Mar 15

The 4 Questions To Ask Students Who Don’t Know What They Want To Do

Some students enter, or even graduate, their university without a clue as to what they want to do, which industry to pursue, and how to go about making that decision. Career centers have the opportunity to help those students, and steer them towards a path of happiness and success.

If career center advisors and professionals know the right questions to ask, it can help these students better understand what their passions are, and how to find jobs that satisfy their needs and interests. Here are four questions to ask this type of student, and why they will help.

1. “What are you good at?”

Identifying high-quality, specific skills is one of the best ways to help put someone on a clearer path. Naturally, if he or she is good at something, it means there’s a chance to be paid for those skills. If a student says, “Well, I’m a great writer” you can begin to consider some possible career paths, such as copywriting, journalism, broadcasting, or publishing. You can also match the skills they have with personal interests, and brainstorm with students some possible careers that speak to the combination of skills and interests.

2. “Which topic would you choose for a 60-minute presentation?”

Allow students to be as specific as they want, as long as it’s the honest answer. If a student says she’s a skilled artist, but only with Snapchat drawings, you can sit down with her and discuss opportunities with advertising agencies and digital media companies who hire Snapchat Producers for their clients.

The goal of this question is to identify both passions and expertise of students. If they’re confident enough to talk about X in front of a room, they should be able to do the same with colleagues in meetings. Ideally, their topic of choice is transferable into the professional world, and even if it is not directly tied, there are surely common bonds between the topic and possible careers. One follow up question you could ask is, “If you had to create or write something that people would pay you for, what would that be?”

3. “Are you a generalist, or a niche thinker?”

With the incredibly wide variety of career paths that exist today, it’s important to identify how a student thinks in order to get them one step closer to their ideal career path. You can think of a “generalist” as someone who can have a surface-level conversation on just about anything, but can’t go very deep into topics. A “niche thinker” is someone who is an absolute expert in a few, specific things, but might not thrive as much in other areas.

If students can identify themselves as either a “generalist” or a “niche thinker” it might say a lot about the type of company, position, and work environment that is best for them. For example, a generalist typically will want to wear many hats and be involved with several projects, which means a small, startup company could be a perfect fit. “Niche thinkers” on the other hand, may prefer a large corporation where they have one very specific role in the overall operation of the business, and they focus solely on that work. The key with this question is to classify the student’s thinking pattern, and suggest the work style that matches their response.

4. “What do you absolutely not want to do?”

As important as it is for students to think about what they want, it’s equally important to identify things they definitely don’t want to do. This way, they can start crossing things off of their list, and increasingly limit the amount of industries to choose from. If a student is opposed to anything with business, sales, and revenue, chances are they would not be interested in careers in finance, technology, or retail. Instead,they might want to pursue opportunities with a non-profit that he or she is passionate about, or perhaps something in government or the arts such as museums, galleries, schools, or careers with the city.

The more questions that students can answer, even if they are not directly related to career paths, the better idea you’ll have for what they want to do, and what they will succeed in. Simple questions like “what skills do you have” and “what do you dislike” allow students to narrow down the potential list of industries. Meanwhile, if students can understand the type of thinker they are, that answer alone can determine the ideal company size, office environment, and role within an organization. These four questions provide career centers with an initial springboard to help students understand possible careers that best fit their passion, skills, and personality.

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