Know Who You Are Before Deciding Your Career Path
What are you going to major in? What kind of career do you want? Have you thought about where you are doing your internship? What kind of things are you good at? These are all questions that the majority of college students hear multiple times throughout their college career. However, one vital question is missing– How do you see yourself?
You arrive at college and perhaps you already know what you want to major in, but maybe you are not sure. Your internship is looming around the corner; where do you think you want to get your first career related experience? Much of the emphasis during college is on choosing a path of study and picking a career.
Perhaps you have a professor who is encouraging you to pick a major because they see that you are “good at math.” Or, maybe your father is in sales, and is strongly encouraging you to follow in his footsteps. All of these things should be taken into consideration, however, in order for you to gain a true grasp of what type of major is going to be the best fit, try starting with the basics.
Ask yourself, “How do I picture my world in five years?” If you could paint a picture in your head of what your life looks like five years after college, what would it look like? Here are a few questions to help you narrow it down:
- Are you wearing a suit to work, or are you wearing jeans and a sweater?
- Do you work in a large building with offices and cubicles?
- Do you venture out much during the day to meet with clients, or are you mostly in the office?
- Do you prefer a structured environment, or do you prefer your days to be different from one to the next?
- Do you see yourself primarily working outside or inside?
- Is your top priority to make large amounts of money immediately after college?
- Do you want to work close to 40 hours a week, or do you want to put in 50-60 hours?
- Do you want autonomy in your work, or do you prefer to have someone directing your efforts?
The answers to these questions will give you an idea as to what type of career path you should pursue. They lay the groundwork for the best work environment for you to be in and can be incredibly useful in narrowing down your options. For example, if you want to make a lot of money, and you like the idea of wearing a suit everyday, then a career with a business emphasis could be a good fit. However, if your are interested in working in an environment that is a bit more casual with a less structured system, then maybe a more creative field is a good option.
It is easy to take other people’s opinion about what is a good career path for you. Your professors know your subject matter competencies, and perhaps have their own bias in wanting to direct you to a career field that they are passionate about. Your family and friends will certainly give you their input as well. With the amount of time you spend at work, you should be doing something that makes you excited to get out of bed each morning. Your professors, family, and friends can certainly give great insight, and you should listen to any advice that comes your way. However, at the end of the day it is your experience and nobody else’s. If the answers to the above questions do not reflect what you truly want, you won’t last in that career for very long.
Andrea Peeters is the Director of Student Success at Menlo College, a small undergraduate business college in Northern California. She works with all students and alumni on general career and professional development, as well as with current students on academic progress and success. Prior to coming to Menlo, she worked as a High School Counselor and Adjunct Faculty teaching personal development courses in central California.