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It’s Ok to Not Know: An HBCU Alum’s Helpful Career Tip

“What is your five-year plan?”

I first heard that question during an internship interview back in college. To be completely transparent, I had no idea what my five-year plan was. Later, I would learn that it’s ok not to know.

What do you do if you don’t know exactly what you want to do in the professional world? What do you do when even a two-year plan seems like a stretch? I hope that sharing my experience this article will provide you with some actionable steps that will help you plan your professional roadmap and eventually find a job that is rewarding and fulfilling.

The one thing that we should all be subject matter experts on is ourselves. Before developing your professional roadmap, you must first identify companies that align with your core values. Who is operating in a space that not only excites you but gives you a sense of fulfilment? What companies
are known for investing in their employees, whether through training, education assistance, or even retirement matching programs? Making sure the company you pursue aligns with your personal values and invests in their employees is a must.

Once you find the right company, look for the right position. A common misconception is that retailers only hire retail-focused majors, but this is not so. Every major retailer has a variety of departments with distinct functions. For example, if you love philanthropy, a role as the Manager of Strategic Community Partnerships could be a great fit. Do your research. Learn about the behind- the-scenes roles that keep the company moving along like a well-oiled machine. You may be surprised at what you find.

Finally, once you identify the companies and positions that resonate with your core values, find someone in the role you want and talk to them. Why re-invent the wheel? If someone is where you would like to be, why not ask them how they got there? A 15-minute coffee chat can save you some time, heartache, and stress. Speaking to someone in the role you seek will also build your network. You never know when an opportunity may present itself or when your name is being mentioned in rooms that you have never entered. Having an advocate in those rooms will be a great help to your career.

I have given you three steps to consider as you build your professional roadmap. While these tips should help, I must leave you with this: IT IS OK NOT TO KNOW. Every director I have spoken to has alluded to the need to stay flexible. Time sometimes reveals roles, opportunities, passions, and callings that you were never privy to, but aligning yourself with employers that speak to your core values will create a safe space for you to figure it out. All roadmaps occasionally take detours and that is the beauty of the journey.

Michael Brasfield Jr.
Manager of Category Marketing at The Home Depot
Florida A&M University Alumnus

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