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Ask the intern: I don’t know what to do with my life

“Hi Fiona, I know this may sound like a strange question and I realize that you won’t be able to give me an exact answer, but I’m hoping you can help. Basically, I don’t know what to do with my life. I don’t know what I want to do in the future. I’m not exactly sure what career I want. This means that I have no idea about what jobs I should look for, or where to start looking online. I know that you can’t tell me what I should decide to do, but I was hoping that maybe you had some advice.”– Thomas

Hi Thomas, thanks so much for getting in touch! Deciding what you want to do in the future and what road you want to take can be really tough. It may seem like you only have one chance to make this decision, but your path in life will constantly evolve and change. The best advice I can give you is to ask yourself the following questions. That way you can start to build yourself a picture of your future.

1. What do you love to do in your free time?

This is extremely important. The things that you do for fun give you a huge insight into what you would enjoy in a career. If you love to write, read, paint, build computers, do DIY, this will show you what sort of things that you would love in a job. Say, for example, you love to write your blog on the weekends, maybe you should think about a career where your journalistic skills will be appreciated. If you love to build computers, why not think about looking at jobs in IT? If you love to paint and create things, why not look into creative jobs? This could be anything from being an artist to applying your creative mind to advertising or media, the options are endless.

A great way to go about this is to write down the things that you enjoy doing and extract the specific skills you use in each activity. You can then search for jobs that will require these skills.

2. What are you good at?

This can be a difficult one to answer, but it’s incredibly important. Being able to pinpoint your strengths is an important skill which will help you for the rest of your career. Are you a people person? A problem solver? Are you good at practical work? You can add these things to your list of things that you enjoy and begin to create the profile of your perfect job. This is a job you will love and also be incredibly successful at.

I don't know what to do with my life

3. What environment can you see yourself working in?

The kind of environment that you thrive in is different for each person. Some people prefer a relaxed, chilled out office environment, whereas others thrive on competitiveness and pressure. This is entirely a personal preference. If you have never experienced a professional working environment, think about what kind of environment you learn or study best in. You can then test out your theory by doing an internship in this kind of company, and see what you think. I’m sure that you will love it.

4. Do you want to travel?

Do you have the travel bug? Or do you just want to experience everything the world has to offer? As the world becomes more globalized and organizations have offices all over the world, more and more jobs allow you to travel. If you want to work in Asia, Europe, or the USA, you have those opportunities. Think about a career which has an international reach. Maybe even learn a language to put yourself ahead of your monolingual peers. The world is out there for you to explore. So where is next on your wanderlust list?

I don't know what to do with my life

5. Do you want to work in a team? Are you more practical or theoretical?

All jobs are different. Some jobs are focused on individual work, whereas others revolve around group projects and teamwork. Think about which of these things would most suit your style of working. Many jobs are a combination of the two. Some people prefer to be practical and physically create things, whereas others thrive on theoretical ideas. Whichever you think you would prefer, add this to your piece of paper. You should hopefully have a relatively detailed profile now of your perfect job.

6. Who do you admire? And why?

Who is your ultimate idol? Do they have your dream job? Who is exactly where you want to be in ten years? Thinking about who you think is the pinnacle of success may give you some more ideas of what you would enjoy. Think about who has achieved what you want to achieve and how they got there. A lot of the time these people may be your family members or family friends. These people can be a great resource. Ask them how they got to where they are today and if they have any advice for you.

The best advice I can give you is: don’t panic. You have so much time. Inevitably we will all at some point find ourselves in a job that we don’t like, but this can be a great thing. As you try out jobs and internships you will shape your skills and find out what you truly enjoy. Life is never a straight road, but that’s the exciting thing about it.

Now that “I don’t know what to do with my life” is a distant memory for you, apply for an international internship today and kick-start your career with the adventure of a lifetime.


1. based on /ponder, by hobvias sudoneighm, CC BY 2.0

2. based on jigsaw puzzle pieces, by Electric-Eye, CC BY 2.0

3. based on travel, by fdecomite, CC BY 2.0

Photos and blog by Fiona Johnson

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!