The semester is in full swing and you begin to notice that more and more you’re getting the question, “What do you want to do…for a career?” It’s like freshman orientation all over again, when everyone first asked about your major. It’s enough to ensue heavy breathing, pitting and maybe some upper lip sweat because you never stopped to think through…what do I really want to do? But you can stop freaking out. Good news: Your school can actually help when it comes to choosing a career. That’s right—you won’t have to fear that you’ll end up jobless after graduation.
First step—take some time to think
You may have entered college with a major or interest in mind. In that case, it may appear pretty clear you have an idea of what career field you want to be in. But if you enter college without a major in mind, your journey is a little more complex. According to Jacki Banks, Senior Manager, Employer Relations & Industry Advising at Georgetown University, put some thought into your options. Approach the question with a logical thought process. “Think about what you enjoy doing. What comes natural to you? Are you drawn to a particular environment? Are there certain skills that come easily to you? Make a list and try to identify common themes,” said Banks.
Don’t worry if all this seems even more nerve-wracking than you thought. “Although you might be nervous if you’ve never done it before, do an informational interview! Talk to alumni working in areas that interest you,” Banks said. “See what that career looks like from people already in the field.” Asking for help and expansion only makes the journey less daunting.
Beyond that, be proactive. Only you can be introspective and determine what goals suit you. College is the perfect environment to explore your personal interests and skills. It is the first time in your academic life where you can literally build a class schedule centered around an area of study that may interest you. Or, through general education classes, you may inadvertently stumble upon an interest. Take famous actors Bill Murray—he started college on the pre-med track. Will Ferrell majored in sports broadcasting before taking an internship where he realized he hated it.
Think about what interests you and get involved with as many activities as you can involving your interests. Seek out advisors or your careers services to help guide your search. “Students can build skills and experiences through volunteering/service-learning, student organizations/clubs, leadership opportunities, part-time jobs, peer educator programs, research, tutoring and more. All of these help to gain skills, valuable experience and confidence,” said Tracy Hakala, Associate Director at James Madison University.
But does college really help you when it comes to choosing a career?
Take Marcell Gibson, a Penn State graduate, for example. He entered college knowing what field he wanted to work in but his time in college helped to narrow his interests. “College helped a little. I kinda knew what I wanted to do but college pushed me into it. When I first arrived at college the staff asked me what I wanted to do and I told them about my passion for technology,” said Gibson. “I was told an IT major would be a great second option from engineering. I decided to take an IT class based on that decision and after a while I completely switched my major.”
Sounds great, right? College will magically spoon feed you your dream path? Not quite. When that’s all said and done, think of it like a high fiber diet. It may do the trick for some people, but not work at all for others.
For student Natalie Rodriguez from California State University Fullerton, on the other hand, college support helped a lot with finding part-time work and career advice. “College aid was very supportive with the internship side. To be honest, I didn’t feel it helped with full-time work,” said Rodriguez.
The career center serves as only one step into your career journey. Don’t forget about exploring different gen ed classes, or getting involved in different clubs. Once you’ve gotten that help you needed, you can finally embark on your exciting and complex journey into job hunting for your career.