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What personally helped you decide what major/career to pursue?


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Scott’s Answer

Interesting question because of the inclusion of the word "personally:" There are many factors that help decide which major/or career to pursue, but few are what I would call personal. I personally wanted to make money, and a lot of it. Personally, I disliked biology and all careers related, but I really liked language arts. Consequently, I set my sights on being a lawyer.


My father intervened, refusing to finance any effort toward a degree that would support law. This was personally OK, because I also happened to be pretty good at chemistry, physics, and math, and chemical engineers make money. For better or worse, the more I learned about the subject, the less I liked it. Upon graduation, I personally could not stand chemical engineering but had no idea what career to pursue. After a little professional career counseling, I learned that people with science backgrounds that also had language skills are quite rare and that one could successfully combine the two in a chemical sales career.


So, as you see, the major you choose (or you're forced to choose) may have no relationship to whatever career you have! More important is to have as large a skill-set as possible to keep your options open.


Thank you for your insights! Mireia R.

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Sarah’s Answer

Hi Mireia,

When I started college I was not sure what I wanted to do either and I didn't choose my major until my sophomore year after I had a chance to take different classes. If you're not sure what you want to do, I would recommend going to a school that has many different programs and classes, so you would have the opportunity to try different things. If you have a few ideas of what you want to do, I would also suggest trying to get a job or internship in one of those fields so that you can get a better idea of what the work would actually be like.

Good luck!

Thank you so much for your expert advice! Mireia R.

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Wayne’s Answer

Mireia, I was interested and really enjoyed physics, chemistry and math in high school. I started my college career as a Physics major but when I started talking to some of the other students and professors in the department, I realized that even though I enjoyed it, I did not have the passion necessary to do the work needed. I changed my degree to Chemistry my second semester and again, after talking to my fellow students, professors and councilors in the department, found again that I did not have the passion necessary. All this time I was taking math classes as a minor. When I started my Sophomore year, I changed to a general science degree. This worked well until I talked to some students who grew up on ranches. I had personally grown up on a farm with a few cows, horses, chickens, pigs and goats. I realized that I had really enjoyed working with the animals even though I had fought it while I was at home. I then made the decision to change my degree to agriculture which required me to change my college. I gave up my math minor because again, I did ok, but didn't have a passion for numbers.

In short, I graduated with a degree in Animal Science. Found out I was allergic to animal dander. Taught a meat cutting class at the college and really loved it. I got a job at a meat market and became the assistant manager. Got laid off, started a sales job for food products, found I hated sales, got a job working for a food distribution company and became the operations manager. I got experience driving trucks for this company and found I hated driving large trucks (too nerve wracking). I left that job and got a job as an auto parts distribution center receiving supervisor. I learned to supervise all aspects of the distribution center and when that company went out of business, I was recommended for a job at a Wal-Mart distribution center. I was the shipping manager for that facility, moved to managing the new store setup team and then moved to an order filling manager role. I had to move my family so I left there and got a job as a quality control tech for a food manufacturing facility. I became the traffic manager arranging transportation for our products nationwide. I then got promoted to the quality control manager for one of the other facilities and moved my family again. I did that until I got laid off again. I got a job with a computer company in the manufacturing factory until that company went out of business. I got a job at a laminating company in the R&D department creating and testing laminate material for desks, tables, etc. I kept looking and got a job at the company I am currently working for which is a high tech computer manufacturer and I've been here for 20 years.

My Animal Science degree provided the foundation for all I have done in my career and change has been a constant in my journey. Success has been measured in the skills I gained along the way and the fact that I was able to find something I enjoyed.

Your journey will be what you make it. Don't be afraid of change. A career is not a destination but a life long journey. Enjoy the trip! Good luck in whatever you do.

Wayne recommends the following next steps:

Identify your passion and look for opportunities in that area (athletics, science, math, social science, literature, art, etc.)
Get "Strengths Finder 2.0" from Amazon or local book store
Take the survey and identify your strengths

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Andrei’s Answer

Hello Mireia,
I was in kindergarten when a jet fighter flew over the playground, and instantly I knew that I wanted to work with airplanes. I started to build models and read everything I could about aircraft and just followed that career.
My parents kept pushing me into a medical career, but I gag at the site of blood and can't stand hospitals. That would not have been a situation for me.
I was one of the few lucky exceptions that discovered what I wanted to do early on. This is not the typical experience for most, so don't feel like you did something wrong. I know a lot of people that are in their 40's and still can't decide. I envy some of those, because they keep trying different things.
Start asking yourself "what you like" and "what your strengths are". Try to visualize where would you like to go and what you would like to do. Think of it as planning a road trip, once you have a destination, you can plan a best route to get there. Don't be afraid to try some things. You can start college with basic academics, and settle on a major later. Try some internships or volunteer in places of interest to see if that may be something you want to pursue. Talk to, or research different things, eventually something will come up. Remember that "Sometimes you choose a career, and sometimes the career chooses you".
Good luck.

Thank you so much for your advice! What an amazing quote! Mireia R.

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Megan’s Answer

That's a hard but fun thing to figure out. I have 4 suggestions:

1. Think less about what you want to "do" and more about what you like. What newspaper articles peak and hold your interest? Where does your Internet surfing take you? Are there common themes or subjects you end up reading about? Do you like documentaries? If so, what topics are interesting to you? Take some classes you'd never think to take and see what you think.

2. Think about what doesn't interest you. When your friends are talking about politics, are you completely bored? Knowing what you don't like is half the battle.

3. Think about how you want to live your life. Do you want to be in a lab? Do you want to be able to be outside part of the time? What about travel, do you want to get on a plane every week? If you know some of these answers, it will also help narrow the field.

4. Remember it's a journey. You won't have just one job and it's never a straight line. Most people talk about career lattices instead of career ladders. You'll have a first job and some parts of it will be good (hopefully!) and some parts you won't like; you'll use those learnings and apply them to your next job search. Most of this is just being mindful about what you like and then crafting your job around those insights.

Take the time as a student to experiment. You will stumble onto something and that will lead to something else, etc. Enjoy the ride!

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Laura E.’s Answer

Hi Mireia,

Coming into college I declared an International Relations major because I was interested in learning about world politics; I eventually added an Economics major based on my advisor's recommendation and my enjoyment of the classes. If you want to declare a major coming into college, I would start with something that you are interested in learning about; even if you realize your career goals are heading in a different direction, you will have spent time becoming more informed about one of your interests. Once you are in college, your professors may have ideas about other areas of study (as my advisor did) and can also recommend potential internship sites to look into. Internships are an excellent way to try out both a set of job functions and the type of organization you would like to work for, both of which can help determine an area of study. Plenty of people do not declare a major immediately upon entering college and an internship could help you figure out what you are and are not interested in.

Best of luck!

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Alison’s Answer

Great question, your school and career are a journey and the answer will come.

I initially thought I wanted to be an accounting major with a science minor. I loved science and math and problem solving in high school. After my freshman year I liked my business class more. We didn't have marketing and finance classes in high school, so I wouldn't have known before then. My science classes went from being fun to really complicated, some of that could have been because I skipped my 100 levels since I had AP high school classes. The downside was being a freshman in a sophmore class and it was hard to meet people and get into study groups. But throughout my business classes I enjoyed the subjects. They were challenging and hard work, but I enjoyed learning about the topics.

Take a variety of classes and see which you like more. After taking classes where you have a good time, when you learn a lot and have fun along the way, that's probably a good track to be on!

Good luck!


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Aneree’s Answer

Thats a great question! For some people, they already have an idea of what they want to pursue before they even attend college. But a lot of people, like me, are unsure of what major they want to pursue. In this case, it is good to recognize your passions and see how they align with potential career opportunities. Taking myself as an example, I knew that I wanted to start my professional career as soon as possible and I wanted to pursue something that was lucrative and not too specialized allowing me the opportunity to easily transition into different workstreams. That is why I chose to pursue business, because it allowed me to earn a degree within 4 years and enabled me to qualify for an entry-level position right out of college. In addition, it allowed me to explore different fields within business and align my skill set to help me make a decision one what major to pursue within business.

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Ranna’s Answer

For me it was a major industry trend - which was Computers at the time and the internet was just becoming a trend in the technology industry. I only had a rudimentary knowledge of what computers were and I have an inquiring mind and love to learn so I decided to do a Computer Science degree. It's been 3 decades and its been one great ride as I have learned so much and am still teaching as the technology has changed so much from when I started learning about computers and with the internet being the center of everything now it is evolving everyday!

It is amazing as there are so many areas to explore in this field. I loved it then and I am still loving it as I continue to learn everyday!


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Shana’s Answer

I was in university studying Political Science with a view towards law school. Towards the end of 3rd year, the idea of spending another 4 years in school, then interning, then writing the bar and before I started, I was already exhausted. My mom pointing out I like to argue, and talk, and help people and she suggested I try human resources. Sounded really nutty to me at the time; 30 years ago, HR was the people that paid you and gave you benefits. But I had to do something, so that's what I studied instead, fell into the field and 30 years later, I am still working in the exact same field.


Sometimes, you simply fall into a career that was never intended. Sometimes, it's thought out, but no matter where you end up, pick something you enjoy doing.


Best of luck!


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Doug’s Answer

One thing that really helped me in choosing my major and career path was having great mentors. Your mentors can be your family members or teachers or coaches. I have had several mentors in my life and they have come from different places. It's always great to have people in your life that you can go to for advice who can provide you with great input. I would suggest you choose a major that includes something you personally enjoy, a passion that you have but I would also seek out advice of advisors that you trust who can hopefully help you.


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Victoria’s Answer

I did not know at all that consulting is where I would end up at all. I grew up in an environment where women were not expected to take on roles like this. In college i broke away from that attitude and cultural construct and decided to take on leadership roles and that led me to consulting. I really enjoyed having jurisdiction and ownership of my work. I also really value being a lifelong learner and in this career its nearly impossible to not learn.

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Desiree’s Answer

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do even after I graduated college. I chose a major that I was interested in and allowed me to have the freedom to choose from various job types (Communication). I also minored in English Literature because I enjoyed those classes very much. I worked for various fashion companies for about 10 years and ended up in Banking right after the 2008 crash (fashion/luxury took a huge hit then). While in banking I worked as a teller and eventually worked my way into Commercial Lending where I found my passion and wanted to learn more. I became a sponge, utilized my company's tuition reimbursement program, took night classes in Accounting, and finished their credit training program several years ago. Now, 12 years later, I'm still an underwriter (Accounting/English) and love what I do. That's my career story.

Good luck.

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Kei’s Answer

Hi Mireia.

When I was younger, I have always wanted Science and accepted the fact that Math and I will never work. So I started joining clubs related to Science and I ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Science major in Psychology degree.

Ask yourself what interests you. What is something you enjoy doing? Think of that as something that you would do everyday and will not make you regret doing it over and over again. Find your passion.

My advice is, envision yourself what will make you happy doing something you really like. Ask for guidance from your love ones. I can tell you I have 3 sons and I can see them having different careers in future. I don't tell them what I want them to be but I always assure them that whatever career they wanted to pursue in the future, as long as that's what they are passionate about, I would support them 10 fold!

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Ayush’s Answer

I would say it would be to follow your passion, it makes it easier to enjoy your job. However, you should take into account how competitive the world is today when it comes to job opportunities and that some jobs sooner or later will be automated therefore, there is always a risk if your passion does not revolve around something that can't be automated any time soon.

Hence, my advice would be to research potential jobs that would be required in the nearby future and try to find passions around it, and try your best to be good at it.

However, do all this on your own accord and try not to let anyone convince you that whatever you end up going with is wrong otherwise.

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Tanya’s Answer

I think for all of us, picking a career is a potential big mistake, we all doubt if it was the right choice and a lot of people are not even working on something remotely close to what they majored in, and this is the beauty of it. I'm not saying it really doesn't matter, I'm saying you can always correct course, find new pathways or change your mind completely!
I majored in systems engineering, and half way through I realized I wasn't just bad at programming, I hated it! I wasn't feeling great about other "engineering subjects" either, like networking or databases, I felt lost for a while but I figured "I'm already here, there must be something for me"... but there wasn't I finished my career with absolutely no idea of what I wanted BUT I did know I wanted something related to technology (at least), so after a few jobs I found myself working for a large retail company purchasing technology and it felt right, later on financial stuff came along, learning was painful but I managed, and afterwards project management. After more than 7 years of having started working I found what I wanted to do.
It happens to all of us without clarity of outcome, we stumble from job to job, we accept new responsibilities that sound exiting and we taste all ice cream flavors we can get our hands on, in the hopes of finding our true calling, and most of us find it, but some get lost in a meaningless job they don't like. The key is not to be afraid of losing your comfort zone for a while, try different things, learn everything you can, there are thousands of certifications diplomas and courses out there that can fluff your CV and help you discover what you like, just pick a line to start with: health, science, engineering, administrative, arts, politics and whatever other lines your university has to offer and you're good to go wherever life has planned for you.
And hey! if you finish college and a few years later you discover you liked something else, you can always go back and start over, life is short to have a miserable job!

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Al Fernando’s Answer

Hi Mireia,
Mine was based on a need that then developed in a career plan path over time.
I needed to make money and I had a set of skills that were transferrable to Sales. I got in and learned as much as I could. It so happened that eventually my values and my career in sales aligned. Helping my teams to achieve their objectives, helping my customers to be successful, coaching, mentoring, achieving targets, working towards a vision and goal and also achieving my financial goals.

What I'd say is lean towards what you love. If you start on a path that you realise that you don't enjoy, take the learnings and skills and change direction. It's never too late.

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Kristine’s Answer

Funnily enough, what helped me decide what to major in college is working a career in another field. It not only helped me realize i want more, but also helped me realize what i was good at

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Norbert’s Answer

Everything is a journey and the answer will come. What helped me to choose my major in college was my strength and career growth and as well as opportunities that my major offered after college. I wanted to do something that I knew I would enjoy enough and also make a living. I knew in high school, I was good at Math, Science. Therefore, engineering was the way to go.

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Rachel’s Answer

<span style="background-color: transparent;">Collegeboard.org is a great resource for this! I poured through the pages of universities all over the U.S. when I was a senior in high school. Collegeboard was my go-to site! They put all of the information in one place and it is very easy to use. They even have various filters you can apply to see only colleges that have programs you are interested. To determine academic rigor, look at the admissions requirements, G.P.A. of past admitted applicants, SAT/ACT scores, class rank etc. This will give you an idea of what scores and grades you need to be accepted. However, don't be discouraged your application will be reviewed based on the full picture! College-board will help you get an idea of what is most important to the specific school you are applying to.</span>


This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Chat with your Guidance Counselor</span>
  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Create a Collegeboard.org account</span>
  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Start using CollegeBoard as a resource to look up schools.</span>



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Alnaya’s Answer

I took a lot of personality and career tests throughout middle and high school. The results gave me a good idea on what I would be good at. Also, taking electives is good.

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Norbert’s Answer

Everything is a journey and the answer will come. What helped me to choose my major in college was my strength and career growth and as well as opportunities that my major offered after college. I wanted to do something that I knew I would enjoy enough and also make a living. I knew in high school, I was good at Math, Science. Therefore, engineering was the way to go.

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Jim’s Answer

I applaud you for being open and honest about not knowing what you want to do. At 18, how could you know what the next big thing is in technology, medicine , etc. Colleges LOVE to have bright students come in with their options open. Undecided is always a top category for accepted students. People used to think that if you did not know what you wanted to do at college application, you were lazy or in prepared. Now it is perceived as wise and acceptable path forward.

I always encourage students to explore undecided programs at colleges they visit. Three out of my 4 children went into college undecided. All three graduated on time with a major that they love. Two did not even know the major existed when they entered college. The only child who went in with a decided direction changed courses twice during undergrad and then went on to law school in a completely different direction.

I will also say that although you think you don't know what you want to do, you DO know your strengths and dislikes. Math, Compassion, public speaking, care giving, etc. Knowing your strengths, interests and frankly what you do NOT want to do will help when you sit down with a councilor.

Good Luck!

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Tamecheo’s Answer

This is a great question! I started my university as “Undecided” and changed to “Business Management” within a short period of time. I did not want to waste additional time in school so I selected a major I knew would be accepted in many areas of the workforce. I took on more responsibility at my first job as a Crew Trainer and always took on more responsibility as I am a leader by heart. My major worked in my favor as after graduation, I entered a company as an intern to become the manager of several departments in retail. I then joined AT&T as a front-line rep who quickly worked my way into management. With that said, consider your current interests, your past and/or current work history, experiences, etc. These things will lead you to your major. The good thing about majors is, many people do not have careers in their field of study. If you do, all the better, but it’s not a requirement in many cases. Consider where you see yourself in 5, 10, 20, 30 plus years. It is often said, if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. This is the ultimate goal for many. Go with your heart and gut. You will make the right decision. Best wishes in all that you do in life Mireia!!!

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Megan’s Answer

I remember when I was in 6th grade we had to prepare a presentation on what we wanted to be and I had absolutely no idea so I picked a career counselor! At this point in your life, I would worry less about what you want to "do" and think more about identifying the things that you like. For some of us this is harder than it sounds. Pay attention to the articles in the paper that peak and then hold your interest. What types of things do you search for on the Internet that you find interesting? Take some classes in areas you would never think to take (and try to ignore whether the professor is good or bad, what do you think about the subject?).

Also pay attention to what you don't like and what doesn't keep your interest. If you're bored halfway through a news article on a particular topic, you're probably not going to want to think about it in a job for 8-10 hours everyday. When you hang out with friends, are there topics that they are interested in that bore you to tears? Paying attention to those kinds of things can really help eliminate potential areas.

It's also helpful to think about what how you might want to live your life. Do you like the idea of working in lab? Do you want to travel a lot (keeping in mind travel for work is very different from traveling for fun)? Do you want to be in an office or outside? Do you like a set schedule or do you like lots of flexibility? If you know some of this, it can help you narrow some options.

Finally, keep in mind it's a journey. Very few people have one job. You will try many things, some you'll like, some you won't and you'll learn and adjust based on those experiences. Enjoy being a student now and use this time to experiment. You'll stumble onto something, I promise.




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Sanj’s Answer

Hi, Mireia.


When I was in high school, I was more interested in my county riding stable than in academics. I decided to study equine science in college. Adults tried to talk me out of it, saying there wasn't enough money in it for me to buy and enjoy my own horse someday. Undeterred, I went to college to study horses.


After a brief, unpleasant stint on the horse show circuit, I decided it wasn't for me. On a lark, I attended an open audition for a holiday production. With no education or experience on the entertainment front, I worked my way through the ranks and spent plenty of time in community theatre. I got my first big break when I was the only one on my team who had experience in both entertainment and horses. That unusual requirement and the subsequent move changed my career path in ways I couldn't imagine.


During all of this time, I'd continued school for fun and earned additional degrees in communications. I work in Public Affairs now, but I use every bit of everything I've learned along the way. The classes I took and the college experiences I had make my contributions to my company mine.


Whether you study your passion, or study something practical, soak it all in. What you learn stays with you during your career and will surprise you in delightful ways. Best of luck to you -- you'll do well!


All best,


Sanj


Ps - I have my horses in my back yard.


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Jessica’s Answer

Hi Mireia,
I was actually in the same boat as you my senior year of high school. I knew I would be attending college, but I just wasn't sure what exactly I wanted to do. Think about what you like to do and what you are good at. I've always been great at building relationships and being around people, so I decided to go to school for Hotel and Restaurant management. I still wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do, so I began taking different types of classes. I stumbled upon a wine appreciation class, and from there fell in love. I took an internship with my company and am currently working for a same beverage distributor and have been with the company for 8 years.

The best advice is to find something you love to do and research careers around that, but also don't worry if you end up changing your mind down the road.


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Juan’s Answer

Great question. Originally my personal interest was the dominant factor I used that to decide what college major to complete. This was also the main factor I used to determine the graduate degree I completed. Looking back, I believe this was shortsighted. I have learned there are three things to consider when deciding on a major and career: what you're good at, what you like, and what is valued in the current workforce.

Finding the right combination of these three is a both a journey and a choice. These can change over our lifetime. We need to learn to be adaptable. This can mean learning something completely new or advancing what we already know. The work and educational experiences we gain becomes more important over time compared to our college major or initial career choice. Learn something in whatever occupation you pursue. Transferring and adding new skills is vital to a successful and fulfilling career.

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Michael’s Answer

Great question! When I started College I was not sure what I wanted to do. During the first year you will have prerequisites that you will have to take. During this time I also took some additional classes in different fields to see which ones that I really enjoyed. From here I was able to make my decision and that was the path that I took. Also, during your summers I would try to find some different internships that you might be interested with. This could maybe help you narrow your search or even place you in the right field that you would like to peruse. Hope that this helps!

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Sarah’s Answer

1. Choose something you enjoy working on at Uni / College...
2. Research the potential earnings of the industry and roles.

I chose marketing as it was fun, creative and also the potential earning capacity was attractive.

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Desiree’s Answer

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do even after I graduated college. I chose a major that I was interested in and allowed me to have the freedom to choose from various job types (Communication). I also minored in English Literature because I enjoyed those classes very much. I worked for various fashion companies for about 10 years and ended up in Banking right after the 2008 crash (fashion/luxury took a huge hit then). While in banking I worked as a teller and eventually worked my way into Commercial Lending where I found my passion and wanted to learn more. I became a sponge, utilized my company's tuition reimbursement program, took night classes in Accounting, and finished their credit training program several years ago. Now, 12 years later, I'm still an underwriter (Accounting/English) and love what I do. That's my career story.

Good luck.

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Lola’s Answer

I am currently in public accounting working for one of the Big 4 firms. They way I learned that I want to purse a career in accounting field was when I was in the undergrad program in the business management program. At the time I wanted to go to Law school. After having conversations with attorneys, shadowing them, volunteering at a law firms I realized law was not something I wanted to pursue. However, I really enjoyed accounting courses and they made sense to me. After graduating I decided that I wanted to work in the industry and make sure that this is something that I was passionate about. Working in the real world helped me realize that yes, in fact, I want to pursue this career in the future and that's when I decided to pursue a graduate degree and entered public accounting. My advise would be, to try volunteer, work, and see if that's something that you envision yourself doing for the rest of your life. Hope this helps. Good luck!

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Cristina’s Answer

Hi Mireia,

I also was unsure of what I wanted to study. I had a lot of interests but no strong passion for any of them in particular, and I couldn't see where I wanted my career to go. I settled on political science at first because I found it fascinating and had enjoyed the social sciences in high school. But after my third semester, I felt uncertain of how I would use the degree and whether it would be a good fit. I had an interest in writing, and when I talked to an advisor, he suggested I major in communications. So I switched majors and got my degree in that. Now, after 11 years working in marketing communications, I'm in graduate school getting a library science degree.

Many of my friends also had similar uncertainties, and it can definitely be a challenge to choose a path for yourself. It's a very personal journey, with nobody's experience being exactly the same. But I've outlined some suggested tips below that I hope might be helpful to you.

Cristina recommends the following next steps:

Look through college websites at the requirements for various majors and see if they sound interesting to you. Many programs will list the courses you can take and even offer their course catalog online so you can read the descriptions of the courses.
Look at job descriptions on job boards to see if there are jobs that would interest you in the future, and then see what majors are preferred for that job (it's usually toward the bottom of the description).
Choose something you're truly interested in, even if it doesn't seem all that practical (that's advice I wish I had followed myself). Enjoying what you study and do is so important.
Consider taking general courses in the first year of school without deciding on a major right away, if you're still unsure. Sometimes taking those courses can help you get ideas.
Consider doing some volunteer work and/or job shadowing before you start school to get a better idea of your interests and to network with others who can give you ideas for careers/majors you might not even have thought of.

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