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How do I decide on a career?

Everyone asks me what I am going to major or minor in, in college and I still have no idea. I do not even know where to start on deciding what I want to be. #help #undecided #future

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Charlotte’s Answer

It's a big question; one that many people who already have 'careers' ask themselves, too. Most of us will have 12+ jobs over our lifetime (Bureau of Labor Statistics via "Getting from College to Career" by Lindsay Pollak) so it can be helpful to think in terms of what do I want to do next and what working environment suits me best. The only way to begin answering these questions is to gain experience with different fields. This can be done via informational interviewing, job shadowing, volunteering, internships, etc. You likely won't know what suits you until you see it, hear it, do it. That means taking action and exploring opportunities early.

I wanted to work with animals so I majored in biology. Big mistake. I got a D in my Bio 101 class and was filled with dread whenever I entered a lab. After doing an informational interview with someone at the local humane association, I realized that there was an entire field of nonprofit management that I had never known about. I spent the next few years interning at the humane association and volunteering at the animal shelter and it really solidified my desire to study nonprofit management and focus on animal welfare. I probably never would have discovered this path online or in a book. I was only able to discover it by talking to people and spending time in the field.

Charlotte recommends the following next steps:

Informational Interviews

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Doina’s Answer

Dear Trissa,

First ask yourself what you see yourself doing in 5-10 years. Be honest with yourself, make a list of strengths and weaknesses. Ask people close to you to make a list of your strengths and weaknesses as well and compare it with yours, to give you a deeper insight to help you decide.

And remember, we can major in something but along our way there will be other opportunities that will arise for us and say 'yes' to everything comes in your way.

Secondly, when you start developing your career path you will discover yourself even more. Observe your behavior, see what excites you, see what changes you, see what makes you wake up in the morning. We acquire some skills only when we actually starting to work on something. We are not born taught, give yourself the chance to experience more than a single job role, diversify; because you have so much time to explore.

Doina recommends the following next steps:

Be honest with yourself and make a list of strengths and weaknesses, compare it with the list of 5-6 friends and see what you have in common. It's important to know how you see yourself when no external action acts upon you.

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Pouyan’s Answer

I have 2 main answers in regard to this question:

1. Ask yourself what you are passionate about and enjoy doing, whether you got paid for it or not. What are your innate talents? What skills do you already possess that are second nature to you or that you have a lot of experience in?
—This is the best way to go about deciding upon almost anything in life including a job. It prevents you from ending up in a job you hate and instead helps you line up with your greater purpose in life.

2. What type of job interests you the most, and why is it so appealing? For example, if you could have your dream job what does that look like? Are there particular skills you hope to acquire through this job? Like learning how to specialize in a particular area or get training for it that will benefit you in your future endeavors?
—Landing a job for this reason would help build up your resume.
—Its a great way to explore and try new things out to see if a particular role or job position suits your personal development and professional desires (especially if you really don’t know yet)

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Erica’s Answer

I like to reflect on the IKIGAI concept with my clients. It is a Japanese concept that means "A reason for being." Basically, you think of things you love, what the world needs, what you could get paid for, and what you are good at. The intersection between these lists would be your IKIGAI. If you can find something you love, that the world needs, for which you could be paid for, and in which you are good, that would be ideal! Some other reflections are:
- When you are 95, what would you like to look back and see done?
- What is the one thing that you enjoy so much that you would like to do every day for the rest of your life?
- What makes you happy?
- What do people ask for you to do? What are you known for amongst family and friends?

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Mitzi’s Answer

Hello Trissa!

When you look towards a Career, you have to be honest with yourself. First, what type of things do you enjoy doing? Second, what things do you do well? Third, do you have any aversions or limitations that might keep you from being successful in a specific environment / job / lifestyle?

People say "do what you love & you'll never work a day in your life". The truth is that finding that One Thing usually takes a couple of starts and stops. So, with that in mind, where do you want to START your Professional Life? Try things on, see how they fit, then decide. Go to college and focus on your Core Requirements for the first 18 months. Learn about things & see what strikes a chord in your heart. Then you can decide on a major or initial focus for your Life's work.

Truly, I hope this helps. My best to you!


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Latika S.’s Answer

Hi Trissa! Its great to meet you. You have received some great advice thus far. I want to reiterate the importance of identifying what you want out of life. Ask yourself,
1. What do I want out of life?
2. Who is a role model that has impacted my life? What career are they in? Would I be interested in that career?

These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself in deciding what your degree decision.

But remember this, you can do anything you put your heart into. Even if you are still unsure, try attending a community college where you can start out in a general degree program. And once you start taking classes, a subject will peak your interest and you will only want to explore it more.

You got this!

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Lori’s Answer

Check out the site www.humanmetrics.com. It will ask you a series of questions about how you typically respond to specific issues. Don’t overthink it. Your first response is best. It takes about 10-15 minutes and will describe you as one personality type (out of 16 different ones) and will identify possible career options for you based on this

If you don’t understand a particular career, you can search on Indeed.com for similar jobs and read the job description to see if it is something you would enjoy.

Also, consider what your skills are and what you enjoy doing and learning about to help narrow down options.

Good luck!!

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Jeff’s Answer

Hi Tissa,

Great question! You hit a huge anxiety point for many people about to enter college.

You already received some great advise. First and foremost, think about what really excites you. What do you love to do? What areas are you strong in? In my case, I love logic challenges and I'm very creative. I ended up in computer science (back in the stone age) and really enjoyed it, for the most part. However, I started college as a biology major with the goal of becoming a marine biologist. I took an intro computer science class and found my passion! My recollection is that I changed majors once. If you ask my mother she says that I changed majors weekly!

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can change majors. In fact, you are pretty much expected to change majors just as most people change careers along the way. I entered academia and became a professor for a large chunk of my career.

The standard bit of adviser is if you love what you are doing, you never work a day in your life. It's great advise!

Best of luck and don't worry! Enjoy the journey!

In a four year college, the first two years are general studies. You get a big exposure to many different fields. They want you so see what areas interest you. You do not have to declare a major until your junior year and that is not a contract.

Bottom line, don't panic!

Jeff recommends the following next steps:

Think about what excites you.
Dig into those areas and then take some classes
Forget about specifying a major for the next couple of years
Relax and enjoy the journey!

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Daisy’s Answer

I found that deciding a career is tied with deciding upon a major. For me I went through several different majors before selecting one and I still have not decided upon the best career for me. A website that I like to use to explore career options is onetonline.org . This website includes information about what training/major is needed for each career, the amount of money those careers make, outlook in that career and more. I also suggest visiting your career center for more help with this research.