Paul Jarley's Blog: TweetBack Thursday - What to do when you have no idea what you want to do.

Paul Jarley’s Blog: TweetBack Thursday – What to do when you have no idea what you want to do.

@Klandress asked me…”What do you do when you have a business admin degree and no idea what you want to do … Sell insurance?”

Sure, why not? It is good honest work and beats doing nothing. Whatever you do, don’t go back to school. Sounds like you just finished your degree and didn’t find the answer the first time. No reason to believe going back right away will help. Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. No use continuing to ask your friends and family either: sounds like they haven’t been much help.

I have to admit that I have never been in your situation. I have changed what I wanted to do several times over the years (e.g., cowboy, baseball player, astronomer, professor, dean) but I have never had no idea what I wanted to do. In many ways my advice to you is similar to the advice I gave @chrisjreagan in a recent post. Albert’s definition also gives you a clue to solving your dilemma. Whatever you have been doing hasn’t helped figure this out, so you need to do something different. Create a plan and you can implement in a proactive manner. Do not wait for destiny to find you. It isn’t coming.

Step 1, assuming you need a job to eat, get one. (If not, a walkabout might work, but it’s not likely.) Step 2, realize that this is an entry level job, not your dream job. So ask yourself, what you can learn in this job that will allow you to take these skills and use them somewhere else if you don’t like it here or don’t perform as well as people might expect. If you can’t answer that question, the job is likely to be a dead-end (last resort) job. If you think the job has the potential to expand your skill set, move to Step 3: dive in. Step 4: while working this job, look to expand your professional network. Make a conscious effort to get to know and interact with people who are doing different things than what you are doing in your current job. Jobs that allow you to meet a wide variety of different people (see step 2) are good jobs to have when you don’t know what you want to do. Step 5: when meeting people, ask them lots of questions about what they do, how they got into this line of work, what the best parts of the job are and what the worst parts of the job entail. Step 6: when you find something among your contacts that interests you, ask them to mentor you so that you make good decisions about how to get into that profession. Maybe then going back to school would be a good thing to do.

So let’s evaluate a position in insurance sales. Sales skills are very generalizable, so the experienced gained could be used in a wide variety of positions and careers. Also to be successful in this position, you would need to become knowledgeable about a range of financial products: a chance to add to your knowledge base. The job should allow you to interact with clients from a wide array of experiences and backgrounds and build relationships with people: Also a plus. Finally I would want to know what the potential for promotion within the company would be ( what my options are if I like the work and want to stay), what educational requirements attach to these opportunities and what people typically make (not the top performer, but the median one) over their first few years. If the company promotes from within, provides a living starting salary to the typical performer and has a clear set of criteria for advancement it seems like an appealing place to start, especially if I haven’t found my passion.

Paul Jarley, Ph.D., is the dean of the UCF College of Business Administration. He blogs every week at http://www.bus.ucf.edu/dean. This post appeared on November 15, 2012. Follow him on Twitter @pauljarley.