dive deep into the core program and do research on a topic of your choice, or explore with multiple mentors through the Pathfinders program. Or if group learning is more of your style you could join a mentorship pod to explore options with peers who share your interest.
Step 3: Reflect and Refine
Throughout your journey, always come back to journaling. Write about how you feel after each experience, what you enjoyed, and what didn't resonate with you. Journaling helps you better understand your passions and how you want to integrate them into your life, whether as a hobby or a potential career.
The Evolution of Passions
Remember, if your path isn't completely clear, don't panic. It may seem like everyone has their lives sorted out, but in reality, people are dynamic. We all have evolving senses of identity and passions, just like you. It's perfectly normal for your interests and passions to change as you learn more about yourself and the world around you.
Taking Life One Step at a Time
It's okay not to know what you will do with your life. It's okay not to have your entire future mapped out in a neat and tidy line. Life is a journey, and taking small actions in the present can help you find the next step on your path. Embrace the uncertainty and take things one at a time. After all, you are living your life right now. Don't forget to breathe, stay curious, and keep exploring. Your beautiful, unique journey is unfolding, and there's no rush to reach your destination.
The Polygence Pathfinders Program
Pathfinders is a career discovery mentorship experience designed to help you explore different career paths and gain more clarity about your future. Learn from three world class mentors in the fields of your choice and discover your passions!