You can no longer claim you want to be a princess or a world-famous singer when you grow up (unless you have the Megan Markle charm and Adele-esque pipes to back that up). In real adult life, you must figure out how to choose a career that fits your skills and makes money. Some college students come to campus with a clear idea of what career path they will take, while others have no major declared and no clue of where to start. If that’s where you stand, you can start here.
Here’s how to choose a career in 10 easy steps.
Step 1: Quizzes to find your interests
As silly as it might sound, taking quizzes to learn your interests and provide you with career options could be very helpful in deciding your career path. Now, I’m not talking about the funny Buzzfeed quizzes that tell you what kind of taco you are. Search for professional quizzes that measure your aptitude for certain careers. Universities, such as the University of Iowa, usually have them on their career center website and advisors even recommend this. “There is a number of resources that our advisors use when working with students to help them identify careers they are interested in, and research those and ultimately decide on those that interest them the most to pursue. Some of these resources include online assessments,” said University of Iowa Career Center Senior Director Angi McKie. Take assessments like these to kick start your career decision process.
Step 2: Research
Once you get your list of possible careers, research them. Look into their pay, hours, required skills and what your average day in that job would look like. Do these line up with your interests? Some of the careers suggested will seem completely off the wall, but a few will get you thinking about the direction you want to take your life. Dig a little deeper than Google too, because we all know all that information isn’t always accurate. Look at different universities and professional sites to really get the low-down on specific careers.
Step 3: Recognize your talents
The quizzes you take aim toward taking your interests into account and things you enjoy, but only you personally know your best talents and strengths. Has math always added up for you? Maybe look into math-based careers like accounting or actuarial work. Did you actually look forward to reading Shakespeare unlike your classmates? Look at writing or publishing careers. Listen to your strengths and run with them.
Step 4: Figure out your priorities
Some careers require you to be away from home a lot, like a pilot, while other careers allow you to stay home the entire summer, like a teacher. Figure out where your priorities lie. “A lot of the work will be self-reflection as well. It is important for the student to think about what [he or she] values and enjoys doing,” said University of Iowa Advisor Ben Landsee. Do you consider yourself a homebody? You should probably avoid becoming a pilot. Want to make bank? Look into the medical field or lawyer careers. List out what you prioritize in employment and only look onto jobs that meet them. Now, as important as it is to keep your priorities and standards high, you might still have to give a little wiggle room on a few of them. As much as you might want months of vacation time throughout the year to fulfill your dreams of traveling, this priority isn’t exactly realistic. Instead, something more sensible like having weekends off could influence your career choice.
Step 5: Go to Career Fairs
Many colleges hold career fairs so students can gain exposure to fields that they have never been familiar with before. Professionals take time out of their day specifically to help unsure college students get at least some sort of idea of what they could possibly want to do in life. Everyone is willing to help you, you just go and let them help. Make sure to dress professionally and bring a resume because sometimes businesses look to hire college students from these job fairs. Dazzle them with your readiness and determination to find a job.
Step 6: Explore gen eds to figure out what classes interest you the most
As dreadful as some general education courses may sound, they can actually be beneficial in the long fun. Instead of looking at them as mandatory boring classes, look at them as mandatory exposure to many different fields. By exploring a variety of classes you allow yourself the opportunity to see if your interests fall somewhere you never expected. Maybe you fall in love with your natural science course and realize science is calling your name. Or you could take a media class and realize you want to work as a journalist for the rest of your life. Change your perspectives on gen eds and you might just figure out your career.
Step 7: Talk to your advisors about potential majors
Look into specific majors that line up with the gen eds that you found at least somewhat enjoyable. Research them on university websites and look into the courses that are required. If the courses peak your interests, you might consider pursuing that major. “Most majors don’t lead directly into a career and most careers don’t require a specific major at the entry level. I think students should really let themselves explore different majors and courses. Cast a wide net and see what they find,” said Landsee. Start with your area of study and then look at possible jobs you can get with that degree. Start small and work your way up.
Step 8: Talk to professionals in the field of that major
You can only get so much information about an area of study off a website. The best people to talk to about the good and the bad associated with different majors and fields are the professionals working in that field. These true experts can answer any questions you have. You can talk to some professors at your college that have experience in that kind of field, or even the head of the specific department. If professors can’t fit you into their schedules you can find workplaces that interest you and contact them. Sit down, talk and learn if that area is right for you.
Step 9: Job shadow
After talking to a professional, take the next step and follow them around all day. “[Career advisors] may recommend things like job shadowing […] as ways to explore a career field,” said McKie. Job shadow and learn what a day in the life of an employee in that field really looks like. This way you learn the dirt of the job instead of the rainbows and sunshine that you find on the Internet.
Step 10: Intern
Once you’ve finally picked a field of study and maybe even a job you want, intern. An internship gets you better firsthand experience at a place of employment because instead of following around an employee, you get to be like an employee. Internships vary, as some pay and some don’t, but all of them have priceless experience that will only help you later on. Interning really helps you earn some brownie points because some companies hire their stand-out interns after graduation. How good of a feeling would it be to walk across the stage at graduation knowing you already have a job waiting for you?