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How do I figure out what career I'd like to pursue in the future?

All my life, I've only been exposed to the most generic careers. ie. careers in the medical field, law, computer science, engineering, education. I've done research, but because I've only seen those select few careers in action, I'm not really sure what interests me. School isn't exactly helpful either, as what we're learning is all very common core, and has nothing to do with the real world and our future careers. #career #career-paths #career-choice

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Kelly’s Answer

Hi Emily!

You know, even adults well into their careers continue to ask the question, "what should I do with my life/career...?" - which suggests that most of us tend to do what we think we "should," rather than what we might love, which leads to a lot of regret, burnout, frustration.
There are things you can consider that will help you create a path that you will love.

Consider what you love doing, make a list even if the thing seems odd or impossible. Do you love spending time in nature? Solving problems? Planning crazy parties? Singing? Watching movies? Taking apart the toaster to figure out how it works? What are the activities that you've done since childhood, that light you UP? What kinds of activities that, when you're doing them, you lose a sense of time passing, or you just feel happy, connected, peaceful?

What are your values? Do you dream of making the world a better place? Do you love animals? Traveling? Spirituality? Human connection? Justice? Equality?

What does success mean to you? Financial independence, personal fulfillment, freedom to see the world, creating a family?

If money weren't a factor (or the fear of not making enough), what would you want to do?

What if anything was possible? What if you could step outside of "should," "reasonable," "practical"? What if you could do something that no one has done in quite the same way? What if you could just make it up and do it, and it worked?

I'd suggest spending time with questions like these and see what you come up with. This is your life, your one chance to be Emily. What do you want to create?

If who you're being, and what you're doing is aligned, if you're not focusing on "the goal" but enjoying the whole process, if you awaken each day looking forward to what you get to do, if you know that you matter and you make a positive difference, you're going to create something amazing.

There's no "right" way, you get to make it up. Emily, have an awesome time!
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Chelsie’s Answer

Hi Emily!

I completely hear you and what a valid question. I wish I had the courage to ask it when I was in college still becuase I was definitely feeling the same as you. I actually changed my major a few times so it took me an extra year to complete college (as well as an extra year of debt that I regret now). I wish I knew then to get my degree in something broad like business, because unless you actually somehow magically know what you want to be one day there is no need to specialize until you figure it out!

I am not sure I have the perfect answer for you, but what I can share is what I did and how I have grown and developed to where I am currently in my career which I am very happy with.

I started college pursuing Nursing, becuase I thought I had to choose and wanted to sound good to those who asked me what I was going to college for. I did not end up liking Nursing, after I completed 3 clinical semesters and I was shocked that the actual job in the hospital walk around all day and administering meds and change bandages. So I changed colleges and had no idea what to do for a major so I did something I enjoy, Communications with emphasis in marketing and advertising. However upon graduation finding a job was hard unless I wanted to move far away, so I applied to things close to home which were insurance carriers while waitressing and working in a pharmacy in the interim.

My first job after earning my degree was as an Auto Claims Adjuster, I figured I would do that until I found a job I really wanted. What I learned during the first year of my job in a big insurance company was that there was SO many jobs you could do and there was SO much room for growth potential. I got involved in some local groups at work and started building my network and learning about the different departments and roles. I looked at internal job postings and saved the ones I thought sounded interesting and started using their requirements lists to work on my development. I went from Auto claims, to Property Claims, to call center management to where I am now, Underwriting which I really love. I never in a million years would have thought when I was in college that one day I would hold the title of Small Commercial Underwriter, but here I am, and I have so many options ahead of me and avenues I can go within my career becuase of my background and finding myself.

Now I am working on my CPCU Designation to get my specialization which is looked at in my industry like a Masters in Underwriting and will help me meet my career goals moving forward. Unfortunately I am still digging out of a pile of un-necessary debt from my unknown years, and if I could do it over I would have just gotten a business degree from a state school and when I found my passion got my masters in something related and that is relevant to my job like I am doing now with my CPCU.

Not sure if this helps but I figured I would share my perspective where I happened to luck into finding something I love, but I could have done it with a lot less debt which is my only regret.
Thank you comment icon Chelsie, This is awesome, and is exactly the sort of true-life story today's teens need to hear. I'm so happy for you that you have mastered the art of marketing yourself using transferable job skills. I love that you use the job announcements as a template to career development. Don't beat yourself up over that fifth year. How the heck is anyone supposed to know where they're headed if they've never been there before? Kim Igleheart
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Francisco’s Answer

Hi Emily!

This is a great question, and something a big percentage of high school students go through. There's many ways to find a career that doesn't involve your classes or choosing for that limited array of careers. I always recommend to look into your interests, hobbies, passions, groups or organizations to belong to and if there's anything in there that'd you'd like to make a career out of. For example, if someone is very passionate about working out, maybe they can study exercise science or kinesiology. Or maybe if you enjoy the arts you can be a theater major or music major. There's an ocean of careers, in college or trade schools and beyond that you could look into.

My advice is to explore things you enjoy or the jobs of people you look up to and see what careers are close to that. Some of them might be part of the careers you mentioned, and others might be professions you might have never thought of. Also, you could look at the list of degrees offered at different universities or community colleges and just see what pops-up. There's general sciences like biology, physics, chemistry. Social sciences like psychology and sociology. Business majors like marketing, finance, accounting, or management. General fields like communications and languages. Overall, I'm sure there is something beyond the typical stuff that you might enjoy, you just gotta take some time to think and research about it. Also, if there's anything that seems interesting try finding someone who works in that area or try to find Youtube videos on that field so you can hear about the career from someone in that profession.

Hope this helps, and if you have any questions on specific areas I'm sure this site can be very useful to answer your queries.

Best of luck!
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Isabel’s Answer

Hi Emily T,

Explore what things you like doing, what things you like learning about that give you joy. Picking a career is hard and as well a a major. Look at colleges where you live and see what they have to offer that you may possibly have interest in. Give yourself sometime to think about this kind of decision making its big milestone in a persons life. Life changes for people, people can start with one career end up doing something totally different and that's perfectly okay. Be consider and be gentle with yourself on this, this hard and its better to not rush it and put yourself down for not knowing. I hope these suggestions were hopeful.
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Matt’s Answer

Honestly, you may find that this changes depending on the year, and that's alright. I came out of undergrad not knowing what I wanted to do and pursued a grad program in a general field, partly to learn more about the career paths of that field, which is a categorically ridiculous way to think about furthering your education.

That probably isn't the path for everyone, but it shows you hopefully that this is a problem everyone faces. You can try to whittle down a current passion by pushing further into that field or you can do what most end up doing, trial & error.

1. Whichever path you choose, find someone in that general field and set up informational interviews. Just talk to people about their paths, their day-to-days and see if that's something that interests you.
2. Take an educated leap, go for something you think may hold value for you.
3. Don't be discouraged, your views and wants will continue to change, and what you do for work can change along with them.

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Darakhshan’s Answer

Hi Emily,
I can completely understand how you feel about this. I've had the same experience in my school, not knowing how many options are out there.
How about I provide you with some broad categories (excluding the core fields that you've mentioned), then you can find the possible careers within those easily.

1) Let's begin with Finance, most highlighted field (Wall street is the symbol of that). There are numerous exciting careers. You could be a financial analyst, a banker, journalist, investment/ M&A advisor, or a venture capitalist. Endless possibilities.
2) Then there's Economics, if you're passionate about research regarding development and society. With that there are so many careers to bring improvement to your society. World bank hires most people with Economics degree.
3) Besides that, there's Psychology which is an important field as we, as a society, are opening up about our mental health. Endless possibilities (psychologist, therapist) in that field as well.
4) Then comes History, which is really interesting. You can become a Museum Curator, Archivist, and so on.
5) Next is Computer Science or degrees related to it. So many growing opportunities in this field. You could be anything from a Web designer to a Security Analyst.
6) How about Business Studies, you could be your own boss or be involved in the management positions of companies. There are further opportunities within.
A) You can become a Marketeer where you'll design the whole marketing campaigns (like advertisements you see on TV, social media or through offline resources).
B) A Human Resource personnel handling the salaries, policies and everything about the workplace environment/ employees.
C) Could opt Supply Chain where you are responsible for handling the inventory, its timely arrival and delivery, contacting suppliers and other aspects. A rising field after the COVID-19 pandemic.
7) Media and communications if you aspire to become a journalist or a news anchor.
8) Geology or Geophysics where you can study the planet. NASA recruits them in a great number as they are exploring other planets.
9) Last but not the least, a teacher who plays a significant role in our lives, which you can be in any field you like.

It's a raw structure, you need to read in detail about these on internet/books, see documentaries and every aspect to decide if it interests you or maybe not. I'll leave it upto your digging.

I hope it helps! Cheers!
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Gloria’s Answer

Hi Emily,

The short answer for me is that you begin with you. What interests you? What natural abilities and talents do you possess that you would like to have in your every day work life? Sometimes it can be hard to know what is possible, when your environment limits you to certain things. That is why going to college can be one of the best ways for you to get exposed to what you don't know. I know it feels like you need to go to college knowing what you want, but most people change their majors when they get there. Why? Because they learned about something that they had never considered before.

Now college can be expensive, so how do you get the exposure to new things with less expense? You start to explore things that you had never considered doing before. Since you are in school, can you choose your own electives? I would say take a class that you would never consider taking ever. Take that one so you can learn if the subject is what you think or if it is something else. I took acting classes which seemed frivilous at the time, but allowed me to be a better trainer when a job presented itself. I would also recommend volunteering with various organizations. You can be exposed to different experiences this way and meet new people who may have different careers that you had never considered. Getting out of your comfort zone is one of the main ways to learn more about the potential jobs that are out there.

Gloria
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Nusrat’s Answer

Hi Emily!

Theres a wealth of information out there with so many possibilities it is really difficult to decide. There are few key things I can recommend that helped me navigate the sea of options

- Doing lots and lots of reading/volunteering/internships JUST to find interest. I realized that for some field for example I volunteered to help rehab a property for low income families - I could not get into the real estate game in the hands on capacity but when I volunteered to shadow some one at a hospital lab, it set a different spark in me in sciences. Try to do as much volunteering/hobbies when in high school/college just to discover your interests. Theres no easier path to career than dipping your feet into the field in baby steps

- Keeping an open mind that you will change your mind! I wanted to be lots of things when I was trying to figure out a career as a high school/college graduate but realized that there is not one size fits all

- Remember that many of the geniuses were master of many interests (Leonardo Da Vinci, Marie Curie, Al Biruni Ben Franklin) - so dont feel confined to a specific field...get a w2 job after graduating but keep your interests alive through hobbies/side gigs until you transition to doing what you enjoy (this is if you havent figured out what field you are passionate about!)

Good luck!
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Meghan’s Answer

Hey, Emily--

I totally empathize with what you're feeling right now. I found myself in this exact position coming out of college. What I realized was, as a young adult, I was fed this idea that all my education would culminate to a career I would spend my entire working life pursuing and advancing in--"climbing the ladder" as some might say. I learned I had been subscribing to someone else's idea of "success" when I didn't even know there were other options and definitions of success available to me. While the idea of being certain about a specific career or profession feels good, safe, and secure, the truth of the matter is people who are certain about a lifelong profession are in the minority these days. It's really ok (and normal!) to not know what you want to do and feel like you don't even know what your options are! What's most important, in my opinion, is that you stay curious and just keep doing SOMETHING. For those of us who have broad interests or even limited exposure to different careers or ways of life, sometimes the best way to figure out what you are interested in or want to do is to figure what you AREN'T interested in or DON'T want to do--that information is just as important and powerful. Also, worth mentioning, there are so many jobs out there that will not require a specific degree or training, and you will acquire specific skills and capabilities within those roles. The sneaky thing about those common core classes is that they are actually helping you develop things like time management, critical thinking, written and verbal communication, interpersonal skills, etc. These things can be huge in developing and advancing a career in almost any field!

So, my advice:
1. Make a list of everything you might be interested in, that you already know about, or that you'd like to know more about. Let this be a living, breathing list--add to it when you hear about something new, cross something off when you find out you are totally not into that area/subject/path.
2. Check out onetonline.org (a career exploration and job analysis site).
3. Talk to people. Ask questions. Browse here on Career Village. Google/youtube "a day in the life of a...". Let yourself go down a rabbit hole of related topics--you never know what you might stumble upon! One of my favorite questions to ask people (even random strangers!) is "what is your favorite job you've ever had?" or, even, "what is your dream job?" Just get curious about the people around you!
4. Think about the things you enjoy doing. Within those things can you see what your strengths are and how you're using them? Let that guide your research (e.g. google "creative thinking jobs" or "jobs for people who love organization").
5. Try things. As much as possible try things out, either via volunteer opportunities, internships, side hobbies, community groups, actual paying jobs, etc. (I would often find myself trying to THINK my way into the right answer, when, really, I needed to TRY/EXPERIENCE my way into some answers).
6. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to have all the answers or feel any level of certainty. Just take one step in a direction. You are free to change your mind and your direction at any time! Keep your mind open, stay curious, don't compare yourself to others, and you will prove to yourself you can navigate your way to whatever is right for you (and that whats "right" can change over time, too).

Good luck, we're all rooting for you!
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Eavenson’s Answer

Good question, and one that many people continue to ask themselves most of their lives!

While many careers have specific "career paths" or required education or training, the best way to figure out if a career is for you is to get an internship or entry-level job in that industry. Hands-on experience will allow you to better understand roles and responsibilities and what's actually involved in the day to day. It will also give you the opportunity to speak with people that have been in those jobs for years. If you know what you might want to do, research what it takes to become successful in that job and decide if you're ready to commit to that adventure...and try and get a job working for someone who does that job.

As we experience life, we're exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking, so the career you choose out of school may actually not be the career you have later in life. Deciding on a career will be influenced by your personal experiences and those around you, especially your family, but ultimately it should be about figuring out a way to do something or things you love while at the same time supporting the lifestyle you want.

Think about what you enjoy doing the most, i.e. what brings you joy or what are you passionate about, and figure out if there's a way to make that your career. For example, do you like problem solving, do you like building or fixing things, do you like helping others, do you like teaching, do you like coding, do you like to sit at a desk, do you like the outdoors, etc. Finding a career/job where you genuinely care about what you're doing is important, and fun!

Likewise, maybe where you'll be working is more important to you now then the specific job itself. For example, do you want to spend your time in the woods, on the water, in the mountains, in a museum, in NYC or Paris, etc. If you're passionate about living somewhere specific or traveling or not being at a desk much, than focus on finding a job in a location that will make you happy. Maybe that means initially not taking the job you exactly want but that will provide you with experience and training and potentially open up other doors.

While it's important to "build your resume" to help position yourself for that perfect job it's also important to follow your dreams. Maybe taking a job that isn't exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life but teaches you specific skills or allows you to spend time doing things you love is the right move while you're still in school or just out of school. That being said, many internship programs hire out of their summer programs so if you want to work at a specific company try and get a summer job there between your junior and senior year.
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