5 answers

If I am not sure what I want to do yet for a career, what should I do my first few years of college?


Is it okay to go to a four year private university if I don't know what I want to do yet? And what classes do I take in order to help me figure that out? #career-paths #career #career-choice

5 answers

Sheryl’s Answer


A college education is a fantastic foundation for your career and for life. If you are unsure of your specialization, begin your college career with the basic courses that you will need for any degree... english, history, biology, etc. Speaking with a college entrance counselor will help you get the right mix of courses to get started. After that, start exploring different careers... are you interested in the medical field? The legal field? Do you want to work outdoors or in a corporate or executive environment? As others have advised... keep exploring!

This is such a scary, confusing, and yet EXCITING time. My best wishes for your success in your choices for your studies!

Kim’s Answer

Updated Nipomo, California

You have been given some excellent advice and guidance already. A couple of additional points to consider. Regarding your strengths, my favorite assessment is StrengthsFinder. The resulting report will provide insights into your true strengths and what opportunities may be potential options for you. Regarding the type of secondary educational choices, you may want to consider a junior college for your first two years as you discover your own path. Not only will reduce your debt (if that is a consideration), it will give you an opportunity to explore different options for your major.

Best of luck to you!

Ken’s Answer

Updated Cleveland, Ohio

Congratulations on being interested in finding the right career to follow.. It takes a special person to enter into a specific career field and meet the demands which that career area presents. The first step is to get to know yourself to see if you share the personality traits which make one successful in that area. The next step is doing networking to meet and talk to and possibly shadow people doing what you might think that you want to do to see if this is something that you really want to do, as a career area could look much different on the inside than it looks from the outside.  When I was doing college recruiting, I encountered too many students, who skipped these important steps, and ended up in a career/job for which they were ill suited.

Ken recommends the following next steps:

  • The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.
  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
  • Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. You can locate them by asking your school academic advisor, favorite teachers, and the reference librarian at your local library. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
  • It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##

Cora’s Answer

A good idea is to think about what it is you enjoy doing. What really makes you feel fulfilled an happy upon completion? Also talk to a few successful family members and find out how they got started.

Wayne’s Answer

Updated Cincinnati, Ohio

Kendyll, you ask a great question. This is one that many students want to ask but are too afraid to do so. The things that Ken recommends in his comments above are very good and will assist in helping you figure out what your strengths and interests are and will help point you in the right direction. However, I've found that after you have this information, you still may be uncertain as to the exact career path you want to take. You appear to be asking what you should do in this situation.

The strengths you uncover about yourself will help you figure out what "type" of career you are good at (such as management, detail work like accounting or programming, business owner, etc.) but those strengths can typically be applied to many careers. Your interests will help you figure out which area you want to look at such as health, nature, science, people, animals, etc.

The first couple years at College allow you a chance to explore options. Most colleges have a set of courses called gen-ed which all students are required to take. Spend your time taking those classes during your first years and use the time to meet other students, professors and career coaches to discuss your strengths and interests. Use those resources to help you decide what you like and what you didn't know about the various interests you have.

My experience is that I went to college with the same question and never asked it. I did however meet students and professors that helped me nail down what I wanted by the end of the second year. Since I had completed my gen-ed classes, this allowed me to focus on my selected major. I didn't take advantage of the tools that Ken mentioned above because they were either not available at the time, or I failed to look for them. I started as a physics major because I liked it in High school. After meeting and talking to other Physics majors I found I was not cut out for that field so I changed to a Chemistry major because I liked that in High school. Again, I found other Chemistry majors and professors and found that I did not have the ability to memorize formulas and procedures that I needed for that field so I changed to general science. All this was done in my first 2 years. During that time I also found other students that convinced me that I should go into agriculture due to my interest in animals. The college I was attending did not have an agriculture curriculum so I switched. I got my degree in animal science which was still in the science field but more in line with my interests. My "career" however, has taken a lot of different directions. I started as a retail meat market manager because of my degree and the fact that I am allergic to animal dander. I got laid off and went into food distribution, using my agriculture and management skills. I got laid off again and went into auto parts distribution (using my management skills and what I had learned in my previous jobs). That company went out of business and I went to a larger dry goods distribution company as a manager. I left there due to family needs and got a job in a food manufacturing facility (back to agriculture with management functions). Got laid off there and went to computer manufacturing (management again). I've been in that field for about 23 years now and everything I have learned in college has helped me along the way.

Bottom line is that a career is a journey and not a destination. Use your skills and knowledge, follow what you are interested in and when things change, welcome the change as a chance to learn something new. Your interests are going to change over time so don't feel like you have to lock yourself into one particular field. Most of the skills and strengths you have (or gain) can be used in multiple career fields so use them and enjoy the journey. Don't worry about finding out you really don't like some specific field, use the experience to find something you do like.

I hope this has helped. Good luck in whatever you decide.

Wayne recommends the following next steps:

  • Use the tools Ken suggests to identify your strengths and interests.
  • If you still cannot decide, take the gen-ed classes and get more information from the college students, professors and staff.
  • Focus on your interests and look for opportunities in that area to use your strengths.
  • Don't be afraid of change. It is a constant and will always be there to enjoy it when it happens.
  • Do your best in everything you do and you will be successful.