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How long did it take for you to figure out what career you were interested in?

How long did it take for you to figure out what career you were interested in? I'm a Junior and I still don't know what I want to do after college.

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22 answers:

Be really honest with you, everyone ask the same question.

No one really can tell what you are interested unless you explore the opportunity out there yourself. You need to know what makes you excited daily? What makes you wants to stand up and wake up early in the morning to complete the task. Talk to friends, instructors, and family member. They should be able to provide you with minor hint on what you like.

Then seek opportunity to speak with professional in the field that you are interest. Most people should be able to provide you with a general idea on what's the job or career encompass. Investigate, explore and ask plenty of question.

Good luck.


Two comments

My view is that it is perfectly normal to not know what you want to do. And even after you decide what you want to do, what you value and enjoy may change, or the industry may change!

I myself am now on my fourth career (I tried engineering, policy, management consulting, and now am doing product management), and I will guess there will be many more careers over my lifetime. I don't think I'll ever have it "figured out." Many people I know have made at least one big switch - studied medicine and then went into business, studied biology and then went into venture capital, studied engineering and went into law, English and then fundraising, theater and then finance. I even know someone who was an actress who now works for the State department!

The important thing is to keep an open mind, and build the skills you need to land the next job that looks interesting to you. I totally agree with Will's approach. Speak to as many people as possible to get an idea of what is out there. For now, just focus on getting that first job. Once you have that first job, you will be able to discover what you like about it and what you don't like as much. Then you will use that information to guide your next decision, and will be able to compare against your first job. The more experience you have, the more doors will open for you, but also, you will be able to learn what you find meaningful (as well as what you can't stand).

So don't stress too much about having it all "figured out" by the time you graduate. What matters right now is finding that first job, trying your hardest to contribute, and learning as much as you can. And my one piece of practical advice is: pick people to work with whom you admire and really get along with. Your day-to-day happiness with your job and career choice will depend a lot more on your immediate manager and team than on being at the "perfect-on-paper" job. If you can find a manager who looks out for you, and whom you can really learn from, that will make all the difference.


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It didn't happen for me right away and I don't think it really does for most people. If you are able to focus on what you are passionate about - (for me it was connecting with people) that's a start. I was also willing to start from the ground up. My first job was as a receptionist in HR. I just wanted to get my foot in the door and learn what I could about the field. Soon I started to develop relationships and eventually I found a mentor who was instrumental in my career development. Today, I try to pay that forward whenever I can. Be patient - it may not happen overnight, but it's worth waiting for if you truly want to do what you love and love what you do. Good luck!


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I was pretty lucky because I found event planning the Summer after Freshman year. I did not know I like event planning until all of the work was over. I enjoyed the little details that go into events along with hosting people and making sure they have a great experience. I would make sure to put yourself out there and try new things. You never know what can happen. I thought about finance and investment banking but soon found that was NOT for me. Interview for internships, go to career fairs and make sure to not only talk to the representatives but get their cards and FOLLOW UP. That is the key. Be on their radar just in case you figure out you really like something. You will already have a foot in the door and be ahead of everyone else.


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Hi Arianna

No need to fear, I still don't know exactly what my career interests are about 4 years into the job market. :)

What has worked well for me has been pursuing something I was good at and pursuing topics that aligned well to my skill set. I studied Finance in college and did some internships as well as started my career there. My general interests lied in Math and Business which led me to that field of study. Now my job revolves more around Staffing Analytics which can be very similar to Financial modeling in a lot of ways.

My advice to you would be to align with a field of study in which you think you might be interested in subject areas where your talents are complimented well. Aside from that I would just try to get as much exposure to people in that field to get a better feel for quality of life and day-to-day activities they experience. There are a lot of great programs out there that will help you get a better sense of a path you may like to pursue.


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Hi Arianna,

I think it is more important to figure out what you are passionate about and where your strengths lie before you categorize that into a specific career path. Once you figure that out you can look at which types of careers suit you well and you would enjoy getting up each day to do. I always thought I wanted to go into marketing/advertising and tried it for a year and found out it probably wasn't the best fit. Now I work in recruiting and love it and it completely plays to my strengths, but before my current position I never even considered HR or recruiting. It is totally fine to explore different opportunities and see what you like best, each one will help you in some way even if it is not directly applicable to your career.


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I believe this process of discovery is unique to everyone. My own process has really been defined for me since I joined LinkedIn. I think a positive working environment helps tremendously in finding your passion. However, if that is not the case then reading about the success of others in industries that trigger your interest is a great place to start!


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I believe that's natural for everyone after graduation - where do I go from here? what am I meant to do? how long will it take? I think the world offers limitless possibilities, and it is fine to keep all of your options open. The best advice given to me was to pursue the intersection point between your passion and your skills. Where those come together offers the best chance for success. But you must try out options sometimes many in order to find out what are you most passionate about. And your passion can change over time so don't set limitations on yourself. . .

My degree was in journalism, but I was not specifically set on being a print journalist, rather, finding a way to utilize my skills to gain entry into the entertainment spectrum. From there I used my inquisitive and documentation skills to begin a career in facilities, operations and eventually space planning, construction and design. I needed my skills from studying journalism to ask the right questions and then listen to the answers given in order to turn around successful projects. And then I wove my way into different areas where I could use those skills but continue to learn and try different things - studio/film operations, real estate, consumer products, television operations, and then found my newest passion which is to make a difference on the workplace of the group that tries to make a difference in our world.


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In my case I was majoring in math and did not have any particular plans for career. I the second year of college I took some computer science courses and I discovered that I loved programming computers, so when I graduated I got job as a programmer. This was a just a lucky accident for me - but knowing a lot of math was good preparation for being a software engineer. I've been doing this for over 20 years.

Hopefully what you learn in college will give you more options on deciding what jobs to do. New kinds of jobs are constantly created. For example, when I was in college there was no such thing as a web designer.


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It took me all of high school and 3 years of college before I finally started narrowing down my interests (I felt like I was interested in almost everything)! I would recommend really paying attention to similar topics in school that you like, and then comparing those to your interests (books you like to read, TV shows you like to watch, people you admire, etc), to see if a common theme emerges. If one does, then you can start looking into which careers would be a good fit. Good luck!


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Arianna,

That is a great question! It wasn't until after I had graduated college and was actually in my Master's program that everything really started to click for my career path! I think sometimes it is trial and error. You have to combine skills you are good at with skills you enjoying doing to find that perfect job. Try a job that interests you and if you are not satisfied, figure out what it is that you are not satisfied with and then begin to look for a job that would fulfill that void!


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Hi Arianna,

Don't rush this or feel like it's a negative. You're feeling this way because you haven't experienced what you really want to do with your life yet so consider that you've at least eliminated some things you don't want to do!

I came out of college thinking the same thing, having gotten a Marketing degree as it was a "versatile" degree. I ended up in Recruiting for 5 years, and really enjoyed it, but eventually got burned out. I share that because what you want to do will likely change as you experience new things.

I ended up in my current position in the tech industry purely by happenstance. I'd never pictured myself in the industry but have come to love it. In addition I do a lot of cooking at home, and that's also an interest of mine to possibly looking at later in my career.

What I'm getting at is experience as much as you can, either yourself or through other people. Ask about their jobs or hobbies, and find out what they like and don't like. Those simple questions will tell you if what they say appeals to you, and if so you've found an area of interest!

Hope that's helpful, best of luck!

Chris


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I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. :) There was a column by Mary Schmich, where she (half-jokingly) said:

"Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't."

I would say, pay attention to what excites you now, and what you are getting engaged in... what you are truly drawn to, with all other preconceptions (major, pressures, advice) aside. If you pursue what you are really interested in and WANT to do, rather than what you feel obligated or pressured to do, you'll have far more satisfaction.

Explore your options. If there's a class, speaker, or topic that seems interesting, see what it's all about. Worst case scenario is that you learned that you DON'T want to do that.

I'm not saying give up on what you're doing now; I am saying that you shouldn't feel "locked in" to something. Your career path may keep you in one field for years and years and years of happiness. It could also take you various places. Determine what it is that you want to do, how you want to feel, and what impact you want to make; you might find that you have many options to help achieve that role.


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When I was in high school I wanted to be a police officer and in college I wanted to be a computer programmer but it wasn't until started working that I realized what I was passionate about. I would try either seeking internships or requesting shadowing with people who work in the fields that your are interested and start narrowing down your choices from there.


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At the school that I attended, we were required to take quite a few pre requisition classes before we could continue with the classes that we were interested in.At the time, it was a bit annoying that we had to take classes that wouldn't even go towards our degree. However, looking back I truly believe that this made me more of a well rounded person and gave me a better understanding of what people study outside of the business world. Because of this, it took me about 2 years into college to find what I really wanted to do. Really take advantage of these classes if your campus requires you to do the same as if may change your mind and you might find classes that you love like I did.

Good luck!


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I didn't know either but I decided to follow the path from an upperclassman who I admired. So I went into fiancé. I stayed there for about 17 years and have moved over to social work. The person I admired eventually left finance and started his own company on the best of the west - it is food gift packages from the Seattle area. Don't be too concerned on your first job or what path you start to follow. We all continue to evolve long after college. Get your feet wet and go from there.


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Start by asking yourself - what do I really love? What gets me going in the morning? This is something that can help at least start the process of discovery. Other than that - try lots of things, especially now while you're in school. Go for different internships with different companies in different industries. You'll discover what you're good at, where you feel successful, and then you can grow from there. I think the statistic now is that the average professional will change their career 7 times in their lifetime (not job - career!). I'm personally on number 3 and it's been a fascinating ride. Even though I am on #3, there is still a common thread - I love working, talking, and networking with people and being able to help them in some way. Don't worry - you'll find yours too.


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I decided on a Biomedical Engineering major toward the end of sophomore year in college because I had to pick a major. That was my major, but work in my career has followed different directions throughout the years. When you are continuously learning new things, your work paths can change and vary throughout your career.


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Ask yourself one question: what do you enjoy doing and see if that could be translated to work? Ask around your friends, family, counselors at your career center at school for suggestions on how to take what you like and turn it into a career. Look for people who are doing what you like and see if you can talk to them and perhaps even spend a day with them at their work to check out how their work situation is from day-to-day. Also, don't make money the main thing - find out what you enjoy doing, look for opportunities to do what you love and this will give you experience and then use this experience to find more opportunities where you get paid for what you enjoy doing. Find your passion and the money will follow.


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I didn't choose working in Healthcare, it chose me! I went to college having no idea what to major in. It wasn't until I started volunteering at a place for young troubled teens that I found my calling. Now I get to incorporate my counseling experience with my healthcare experience helping Kidney Disease patients get their medications at a low cost and get to counsel them as well. The best thing I can tell you is to start volunteering somewhere that you have a passion for, then once you start putting yourself out there who knows what opportunities and doors will open for you! Good luck!


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That is a great question. I myself was interested in nursing when I was 18. I went through classes and did hands on work with the elderly. After a year found that that I did not like it as much as I thought I would. Here I am 15 years later doing sales and I love it. I still get to work with people however its a different way then I thought I wanted. I say peruse you degree in what you are interested in you cant go wrong with that.


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Hey Arianna,

First off, don't stress! I know that society, parents, and even peers may pressure you to feel like you NEED to know what you want to do for the rest of your life, but the reality is that interests change, and you don't have to have an answer right now.

My first major in college was criminal justice. I figured out really quickly that I didn't like to memorize law codes, so I changed my major to sports journalism, which then changed to advertising, and eventually changed to PR (Public Relations). The funny part of this, is that now I have a career as a trainer/educator in Social Media (I teach people how to engage and use social media at Dell). My point, is that I changed majors quite a few times, and eventually didn't even go into the field of study of PR. It's not that my degree wasn't important, it's more about the fact that I got the degree.

The other part of this, is that there are many careers out there for you, you just have to think about what you really like, and what makes you happy. I figured out that I like people, I love teaching people, and I love helping. That being said, there are many jobs that fit those requirements. So ask yourself, what is it that's most important to you? Do you like to analyze data? Do you like to help people? Do you like to travel? Think of the things that are most important, and try to find jobs that will allow you to do these things.

Lastly, don't be afraid to change your mind. What you are interested in today, may change tomorrow, or even 5 years from now. Follow your heart, and what you are passionate about at the time, and the rest should fall into place.


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