It took me quite a few years (approximately 27….) to realize what a truly loaded question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” really is. Furthermore, you should (ideally) figure this out before graduating from high school, when most people have never lived on their own, have only a slight idea what the value of money is, and have limited work experience in the field they think they want to enter. According to an NBC article “College Freshmen Face a Major Dilemma,” the average college student will change his or her major two to three times during undergraduate studies. In the long run, this costs the student more money in loans and increases the time it will take before the student can begin a career. It is however, generally better to realize that a particular field is not the right one before graduating, rather than entering a career that you are unhappy with, and feeling like you have nowhere to turn. People in this situation often end up spending thousands more dollars to return to school all the while, putting their professional and family life on hold, or they change careers (and maybe eventually find one they like), or they carry on with being unhappy. These tips will help you to be more informed, and make better career choices.
1. Do Research.
If there is a profession you are interested in, check out what options are available. Do not automatically assume that you know what working in a specific profession will be like, or what you will or will not have to do. The Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/home.htm is a fantastic resource for exploring these options. It allows users to search college majors, and see what professions are common for that major. You can also look up careers and see what majors are required/preferred to enter the field, and what the average salary is. The site also provides a description of what to expect in certain career fields.
Another great way to do research is to talk to people in your community who are in the careers that you think you might want. Ask them what an average day looks like for them, how much work they do outside of working hours, what they think it takes to be successful, maybe even see if you can shadow them for a day. This experience will give you insight into the good and the bad parts of the career and help you see if it is something you could really spend the rest of your life doing. It may even help you network!
2. You really don’t have all the time in the world.
People like to say that the twenties are something of a throw-away decade, that it’s okay to slack off because none of it really matters anyway. I want to tell you this- what you do in your twenties does matter, in fact, it matters a lot. Otherwise, you might find yourself facing thirty with no life partner, no promise of a good career (or a career you’re unhappy with), and no hope of buying a home, or traveling, or whatever it is you want to do. This isn’t to say you can’t have fun in your twenties, just take initiative in your professional life as well. Take your twenties back!
3. Try not to get overwhelmed.
You have the world before you, it’s so exciting, and quite frankly, kind of scary. It’s like having all of your favorite foods, and someone telling you that you have to pick one, and it’s all you will be able to eat forever. That might even be easier.
Write down all of the career options that you are considering. Research them all, and narrow down your choices. Make sure to consider salaries, and figure out what you will need to live comfortably. Thirty thousand dollars might sound like a lot right now, but when living expenses kick in, and if you are considering a family, that salary would be challenging to live on. Once you have options narrowed down to one, or even a couple, start looking in your community for someone to shadow, or for an internship or volunteer opportunity.
4. Follow your passion.
Don’t just choose a career that you think looks easy, or one that gives you a lot of time off. Odds are there is a lot more involved than you realize. Don’t discount careers in science because you are better in English. Professors will help you. That’s why they are there. As long as you are committed to success, you will succeed. You will always be happy if you are doing something you love.
5. Try new things.
If you haven’t discovered your passion yet, it’s out there somewhere, go find it! Have you always wanted to be involved in theater, but you were too nervous to join, or were worried because everyone was more experienced than you. It’s okay! You can also find many free resources on the internet to learn new things. Do you know someone that can build computers? Ask them to show you how. Take local classes, and do what makes you happy. Follow your intuition, and if you want to do something, just do it! More than likely, you will find people that are welcoming and happy to help you, then you can return the favor to some other new person someday. If there is one thing your teens and twenties are for, it’s finding and developing this passion, and turning it into a career.
I genuinely hope that following these few tips will help you to find your passion, and begin a professional career that is right for you. Good Luck!
NBC New article. Gayle B. Ronan. “College Freshmen Face Major Dilemma.” http://www.nbcnews.com/id/10154383/ns/business-personal_finance/t/college-freshmen-face-major-dilemma/#.UzSCMPldUgg
Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/home.htm