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How do you know that the career path you are going down is the right one for you?

I have been undecided on my major for a year and I worry about choosing the right one for me. It feels like a lot of pressure to choose a career path that I will stay on for the rest of my professional career when I am only 19 years old. How will I know when I have chosen the right major/career? #college #college-major #decidingmajor #career #career-choice

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Nathan’s Answer

Have you considered that you actually don't need to choose what you are going to do for the rest of your life right now? I know that's kind of a strange thought, since people have asked us what we are going to be when we grow up since we were very young.

Now more than ever though, people tend to move around in their careers a lot more. I work at a university career centre, and one of the ways we like to talk about careers is that it is okay to be uncertain, and we actually recommend avoiding creating long term career plans 5-10 years into the future.

This is because our futures tend to be moving targets, which largely depend on some factors outside of our control, such as the economy, labor market, jobs becoming increasingly automated, and many others. Our preferred future also changes based on our own experiences. When you volunteer somewhere, or take a new course in school, or get a new part-time job, those experiences and what we think about them inform what kind of careers we want to have.

The best advice I can give, is pick a program you are interested in, regardless of if you can see a job for you at the end of it. I know that is a scary thought, but while education is undoubtedly important, our careers also depend on many other factors. Try planning just a few steps ahead: this could mean picking your major, volunteering somewhere new, and joining a new student group. After you have done these things, pause and reflect on what you liked or disliked about them. Has that given you any new ideas about what you might want to do for your career? Repeat this process regularly, and you will be well on your way to building effective career management skills.

It is okay to feel uncertain, because careers are unpredictable. Also try talking to academic and career advisors if you are still unsure where to begin. Good luck!

Great answer Nathan! To clarify: are you suggesting that the difficulty of "knowing for sure" that a career is "right" means that Taylor should avoid deciding on a career at all, or would you say that Taylor should still continue to try to pick something to start with, but just not be as stressed about "getting it wrong"? Jared Chung BACKER

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Ken W.’s Answer

It is quite simple really. Do what you love, and become a true master of your craft.
Right thinking will lead to right action, and right action fused with honest intentions and goodness,
will undoubtedly attract all that you could ever need to accomplish your good work; furthermore, you
gain an understanding of YOURSELF; an understanding of the REAL you

DO NOT concern yourself with money; it is entirely too distracting.

Master the art of what YOU truly love, and you WILL become the wealthiest of all persons with whom
we share this planet.

I grant you this; KNOW THYSELF, and if you succeed then you will have COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING and
BALANCE within. In this way you will hold the answers to mankind's most pressing questions.

Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?

O! Let Not The Flame Die Out!

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Kellee’s Answer

Let me add to the previous answers as well. When companies are hiring talent from undergrads, they are not as focused on knowledge expertise as you may think. Unless you know you want a path as specific as investment banking, where a finance major is essential, companies tend to consider all majors when they are hiring undergraduates. They want to know if you can learn, think, communicate intelligently, work well with others, and fit their culture. Companies usually have education and training programs to get you up to speed on the work and your responsibilities anyway. These sometimes start as early as your acceptance of the job offer. They know you're still a work in progress. That's why interview skills are at least as important, and sometimes more important, than majors. Don't neglect getting support from your career center in this area. A stellar academic performance and awesome major may not get you that first job if you can't impress the interviewers with your stellar communication skills and awesome personality.

Once you figure out some paths you may want pursue, work with your career center to understand classes might be useful in the job. Still, primarily focus selecting classes based on what you love and what lights you up (as others have stated), but don't be afraid to explore something you never considered. Let's face it, you don't know what you don't know, and you'll never know until you try it. It took me going to grad school after working several years to learn I loved process design more than software, and discover that management consulting was a great fit for me. It's never too late to change, and change happens all the time.

Kellee recommends the following next steps:

Take a free online career/personality assessment. They are not perfect tools, but the results could give you some ideas and revelations about yourself. Here are some suggestions: https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/best-free-career-assessment-tools. Also, check to see if you career center gives you free access to www.careerleader.com. Many colleges/universities have an account with this organization, or similar ones.
Don't sweat it. It'll all come together. Just go out and explore. And have fun doing it! :-)

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Robin’s Answer

Hi, Taylor - I agree with you that it tends to put on a lot of pressure when you try to see your whole career journey in front of you while you are still in the midst of learning. Nathan has offered some really wise insight here that I would like to echo. Notice what fascinates you...what lights you up...what you could be engaged in all day that doesn't feel like work. That is often a good cue not only for a decision about your major but how you might like to engage in that topic over time. Also, good news: in my experience, you can always change your mind and change your path. I have had probably six careers over the years but could not have told you during undergrad that I would have been doing exactly that. Build that muscle to check in with yourself and let that internal compass guide you, knowing you only need to write a page of your story at a time vs. the entire book. Good luck!