I had the pleasure of stopping by my alma mater last night for a government, law, and public service networking event. Amidst all of the wonderful conversations and questions I got from undergrads (and a few grad students), a theme of wanting to know “where to go” in their careers and lives stuck out to me.
For so much of our lives, the next step is expertly scripted. We submit applications, receive approval and confidence through acceptance letters and semesters. The “real world” is much more fluid in its schedules and definitions of success. What’s meaningful and interesting to one person may not be to another. And - with a few exceptions - your life no longer includes grades, schedules, and predetermined pathways.
I’m encouraged by the thoughtfulness and bravery of so many young people that I spoke with last night. They’re asking the right questions, wondering whether “passion” is everything it’s cracked up to be and considering possibilities that will render them independent and on their way.
"What if I don’t know what I want to do?", one student asked me. The real truth, of course, is that very few of us (students, working, etc.) are doing exactly what we set out to do as 18 year-olds. The magic is in just getting started and seeing where your experiences and interests take you.
As one student told me, “I’m just nervous I’ll spend so much time waiting for the perfect job or career that I’ll never actually get started or do something. Then what’s the point?”