Last week Stylist magazine reached out to me with a thought provoking question. The question in my inbox was this, “what career advice did I wish I had at the age of 20?” I replied immediately as the number one piece of advice I wish I had then, and that I would share with anyone now, is to trust your instincts.
When you are starting out it’s so hard to know if you are doing the right thing. Choosing a career is daunting. Even when you know exactly what you want to do, figuring out how to get there is really hard. When I was 20 I was an undergrad at the University of Leicester in England. I was working towards a joint honors degree in politics and economic and social history. I chose to study subjects that fascinated me, but just getting to that point was my single biggest achievement.
For a couple of years I didn’t think college would be an option for me, so I chose not to apply. After a couple of months of still feeling miserable I finally faced my fears. I knew I wanted to go to university, I was just afraid I wasn’t good enough. In the end, I decided “what the hell, I’ll apply anyway.” So I applied late in the game. To my surprise I received offers and after a few anxious months of A-Level exams I got the grades I needed for my first choice and off I went.
I loved my time at Leicester and I didn’t want it to end. That was in part because I loved my course, and the city and all the experiences. It was also because what lay ahead was completely unchartered. Figuring out how to plan my future felt like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle with a million pieces when you don’t have the box with the picture. My instincts were there, but fear, doubt and uncertainty still clouded my judgment. Basically, I didn’t fully trust myself to follow my instincts when it came to embarking on a career.
What I came to realize over time is that I know myself better than anyone. Trust your instincts. If you pursue something and it doesn’t work out you are not a failure.
I’ve faced pivotal career decisions time and time again, and even though I’m no longer 20 it doesn’t get easier. You can make a list of pros and cons. You can talk it through with the people who know you best. You can even Google it and see what words of wisdom internet algorithms send your way. But when it comes to your career, if in doubt, go with your gut. Ask yourself, does it excite me? Does it feel right? Is it taking me towards where I want to be? There’s no way of instantly knowing if the decision you make will end up being the right one. But if your instinct tells you to do something, or NOT to do something, listen. Don’t be afraid to trust your own judgment, because you know what you want from your career better than anyone.
Post by Octavia Goredema @OctaviaGoredema