Can you imagine working at a job you hate? Spending most of your waking hours bored, frustrated, or totally stressed out, working with people or for an employer you don’t care for?
On the other hand, imagine working for a company you admire, where your skills are fully utilized, where you can build life-long friendships, where you’re given opportunities to grow professionally, and where you’re rewarded and recognized for a job well done.
I think we’d all prefer the second scenario, wouldn’t we? Unfortunately, many don’t experience it because they don’t do their homework. Choosing your major and career should be one of the most fully researched decisions of your life.
The first step is to conduct a comprehensive self-assessment. This involves taking an honest and objective inventory of your:
- Interests and passions
- Skills and aptitudes
- Lifestyle and workplace preferences
- Willingness to obtain the necessary qualifications
The second step is to develop a list of potential careers that captures your interests, skills, and personal preferences. Learn about the qualifications for each career possibility and consider whether you have the skills and/or are willing to acquire them. Meet with admissions counselors and professors. Attend career fairs. Review the recommendations from any aptitude tests you’ve completed. Meet with actual practitioners in each career area to learn what the job is like. Speak with others who know you best to gain their perspectives.
The third step involves investigating the demand outlook for the careers you’re considering. Do your research to discover which careers are experiencing strong job growth and which majors will qualify you. For every major you’re considering, thoroughly evaluate its employment prospects.
Finally, seek out work-study, internship, and job shadowing opportunities to get a taste of what the career is like. This will provide a firsthand reality check and either confirm or reject your preliminary conclusions.
Once you complete this process, you’ll have narrowed down your major/career choices to a few finalists. Don’t be surprised, though, if your thinking changes as you take more advanced classes and learn more about that career. After all, most college students change their major at least once. I did twice!
A great research tool is the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, which you can find at www.bls.gov/oco. On this site you will find the descriptions for hundreds of occupations, in addition to the education and training you’ll need to qualify for them. Also listed are average earnings and future projections for growth in each profession. Need help starting to identify which jobs and careers might be a good fit for you? Also check out this website: http://www.bls.gov/k12/index.htm. It’s called, “What Do You Like?” and can help you narrow down your options based on your own interests.
Parents, youth mentors, and educators: Please consider sharing this email with the career-bound students in your life. Use it as a bridge to opening conversations about life direction, career options, and preparation for life as an adult. Then feel free to share your comments and testimonials with our online community; we’d love to hear your thoughts!