It’s Okay to Not Know What You Want to Do!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Andrea Ng (22S06B)

To the lost Rafflesian:

Ever see your older cousins or aunts and uncles get pelted with questions about their jobs and relationships during family gatherings? Those questions never fail to give me a good laugh and I would think to myself that thankfully, that is a problem for another day, because I am still studying. 

As I grow older, I realise that age does not matter when it comes to being asked the BIG question: what do you want to do in the future?

I myself am guilty of using this as a conversation starter. However, this is a bad one that usually gets me nowhere in developing a stronger relationship with the other party because when the same question is thrown my way, I simply answer: I don’t know.

Many people tell me that it’s not okay to not know. In fact, as a Year 6 at the point of writing, many of my peers have already been on one, if not two internships in their respective fields of interest. And yet here I am, lost in a sea of 1200 other people in the cohort, not to mention the entire ocean of JC students in Singapore. I’m not the worst, but I’m not the best either, and I think I’m not the only one in this predicament.

It’s not that we haven’t thought of what we want to do in future. As children, we explore a multitude of careers—from being a policeman to a doctor to a lawyer to an engineer (let’s be honest, we all started with those). 

As the years go by, and our ambitions start to veer off from doctors and lawyers to YouTubers and filmmakers and celebrities, and then to bankers and cybersecurity officers and dentists and start-up founders, we find ourselves getting even more lost in this society, instead of being more sure of ourselves.

Some might say that we need to find our place in this world fast, especially so in our kiasu Singaporean culture, but instead of feeling adventurous and ready to take on the world as every other peer of ours seems to be, we find ourselves weighed down with all the possibilities and choices. 

Maybe some know what they want to do right from the start, and for others, even if we don’t, our parents decide for us. However, many a time I still find myself questioning if this is really for me. 

I think it’s the fear of the unknown that gets to us. Right now, our lives are so structured in the education system that everything goes as planned. We know when we’ll be changing schools and when there’s an opportunity to drop one subject and pursue another. When we enter the workforce, however, everything is different. We do not know what we are in for. 

Even internships are unable to unveil the entirety of the careers we are looking into. Since we are so inexperienced, we won’t know for sure if the entire industry works the way one company or organisation does. It’s like peeling an onion—inexperienced cooks don’t know when the onion is completely peeled if they never knew which layer to stop at. We can’t peel everything that’s for sure, but how can we be sure the layer we have uncovered is sufficient for the full experience? 

If you aren’t an experienced cook, you wouldn’t be able to tell if this onion was peeled.

Then it’s the need and want to succeed. Prestige and remuneration are what our generation values most. Yet again, we are riddled with the same old questions: what if these motivations can’t last me my entire career? What if I don’t succeed? What if I end up disliking what I am doing? 

Additionally, we don’t like to waste time. We can turn back if we make a bad career choice but do we want to make mistakes that could cost us our time and youth? Despite having a rough idea of what we want to go into, we are afraid to put our foot down and make a decision, because it might turn out bad and we are unsure if we are able to deal with the repercussions caused afterwards. 

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our indecisiveness and inexperience in the real, working world are all part of the process of finding a suitable career path. Some people simply have it easier because they are fueled by their passion and belief in a career that they have already decided on. We might not have found a career we are entirely sure of but we can harness the power of our indecisiveness and carefully think about what is worth our next 10 years, instead of rushing into making rash decisions.  

If there was anything I learnt from the career counsellors at the HEO (this is a non-sponsored article by the way), it’s that there is no right career path. There is no right choice of university course and there is no dream job; we may graduate with a degree and enter the workforce and after ten years, we could still be unsure if that’s what we truly want in life. 

So why not stop playing fortune-tellers and trying to predict our likes and dislikes in the future? All the studying for our various subjects does  not really teach us what the right career would be for us. (Although, 12 years of logical thinking in Math does teach us how to make an educated guess.) 

Above all, we have to remember that all of us are equally inexperienced in this search for the ultimate dream job. We have to enter the workforce with the trust that the process will work out for us. Life really likes to throw curveballs at us so no one knows what the future holds, even for those already decided. It’s okay if we are unsure of what we want to do in life, because what we want will always change. 

So, forget all the “what-if”s. Take a gap year, try out your passions, do whatever you need to decide, for now. Have the courage to pursue what you want to do right now, without being worried that you might change your mind later on. Life may be short, but it’s still long enough for mistakes and U-turns to be made.

As a singer I listen to would say,

Sometimes we never find an answer, and that’s okay too.


We might never find an answer to the right career path, and that’s okay too.

424810cookie-checkIt’s Okay to Not Know What You Want to Do!


Leave a Reply