“What Are You Doing With Your Life?” 5 Ways to Answer When You’re Not Sure

Spring Break is right around the corner! If your plans include seeing your family, chances are they’ll ask what you plan to do after graduation. When you’re not quite sure or are still weighing options, this can be a stressful question to answer.

Taking time to explore is actually a really smart approach to planning your future! Consider the following strategies for helping family see the value of active career exploration:

1. Explain the value of self-assessment: Knowing your values, interests, and personality will help you evaluate your fit with potential career paths (as well as sell yourself to potential employers down the road). Share the results of your career assessments with your family. Haven’t taken one yet? You can access several assessments via FOCUS2 online to get you started!

2. Explore together: Log on to the ASK Network and browse the platform with your family. As you read the career profiles of our volunteer alumni mentors, discuss what seems interesting and not so interesting about the paths they’ve taken. Make a plan to follow up with the mentors that intrigue you the most.

3. Ask about their exploration: Have an impromptu informational interview by asking friends and family to share their own career path. How did they end up where they are and what other options did they consider or try along the way?

4. Shift the conversation to skills: Family may be surprised to learn that 9 of the top 10 attributes sought by employers are transferable skills like communication, problem solving, and the ability to work as part of a team. These are things that are woven throughout the undergraduate experience regardless of your major. By building these skills you’re preparing yourself for success across industries.

5. Let them see your progress: Sometimes your family just wants to know that you’re setting yourself up for success. By letting them know that you’re tapping into the resources here at DePaul, you’ll help them gain insight into your approach to exploration. Tell them about your recent appointment with an exploration advisor. If you haven’t done this yet, make an appointment with us today!

Happy Exploring!

Hilarie Longnecker & Ed Childs
Exploration Career Community Advisors

What’s Important to You? Understanding Work Values

By: Gina Anselmo, former career advisor for the DePaul University College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

What is important to you? What gives you a jolt of motivation to dive into a work task or embrace a new role or career path? The answers to these questions are often food-for-thought, especially when considering work values.

Values in general are beliefs held in high regard and related to all aspects of a person’s life. Values help us guide decision-making and give us the incentive to take action. Work values are the principles that are important to a person’s job satisfaction. Understanding your work values can help support a foundation of what’s important to you and what contributes to your definition of meaning and success.

Why Consider Work Values in Career Exploration?

While skills are important and part of your professional identity, work values are equally important and can often be a good place to start. Work values can help you with the following:

  • Understand what is important in terms of job satisfaction
  • See how a job and organization align with your definition of career satisfaction
  • Evaluate work roles, job opportunities, and overall fit
  • Provide a framework for assessing options

Taking a Beat – Reflective Exercises

It’s important to always take a moment to press rewind and consider past experiences as points of reference. Remember, you are the best judge of the principles that serve as key criteria for your career exploration. Take a moment to respond to the following:

  • Share a time you felt motivated in a job or internship. What contributed to feeling energized?
  • What activities bring meaning and impact to your life?
  • Can you think of a time you felt a sense of accomplishment? What made this experience feel like a triumph?
  • Can you think of a pivotal moment that helped shape the person you are today?
  • How do you define success?

Consider this: After you have responded to these questions, circle any words that stand out or reoccur. What keeps popping up? Are these keywords important in your work and work setting? Have these been missing from past experiences or always there?

Taking Stock – Exploring Essential Values

After a bit of reflection, and building a case for what values ring true to you, try to determine which values can serve as your essential values. Essential values are those that energize you and would be difficult to give up or not have in your work. To help you identify your essential values, consider this self-assessment.

Calling in Reinforcements – Work Place Culture

Workplace culture is the character of an organization and comes from the organization’s mission, values, energy, and interactions. The vibe that an organization gives off can set the tone for engagement, happiness, and satisfaction among professionals and it goes hand-in-hand with identifying your work values.

I was able to interview professionals from a range of settings and industries who weighed in on their work values and investigated the culture of an organization. Here is a sneak peek of some of my findings.

My Advice to You When Exploring Work Values

Take ownership in defining what each value means to you and how you want to put your stamp on it. Think about how your essential values are collectively important rather than putting pressure on yourself to rank them. Remember, work values are a piece of the Professional Identity pie! Your values, interests and skills are equally important, and should be considered when defining meaningful work.


Are you interested in strengthening your understanding of work values? Consider meeting with your career advisor, checking out online values exploration resources, and connecting with ASK mentors to hear their perspectives on integrating work values in the job and internship search.