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How did you decide on a specific career you wanted to pursue?

I’m a junior in high school and there are many STEM fields out there that I’m interested in but I’m not sure how to narrow it down. #stem #career #college #science


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Ryan’s Answer

Don't worry about finding a specific career while in high school - take this time to explore all the STEM fields you may be interested in! Many of us have switched majors / careers multiple times, and this is ok. The most important thing is developing habits / skills that are applicable across ALL fields and continuously learning.

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Hannah’s Answer

Hi Tessa,

There are so many ways to narrow down your interests, but I've included just a few options here that I hope will be helpful. I've done similar things to try to narrow down my own career interests.

1. Take some time to reflect on your current interests and experiences. What subjects are you studying that get you all fired up? Have you recently completed a project that was satisfying to finish and left you feeling really proud of your work? What were the components of that project (hands-on, team or independent-work, research, etc.)? Keep these reflections about yourself in mind as you move forward in your career exploration.

2. If you'd like to take an assessment to narrow down your interests, you can do that too! If you're located in Massachusetts, you may already be familiar with MassCIS (Massachusetts Career Information System). This resource offers tools for finding careers of interest as well as education options, and it's all free to use if you're a resident of Mass. Check it out here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/massachusetts-career-information-system-masscis

3. After you've taken a career-exploration assessment, browse the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook (I know it sounds boring but it's really helpful!!!) and learn more about different careers and the education they require. Options are divided into "occupational groups," which makes it a lot easier to search by jobs in STEM fields. Here's the link: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm

4. Talk to people! Do you know people already working in STEM fields? Don't be afraid to ask if they are available to answer questions (in the form of an informational interview) about the kind of work they do, why they like it, and what kind of training they did to get their job. People generally really like to talk about themselves! Another option is to look at local colleges nearby and reach out to their STEM-related departments - maybe some of the coursework or projects they do in those programs will jump out at you, and that will give you a good lead. And don't forget to keep browsing questions and answers on CareerVillage to get more ideas.

5. Try stuff! I definitely don't mean go get a chemical engineering degree just to see if you like it, but volunteer opportunities, part-time jobs, and community events that encourage STEM education can be great places to start. Think low-risk, informative experiences that will expose you to current (and potential) interests. If you're not sure how to find those opportunities, I recommend going to your local library or meeting with your school guidance counselor to get some leads. OR, ask somebody during one of the informational interviews I mentioned above.

Finally, don't stress too much about narrowing your options down immediately. You've got a lot of time to tweak and redesign your career goals, and your upcoming experiences in life will organically help you find your path. I hope these suggestions help!

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Kelly’s Answer

Hi Tessa,

I also did not know what career I wanted to pursue when I was in high school and even college. I went to a college that offered many different courses and required me to take courses in every area. I figured out what classes actually interested me and based my degree on that. I studied Business and Psychology, which is quite broad. Every summer in college, I had an internship in a different field (Marketing, PR, Quality Assurance). From these internships I realised what I did not like and what aspects of a role I did enjoy. I then applied for a role in HR (remembering that I really enjoyed my HR class in college) and that fit well with what I enjoyed from previous roles.

The work world is becoming more and more flexible. You can start in one role and move cross functional fairly easily. So don't worry about choosing the right job immediately, you have time to figure out what you really enjoy doing. I've been in HR for 6.5 years and still don't know if its my forever career but I am still learning and enjoying it. Once that stops, I will look at different options.

Another great way to assess different options is networking with people in those roles and asking what they enjoy, don't enjoy, what steps they took to get where they are.

Hope this helps!

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Kathleen’s Answer

I was so confused about my future when I entered college! When I first applied, I applied as a global politics major -- I'm now a software engineer so you can imagine I made quite a pivot. :)

I switched to electrical engineering after my initial application went through. I always loved technology and science, and it certainly helped when I heard the average salary for engineers. I did a year of electrical engineering before realizing I hated it! One of the required courses, though, was intro to programming, which I really enjoyed. That, combined with a love for video games and web design, helped me make my decision to switch to computer science.

The way my college dorms worked helped as well -- I was in a hall with all engineers of different types, so as I learned more about their majors, I was able to learn more about what I wanted as well.

If you really just have no idea what you might want to do in the future, see if you can shadow people in your community for a day on their job, or ask if you can sit down and chat with them about what they do. Someone might say something that really grabs your attention!

All in all, though, don't worry too much about choosing a career right away. Your interests will change, and there's always time to learn something new. Prepare for the future, but don't stress about it. :)

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Paul’s Answer

Hello,

For me the best way to get experience/input into what I wanted to do was by learning about lots of jobs and seeing what ones were interesting to me. Working part time jobs in high school and college helped me learn more about the real world and what I enjoyed doing.

At college it helped to really explore the different career options that each major generally linked to and what types of roles companies were hiring for as entry level.

Remember where your career starts or where you think it will start does that mean that is where you will be forever!

I studied accounting in College and then started my career in retail management and now am in information technology working in Product management. The general constants in my career have been customer focus, technology, and people. Pay attention to what you like and are good at, and what jobs are available around those skills.

Paul recommends the following next steps:

Attend Meetups
Read career specific news sites
Look for internships
Look for entry level jobs
Find a mentor

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