It’s an issue we all face once we’ve stripped off the graduation gown and the after party is over.

Your hangover might have worn off, but the real headache still remains: what the heck do I want to do after I leave high school?

It’s becoming more and more difficult to answer this question and there’s a lot of pressure to make the correct decision about what you want right from the get go, so you’re not wasting thousands of dollars and years of your life switching from degree to degree, or job to job.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, because there are steps you can take to ensure that the path you’re going down is the right one, whether that be with your degree in university, in vocational education or starting your career all on your own.

1. Get to know yourself

For starters, you need to have a relatively good grasp on what you want to be when you grow up, and you need to understand that some careers are a lot harder to break into than others. I have some friends who are studying what they really want to study and friends who are studying what they need to study.

One option will ensure you’re passionate about your work, but will possibly find it difficult to get a job, while the other provides more stability in terms of finance and a career, but you may have to sacrifice doing what you love. Neither is the right or wrong option, and usually you’ll be able to find a happy medium in between, but you’ll need to do some soul searching before you decide what is best for you.

2. Take your time

This is my cue to advise you to take some time off.

Take a gap year, try some other forms of work, travel the world, learn something which can’t be “graded”.

High school can be a bit of a sheltered bubble, and when that bursts you realise there is so much of the world you haven’t yet experienced and so much you don’t yet know about yourself. You might just be able to find the thing you’re looking for; the perfect career with both passion and stability, or maybe you can create a career all of your own. Y

ou don’t need to dive into the career pursuit immediately after high school is over, in fact, it’s best to enjoy the incredible wonders the world has to offer while you’re young and you aren’t tied down by a career.

3. Get some experience

Whether you’re already studying a degree or taking some time to figure out what you want to do, experience is key to helping you know whether you’re on the right track. For a lot of people, this will start as unpaid internships which, can be rough, but will give you a taste of what a career in that industry might be like.

If your financial situation can’t cater for an unpaid internship, any job remotely related to your dream career will help. You never know, if you stick with it you may even be able to climb the ranks: from mail room clerk to hard-hitting journalist!

And even if it doesn’t get you far, at least you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the right people. Networking is a great way to meet people who work in your chosen industry and gets you on the right footing with those who may one day become your co-workers or bosses. In my experience, the old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has proven all too accurate.

4. Mistakes are there to be made

The most important thing to remember is that if you do change your mind, its not the end of the world. If you decide to switch degrees, or you realise you want a career that doesn’t even require a degree, then don’t stick with it just because you think it’s what you’re ‘meant to do’. Switching things up will mean you’re one step closer to getting where you need to be, so look at these changes as a positive, a new adventure to be had.

No one can tell you for sure whether you’re on the right track–only you can make that kind of decision. If you do find yourself re-evaluating your circumstances, our best advice is to just go with your gut–it usually knows what’s up.