It’s okay to be confused – should students know their career path?

Graduate and careers

By Lois Looker,

Earlier this week, I watched a video by a YouTuber called ‘justmargaret’. In this video, she talks about the idea that we all try to fit into the boundaries made by society which tell us that we have to choose one thing that we want to do with our lives, no matter how many talents and hobbies we have. This starts from the moment we learn to talk and develop a personality where people will see what our interests are and immediately say things like, “Oh, I think she’ll be a doctor” or “You’ve definitely got a little footballer there, haven’t you?” Everything we do in life is supposed to point to what we’ll do as a career, often referred to as ‘what we will be’ as if your career will ultimately define you as a person.


Just two days after watching the video, I am currently sitting filling out my dissertation proposal form and I am panicked as I realise that despite knowing what I’ve wanted to do my dissertation on for months, if not longer, I don’t know if I can do it. I know that I can write it and I know that there are staff that can help me, but I just don’t know if I can do it justice and get the best grade I can achieve. As well as this, I’ve now thought of another dissertation proposal which I am also really excited about but is has now left me feeling quite angry that I didn’t think of it a while ago in order to give me time to really think about it properly. (My proposal is due tomorrow and so my panic level is pretty high right now.)

After messaging my friends in a panic for advice I realised that what it really comes down to, is doing what I think I would do best with the most enjoyment. I don’t want to be writing something for months, researching every aspect of it and talking about it constantly to be fed up within the first week.

My first instinct was to think about what would be the best project based on what I want to do with my future, but then I realised that when I tell people what I want to do when I leave university, I always forget to mention the fact that there are about ten different things that I want to do. I always thought this made me really indecisive and I would get annoyed with myself for not being able to make a decision, just in the same way I couldn’t decide what to apply for when looking at universities or if I even wanted to go to university.

But this week I’ve realised that actually, it’s completely okay. I don’t have to choose one thing to do and then do it for the rest of my life. I can research and try new things and see what happens and hopefully I will end up doing something I really love. In the same sense, I think it’s fine to admit that you have no idea what you want to do and for a while I thought those were the same things. They’re not. If you have a million ideas of what you want to do, then you don’t have to choose just one of those. It helps to know what general direction you want to go in and I was able to choose that by looking at what my biggest passions and loves were and so I ended up doing a joint degree. It’s been challenging, confusing and difficult but more than worth it because in the end I get to have more options based on the jobs I want to do which incorporate English and film and media studies.

When I first started university I studied English, psychology and philosophy. It only took a semester to drop psychology for film and media studies and by the end of that semester I had emailed my tutor to say that I wanted to change my degree to do a joint honours course. At first I didn’t know if it would be possible as I was already a year into my degree but they looked into it and I was allowed entry. My confusion about what I wanted to do and taking classes that were completely wrong for me, resulted in me doing my perfect degree. Making the wrong decisions during your degree can always be terrifying but can be rectified and you can find yourself doing something you would never have dreamed but being much happier for it.

Do you ever find yourself confused when asked what you want to do when you leave university?