The first step in transitioning from student to professional is to figure out what career to pursue. Most students probably have a good sense of what they’d like to pursue, but if you ask them again in a year, the answer’s likely change. The answer in my life has ranged from police officer, to marine biologist, to chef, to writer. College is a great time to explore your interests and to figure out what motivates you. While you enter this exploratory period, it’s helpful to start thinking concretely about your career so you can shape your college experience into a smooth trajectory that lands you on your way to the job of your dreams.
The very first thing you’ll need to do to begin your career search is to assess yourself. You don’t want to be stuck simply picking a career and getting a job you aren’t going to enjoy later down the road. The easiest way to start this process is to ask yourself three basic questions. What are you good at? What do you care about? And finally, how do you want to do what you want to do? The answers to these three questions will give you a great start to begin your career search. If, for example, music is your greatest passion, then these questions will help you narrow that interest down into something more focused. Maybe you’re really good at playing guitar, and you think a career as a studio musician sounds interesting. Or, maybe your interest is more in the production side of things. There’s a multitude of careers paths related to just about every interest you can think of, so even if you think becoming a famous musician is out of reach, there are a whole host of jobs waiting for you in the music industry. If you’d like to assess yourself more formally, then I recommend contacting the Career Center here on campus. We have a number of career assessment and major exploration programs that will give you a concrete portrait of your strengths, interests and values.
If you’ve assessed your strengths and interests, then the next thing will be to do a bit of research. Like I said, there are so any career paths out there—many that you probably wouldn’t even think of (iceberg mover, snake venom extractor, anyone?) If you like to snowboard, for example, there are many career paths waiting for you in the outdoor recreation and hospitality industries. You could look up what it takes to be a professional snowboard instructor, or what kind of classes you’d need to take to become a ski resort operations manager. Some things to consider while doing your research is the kind of schooling that a job requires, how much money you can expect to make and if the career will require you to travel a lot. Remember, money isn’t everything! While we all envision that career that will enable us to live completely free of the burden of finances, it’s important to our wellbeing to get a job doing something that we enjoy. I think it’s also important to research some of the particular companies that offer some of the careers that you’re interested in, to get a sense of what the work environment and company’s culture. YouTube has a plethora of videos that give you an inside look into many different careers.
After you’ve narrowed your interests down to maybe one, two or three career paths, the last step in your career search is to act. Take courses that will prepare you for the road ahead. If you’re really sure what you want to do, pick the major that best fits your intended career. I think the best way to prepare yourself for employment, outside of the classroom, is to get an internship. Internships will give you the real-word experience necessary for professional success. Contact the Career Center to help you track one down that’s best for you.
Picking the right career is about more than just finding a job. It’s about aligning your passions with an organization that will enable you to work meaningfully while realizing financial security. While putting in the work right now to find the career that fits you is important, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Many people end up changing careers more than once. In fact, my mom just got her nursing degree at 51. At the same time, it’s wise to be willing to explore careers in college with purpose to put you on a professional trajectory, while remaining patient and flexible enough to allow other opportunities to come your way. At any rate, it’s a good idea to start thinking about your skills and interests so that you can start researching potential career options. You never know when that spark will come that will lay the groundwork for your success.
Until next time,