What Makes A Good "Fresh Out Of College” Job If You’re Not Sure What You Want To Do?

What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s a question a lot of recent post-grads feel like they need to have answered right away.

By Ella Carroll-Smith4 min read
shutterstock 1539083672 (1)

The truth is, it takes many people years to figure out what they want to do, and it’s okay if you’re fresh out of college with no clue what comes next. When you’re 22 years old, you have about 45 working years ahead of you, give or take. There’s plenty of time to change your mind or choose a new path, and it’s natural to feel some indecision at any point in your career, especially the very beginning. 

I know people in their 30s who have changed their entire career paths. Some of them decided to go to law school or take a course in UI design so they could pivot into software development. Gone are the days when people would work at the same company for 40 years. People change companies, fields, and/or go back to school all the time nowadays. 

Just because you can get an advanced degree, however, doesn’t mean that you should. This is especially true if you’re unsure what you want to do. Unless you’re dead set on a career in the hard sciences or a field that requires additional schooling, then it’s not a great idea to get a graduate degree just because you’re not sure what you want to do next. Don’t pour thousands and thousands of dollars into something you might not even use

So many young people go back to school after college because they feel like they need to keep forward momentum, but aren’t sure what the right step is. Graduate school is often simply a way to stay in professional limbo while feeling like you’re making progress. You’ll probably get far better experience by jumping into the real job market head-first, even if you’re not sure what kind of job you want to pursue.

Graduate school is often simply a way to stay in professional limbo while feeling like you’re making forward progress.

Pick a Job That Will Teach You Useful Skills for Any Position 

If you’re looking for a post-grad job but aren’t sure what you want to do, then don’t focus so much on what field you’ll be working in, but instead, think about what this position can teach you. Many entry-level jobs are great opportunities to learn a little bit about a lot of things. Working as an executive assistant, for example, will help you learn about whatever industry you’re in, but you’ll also learn valuable skills like time management, phone and email etiquette, scheduling, and how to deal with different personalities.

When I graduated from college, I had no idea what I wanted to do next either. So I spoke with some of the adults in my life about what they did and applied to jobs I thought might be interesting or at least teach me something useful. I ended up working as an Associate Underwriter for an insurance company even though I didn’t have a lot of interest in that field, and you know what? I learned a lot about how insurance works that has served me well to this day, despite the fact that I no longer work in insurance. I’m now much better equipped to deal with issues involving auto, health, and property insurance than I would have been otherwise. 

Sometimes learning life skills during your first job is just as important as learning professional skills.

Sometimes learning life skills during your first job is just as important as learning professional skills, so don’t discount a job simply because it’s in a field that you don’t think will interest you. You might even surprise yourself and discover a new area of interest or path you hadn’t considered before. Perhaps you have a knack for marketing that you never would have realized unless you took that job as an entry-level copywriter. Or maybe you get a job in customer service and learn that you love working with people. Open yourself up to the possibility that a job will teach you things you didn’t know about yourself.  

Large Companies vs. Small Companies

Another thing to consider when you’re looking for your first job is whether you want to work for a large company or a small one. There are pros and cons to each. Small companies typically offer great opportunities to get your hands in a lot of different departments and learn new skills. It’s also nice to know everyone’s name and feel like you’re part of a community, but it might take longer to get promoted in a company that doesn’t often have many open positions or isn’t growing very quickly. 

Larger companies, on the other hand, typically have a better reputation for promoting a little faster. You may find yourself confined to your role, however, without the ability to explore different departments. Obviously, this is all on a case-by-case basis and any situation is what you make it. No matter what the company size, if you go in determined to make the best of the situation and learn as much as you can, then you’re likely to succeed regardless. Tell your co-workers that you’re interested in learning about other departments. If possible, find a mentor to help you and use every resource at your disposal to get as much as you can out of any opportunity to learn.

What Is “Normal” Anyway?

These days, it’s difficult to say what a normal work environment is. The pandemic ushered in a new era of work-life balance, with many people shifting to completely remote work, a hybrid arrangement, or completely dropping out of the workplace altogether to pursue freelance opportunities. Think about what kind of lifestyle you want. Do you want the flexibility of being able to live and work remotely from anywhere, or are you the kind of person who thrives off communal energy and wants to be in an office environment?

Work hard and do your best, but remember to also set your boundaries. 

Keep in mind that many entry-level jobs may not have a remote option so be sure to temper your expectations and remember that this is mainly about getting your foot in the door. Just because you have a certain working arrangement right now doesn’t mean that’s the way it will be forever. At the same time, don’t let yourself become taken advantage of simply because you’re young and new. Should you jump at opportunities to prove you’re a hard worker? Yes. But don’t mistake those “opportunities” for truly toxic work environments where you’re expected to constantly work overtime or deal with negative or hostile people. Work hard and do your best, but remember to also set your boundaries. 

Closing Thoughts

Sometimes it’s helpful to focus less on “what you want to be” when you grow up and think more about who you want to be. Do you want to be the kind of person who works a typical 8-5 job, or does the idea of sitting at a desk all day make you cringe? Do you want to be a mother, and do you think you’ll want to take a few years off work to stay home with your kids? All of these are important factors to weigh when deciding on what steps you want to take in life, so choose a career path that supports the kind of life you envision for yourself.

We want to know what you think about Evie! Take the official Evie reader survey.