Madison, this is an interesting question. There are some assumptions made here that don't quite fit my experience after more than 40 years in the workforce. My experience is that there are more people out there who treat College as a "check the box" activity and do not actually get a degree in what they are interested in. The ones you reference are typically the top of their class because they have chosen a topic of study that they are passionate about and they can't wait to learn more. Once those individuals graduate, they typically either get a job in that field immediately or go on to post grad studies to learn even more. The feeling of accomplishment comes not from succeeding in getting a job in a desired field, but rather from getting a job doing something you love.
Too many of us get a degree in something we are not really interested in, just so we can have a BS or BA on our resume. When we do this, we tend to do the same in our job searches. We take the first thing that comes along, whether it is a fit or not and these are the folks we see all around us who go to work just to punch the clock and get a paycheck.
I've found that the secret for getting that feeling of accomplishment in our jobs is by doing something that we are passionate about and really love doing. That is what makes going to work every day a joy instead of a "task to be done".
So, you ask how do you identify what you are passionate about? Look at what you enjoy doing in school and as a hobby. What do you do in your spare time? What do you dream about doing? Our passions come from our interests and desires. Talk to your school councilors, ministers, parents, friends or anyone else you know who is doing something you are interested in. Find out what your strengths are and what your personality traits are. There are lots of ways to do this (I prefer the "Strengths Finder 2.0" book because it is simple to do and easy to interpret). As the old Knight said on the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", "Choose wisely". If you do your work up front, you will be more likely to end up doing something that doesn't feel like work to you and you will be excited about getting to work the next day.
One other thing to consider before I leave. Each of us will change our interests and passions over time as we mature and as individuals. Even though you "choose wisely", you may find things that you become more passionate about over time. Don't be afraid to change your mind or your career. Follow your passions and they will lead you to that feeling of accomplishment you seek.
Good luck in whatever you choose to do.
Wayne recommends the following next steps:
- Get "Strengths Finder 2.0" and take the survey.
- Discuss the results with the leaders in your life and let them mentor you and help you make your decisions.