Three Words College Seniors Need to Stop Saying

I was chatting with one of my students the other day – a very bright, motivated college senior majoring in Management with one of the top GPA’s in her class. “What are you going to do after graduation?” I asked, conversationally. “I don’t know,” she answered.

Now, right there, with those three words she stopped the conversation dead. There was NOWHERE to easily go, based on her lead. It was up to ME to resuscitate the corpse of our interaction, and I was tired and needed to prep for my next class. I hung in there and asked a few probing questions. “Well, have you done any internships?” “Where do you want to live?” “What was your favorite class?” I dove in we foundered until we found our way again. She had had a great internship over the summer and is considering looking for jobs in fashion marketing.

That awkwardness could have easily been avoided. I understand the tendency to feel awkward about making big declarative statements about the future when you are “just a college student”. But you need to get over that hurdle. If my student could have stepped up and controlled the conversation she would have learned much more from me. Once you are a college senior (or junior…or sophomore…), “I don’t know” is no longer an acceptable answer to “What do you want to do when you graduate?”

When that question is asked of you, it is a gift, not a stressor. Do not squander it! The person you are talking to is showing genuine interest in your future career. The conversation is now open and it is up to YOU to push it forward. Here are some possible scripts:

– “I’m not sure, but I had an internship over the summer, and am developing an interest in fashion and marketing. What is your background and how did you get started?”

– “There are so many things I’m interested in that it’s hard to narrow it down quite yet. I know I want to do something creative. Can you tell me about your career?”

– “My major is management but I know that there are a lot of possible paths. I’m particularly interested in marketing or sales. Do you know anyone in that field I could talk to and learn more? I’d love to do some informational interviews.”

Play around and develop a few of your own scripts. Make it a goal to NEVER say “I don’t know” to the question “What do you want to do?” again. Learn more about what an informational interviews is and the top 10 questions to ask on an informational interview. And contact us for more information about the career coaching work we do – we’d love to help you launch the career of your dreams!