Let me start by setting the scene.
I stood at the front of an assembly hall, with 150 students staring at me, just about to run my first “My Future Self” session. I was a nervous wreck to be honest: sweaty, stuttering, you name a sign of nervousness, and I was showing it. Fast forward 3 weeks, and 40 plus sessions later I’m totally fine with running the sessions. However, I still cringe thinking about that first session. I should probably be easier on myself, after all it was my first session and I’d had no practice! As should you. Over the past 3 weeks, I have noticed a few students be quite hard on themselves when it comes to their future! So, I thought I’d write this to tell you why you should be easier on yourselves when it comes to answering the dreaded question:
What do you want to do in the future?
When I ask this question in sessions, I see faces light up with dread. Let’s be honest, we all hate this question. Most of us can barely decide what we want for tea, let alone what we want to do for the rest of our lives. However, I am here to tell you, “I don’t know” is a perfectly okay answer. Most of the students I speak to face an enormous amount of pressure when it comes to answering this question. Despite what your parents may say about this generation being “snowflakes who have never faced a real challenge”, I think it might be one of the hardest possible times ever to be a student. Not just because of the 2 years you have just had taken away from you due to you-know-what. Yes, you may have a world of information at your fingertips, but that extra information can make deciding what you want to do in the future more difficult. Yes, you have lots of choice, but you can quite easily become overwhelmed with the number of options and deciding what is best for you, I know I was. Once more, external influences such as TikToks of investors driving round in brand-new sports cars places an extra element of pressure on you to be successful in a certain way. With all this in mind, it is perfectly fine if your answer to this question is “I don’t know”!
What is important is that you tell the people around you! My job, like the careers officers in your school, is to help you answer that. If you are open and honest about not knowing, then we can help you in a better way. We are not going to judge you or laugh at you for saying that. If we are all being honest with ourselves, not many of us know really. I’m 23, and I still don’t know what I want to do in the future. It took me a while to realise that this is okay, but when I did it was a huge weight off my shoulders.
After all, how can we be experts in something we’ve not done yet? Just like I need to take it easier on myself when it comes to presenting a new session for the first time, so should you when it comes to deciding what you want to do in the future. Just like me, you have had no practice at it! So go easy on yourself, be honest with the people there to help you, and I promise everything will be okay and it will all work out, it always does.