My niece is on her way to college later this year and like most people her age, she has very little idea what she wants to do at or after college. Unfortunately this trend is a global issue and many parents and their college going kids think that college is some magic bullet that is going to help them realize their true calling. There are several pieces of advice I like to give when this conversation is brought up. Some of them contrary to the common worldview where everyone has a predetermined idea that they must follow. Some of them are:

1. Take a Gap Year: Going to college is a serious investment of time and funds and you want to have as much information as possible before making this decision and taking this step. Hence, taking a gap year is a great decision to implement to discover the things in life that you enjoy vs those that you do not. The gap year should be structured with several short work internships in preferably 3 – 4 companies, ranging from startups to large multinationals. This is to help you understand which work environments are better suited to your personality type and preferences. I would also take up learning some core computing skills from places like UdemyUdacityTreeHouse. If done correctly at the end of this gap year you will be in a far better place to make a more informed decision about college studies and direction!

2. Developing a Marketable Skill Set: Getting a job today is getting harder for the droves of fresh undergraduates coming out of college with very few value adding skill sets to their name. Here is a very interesting report on the required skills of the future. I like to approach this from first understanding the persons’ personality and preferences and narrowing down the list of skill accordingly. Skills could be anything from highly technical capabilities like programming to softer skills such being a great public speaker. The key is to find the one thing that becomes your focus and helps to differentiate you from the sea of graduates who do not have this defining difference.

3. Get Some Sales Experience: Sales is a great teacher, it teaches us a lot about ourselves. First off, the results are usually binary thereby helping you to measure how well you are doing. Next, it helps to highlight the insecurities and weaknesses that may be holding us back. In the end, sales is a core skill set that is required in every facet of your life. Whether it is actually making a sale, convincing a team member of your point of view or getting your message across to large group of people. Your ability to structure a convincing argument based on facts with the right sort of emotional triggers can become an invaluable skill.

Finding what you want to do, your true calling, is a very challenging task. Many people are never able to find this and live their life following someone else who has put more effort into finding theirs. We need to be far more proactive in our search to find greater meaning in our lives. There is no magic bullet and we are not going to magically get a dream job if we do not know what our dream job is. We need to use our age and youth to our advantage and get the leg up when it is easiest to do so!