IDK? We Think You Do

We’re all painfully familiar with the overused phrase. Heck, it even has an acronym to accommodate the needs of the lazy texter. Here’s a hint: while it’s thrown around in everyday conversation without a second thought, those three little auto-response words can stop you dead in your tracks during a job interview. If you haven’t already guessed it, I’m referring to the common expression, “I don’t know.”

Credit: jerecuperemonex.com

Credit: jerecuperemonex.com

When feeling trapped, afraid, or uncomfortable, we all refer to that default narrative engrained in our minds – the one that tells us we don’t have the answers – and it directly affects what we say, how we feel, and what we do. But have you considered how often this inner belief hinders our success in the outside world? Take the topic of employment for example. After all, nothing gets our guard up faster than an avalanche of career-related questions. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” “How do you plan to begin your career?” “What workplace skills do you enjoy utilizing?” We tense up, close ourselves off, and pray to God that the ringing noise of “career” will stop. The only response we can manage is that pathetic 3-liner, “I don’t know.” And the worst part? Many of us genuinely believe those words to be true.

So how can we break free from the self-sabotaging “IDK syndrome”? The first step is to teach yourself to think differently. It sounds radical and almost downright impossible, but the truth is, anyone, regardless of intellect, can do it. The trick is to be able to separate your rational thoughts from your irrational thoughts. Once you can pinpoint those suckers dragging your career, and, quite frankly, your life, down, you can choose to behave based on logic rather than emotion. Because the truth is, you do know. The “IDK syndrome” is a result of negative beliefs rooted in personal issues of low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. But don’t worry – we know how to cure it.

Although turning those negative thoughts into positive ones won’t happen overnight, here’s a tip to help you get there. When someone inquires about your budding career, instead of answering right away, take a moment to think about it. Reframe the question in a relatable way, such as deferring to subjects you enjoyed studying in school. Sure, some people may be unsure how their likes and dislikes apply to the business world, but everyone at least knows what they find interesting. If you truly believe you don’t know how to make a career decision, you’ll be left paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Trust me, that’s not a fun or productive place to be.

Get to know yourself – think about those questions you’ve been neglecting over the years. Would you enjoy the structured cubicle life that comes with working for a large corporation, or is your personality more suited for a job at a smaller, more creative company? Does the mere thought of conducting cold calls give you the heebie jeebies or is communicating with people one of your strengths? Once you think about those scary career questions differently and allow yourself to engage in self-reflection, you can more easily make those connections and open yourself up to new possibilities. Here’s an example of someone who is cured of the “IDK syndrome:” he’s uncertain about where the next five years will take him, but he understands that he really enjoyed his computer science classes. And when faced with the big job question, he’s able to respond with, “Because I love technology and I’m not usually known as a ‘people person,’ perhaps I’ll pursue a career in IT or web development.”

By asking yourself those key questions and getting over negative self-doubt, you are already setting yourself up for job alignment. Believe it or not, every person has valuable transferable skills that can be carried across several industries and disciplines. It’s simply a matter of having an open mind. If you’re still struggling with making the connection between real-life skills and job-world skills, consider taking a career assessment. It could be the enlightening jump-start you need to figuring out the famous what-should-I-be-when-I-grow-up question.

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