For those of you who read my previous post about looking for jobs, I can tell you that the journey so far has been pretty slow: seven applications, one pending interview, one rejection. Of course, that rejection also happened to be the job that I was absolutely vying for, but I suppose life has a way of closing one door and opening another. How’s that for positive attitude?
Still, the five-month mark reminds me a little bit more of limbo than the exciting quest to the real world. But then again, no one told me it would be easy, which leads me to my next point: how in the heck do you plan your future when you have no idea what you want? I have a small inkling of what I’d like to do — social media, writing, nonprofit, women’s rights organization — but there’s always that battle between choosing whatever’s out there versus choosing what you’d truly enjoy.
I don’t think of myself as a guru of all things reflective, but many people I know don’t take the time to just think and wonder about who they are and what they want. There’s always the “where do you want to be in five years” question that finds its way into every conversation you have, especially when you get older, but there is actually some value to it. The point isn’t that you know exactly what you will be doing in some number of years, but it’s important to think about because it gives you some ideas of what you might eventually pursue.
But that also may not answer the question of how to plan your future if you don’t know what you want. The idea of a personal manifesto of values might sound a tad corny, but the gist is if you can narrow down your stance on certain values and ideas, it becomes easier to construct your lifestyle path. So how do you find your values? I started by listing 10 general values — such as balance, cooperation and happiness — that I felt best described myself and what I want from life. I then distinguished between “A” values, my fundamental values, and “B” values, the desired, but not completely necessary values. In a separate list, I wrote down all my “A” values and also why the particular value was important to me. By the end of the exercise, I had a clearer vision of who I thought I was as a person.
All that reflective stuff might not sound very appealing, but it’s essential to figuring out what you care about and how you perceive yourself. And once you’ve painted a semi-finished picture of who you are, practical application in terms of volunteering or interning makes a little more sense. Instead of committing to an idea full-heartedly, take one summer to try something that interests you, whether it be signing up for community service or interning at a company that shares your values.