Whether you’re starting the transition from college to full-time employment, or your current job isn’t working out like you hoped it would, then you’re likely thinking about your next step. Unfortunately, the more options you have available to you, the more difficult it is to make a final decision, not to mention whether it turns out that it was the right option. Life is not a straight line, so even if you believe there is a direct route to your ultimate goal, there will be a few curve-balls along the way to make you reevaluate your plans. If you’re stuck figuring out where to go next, here are a few methods that can help you decide on a path.
Make a five year plan. Sometimes the path ahead becomes clearer if you get things down on paper. Whether you eventually want to be in a management position, or running your own company, a five year plan can outline the steps you need to take to get there. Your plan should outline any additional skills or qualifications you’ll need to obtain, how you’re going to fund your lifestyle in the meantime, and what kind of experience you need to get off to the best start. The plan might change down the road – after all, we’re all aware that things rarely go according to plan—but having a basic guideline can ensure that you still end up where you want to be. Anyone looking to start their own business should definitely have a five year plan in place before they even think about making the first step. Your plan should outline how you’re obtaining financing if your savings alone aren’t enough, how much you hope to make in the first year, and whether you’ll need to find a business partner at any point.
Volunteer. If you feel that you really have no idea what you’d like to do with your life, then try volunteering in your spare time for an inexpensive way to explore your options. The right volunteering role could help you break into a new industry by giving you valuable experience, or help you narrow down your interests so you better know which industry you might try working in next. Volunteering also shows potential employers that you are a selfless person, that you are open to new experiences, and that you have enough drive and motivation to go beyond what is expected of you. Volunteering is also great way to boost your confidence, meet new people with similar interests, and open your mind up to a world of new possibilities.
Intuition. Often you have a vague idea of what you’d like your next step to be, but you’re not entirely convinced that you should go for it; it could be that Masters that’s too expensive right now, a job in another state, or you’ve received more than one job offer and you’re trying to make the best choice. There are many ways people eventually decide the best course of action; some meditate, some try pendulum dowsing, others consult with friends and family, and some make a pro/con list. Weighing up your options is important, but if you spend too long thinking it over the decision could be made for you, and it might not be the best step for you. Find a method that helps you come to a quick, but well thought-out decision.
Network. When you have several options in front of you, one of the best things you can do is talk to people who have been where you are. By making professional connections, talking to others in industries that interest you, and attending networking events, you increase your chances of forging solid connections that can give you the best advice. Check out any industry networking events in your area and make it a point to attend. At the very least, you can get your name out there and make sure those within your industry know who you are.
Travel. Usually when you’re trying to figure out your next step it means you don’t have many ties to your current location. If this is the case, why not travel while you try to figure things out. Spending time in a different country isn’t just relaxing; it can ignite a spark of inspiration, widen your perspective, or motivate you. Some people find that the skills that are overlooked at home are in high demand in foreign countries, such as the ability to speak fluent English.
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