So you’re graduating soon and don’t know what to do …

January 12, 2016 | Hamilton, ON
Contributed by Natasha Sharma, BCom '00

shrugging-girlBack in the day, we used to deliver our university applications through snail mail. That’s the regular post office, to all you late-born Millennials out there.

Most children of East Indian background are encouraged or “volun-told” what to do – with the intention of eventually attending medical school, of course. I applied for the Natural Sciences program at McMaster and a few other schools.

I recall clear as a bell walking to the mailbox that day, application in hand, and feeling unsettled. Just before I dropped it into the box, I stopped, turned and walked back home. I promptly opened the envelope, scratched out “Natural Sciences” on my application and changed it to “Honours Commerce.”

I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do, and neither will many of you before university and even after you graduate. I’m here to tell you this: It’s OK! You don’t need to have it all figured out by the time you finish school. Some know what they want their next step to be, and some don’t. Some think they know what they’d like to do, but find themselves disappointed or disengaged. I fell into that category.

Unsurprisingly, the number-one reason people feel unsure about what career to pursue is because they don’t know what they’re passionate about. The books and mantras of yesterday have advised us to “follow our passions” when deciding on a career. After all, if you can do that successfully anything is possible, right?

While that message is not wrong, per se, it’s incomplete. You need to be more strategic than that. More savvy. And much, much more self-aware.

Here are the four key elements – taken directly from my upcoming book – that you need to understand in order to determine the kind of careers that will truly make you soar:

1. Your performance: This entails the natural, organic and innate strengths you possess, as well as learned strengths. It includes your cognitive/mental/intellectual capacity, but also natural and acquired talents.

2. Your passions: Still very important, this involves the unique interests, hobbies, attractions, desires and dreams that you naturally develop over your early lifetime.

3. Your persona: This includes the unique values, beliefs, belief systems, character, patterns of thinking, patterns of emoting and patterns of behaviour that you develop over your early lifetime.

4. Your preferences: This is the unique working style you prefer, including different ways of approaching people, learning, and leading, as well as your level of interest in taking risks, working independently, participating in teams, your appetite for academic learning and preferred learning style.

Most people need time and experiences in order to figure out their four elements and exactly where it is they fit. Let that happen for you. Breathe, and remember that despite what all your friends and fellow graduands are doing, you need to carve out a path that’s right for you.

Natasha SharmaNatasha Sharma is a psychotherapist, doctoral student, author, speaker, and media spokesperson. In 2011 she founded the clinic NKS Therapy in Bloor West Village in Toronto, a team of Psychologists, Psychotherapists, and Counsellors. As a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur, Natasha is passionate about helping others achieve success, satisfaction, and ultimately happiness in their own lives.

She completed her commerce degree at McMaster University, Masters degree in clinical psychology at The Johns Hopkins University, and is currently completing her Doctor of Psychology degree.

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