College students take on a great deal of pressure from the moment they fill out their applications to the moment they graduate. One such burden is the responsibility to choose a career path early on in your schooling experience.
Though you may have determined where you may want to be headed, it is important to choose the right career for you, as each major can branch off into a variety of different directions–each with advantages and disadvantages that will affect how you feel about the path you’ve chosen.
This guide is here to help you make a more informed choice when it comes to career selection, so you can enjoy your time as a college student knowing you are headed toward life after graduation that you can really look forward to.
1. Look at Your Strengths
College students apply and enroll in a variety of courses not just to rack up student loans, but to invest themselves in a topic or area of study that really interests them. Because college requires a great deal of self-reflection as it is, you have likely already taken a fairly close look at your own personal strengths and weaknesses and have a good idea of the areas in which you thrive and those that need a little improvement.
Take this process to the next level and consider how your strengths would generalize to a career path. If you find that it is easy for you to get good grades in math, for example, you may consider a career as a computer programmer or an engineer.
If you are skilled with writing, a career in the legal field, literature or communications may suit you. There are dozens of ways that your personal skills can be applied to various fields, so explore as many avenues for your talents as you can.
2. Make a List of What You Enjoy
Any career that isn’t enjoyable for you personally is not a good fit. Though a career isn’t necessarily the beginning and the end of your personal fulfillment and enjoyment in life, you should feel excited and invigorated by the work you do on a daily basis.
Think of the things you do, read, listen to or engage with that feel less like work and more like a fascination or passion. Make a list of all of the things you enjoy, even down to the types of television shows and books you like to read or whether you are a morning or night person.
The world needs more people to follow their passions and do their jobs fueled by enthusiasm for what they do. Examine where your love of true crime podcasts could take you in the legal, public service, or media fields, or how your passion for your favorite sports team could lead you to a career in marketing, physical therapy, or even sports psychology.
3. Know Your Personality Type
Not all careers are suited for everyone, and it isn’t always down to whether someone is talented or skilled enough to make their way through an industry. Sometimes, being a good fit for a profession requires more than just a general desire and above-average grades in relevant coursework.
Some careers are a better match for introverts than extroverts, even within the same industry. For example, an introvert with a law degree may prefer a legal profession that demands a lot of research and one on one interaction with clients, while an extrovert with a law degree may thrive in a court setting.
Your personality characteristics are not necessarily prohibitive to your dream career, however. Anyone can enter any field with the right mindset. Still, considering how well you do under pressure, how empathetic or logical you are, how comfortable you are with rejection, or how artistically creative you are can provide insight into how happy you may be on one career path over another.
4. Consider What You Don’t Want
Just as it is essential to determine what you are looking for out of a career, it is important to be aware of any deal-breakers you may have. Consider common career circumstances, such as travel, overtime, or seasonal responsibilities, and try to determine whether these situations are something you could live with if you have your dream job.
You may be incredibly passionate about helping others and want to pursue a career in the medical field, but if long hours and demanding schedules would leave you feeling more burned out than fulfilled, you should look elsewhere in the field for more suitable work to ensure you are successful and happy with what you do.
5. Envision Your Ideal Future
Do you imagine a life filled with world travel? Do you picture yourself in a cozy house with a family of your own? Though you may not know exactly what you want out of life, you likely have a fairly good idea of some of the things you’d like for yourself in the years to come.
Think of the income potential of different careers and assess whether your salary could support the lifestyle you want. Think, too, about where you’d like to end up living, as a career in a public service field may allow you to purchase the cozy cottage in an inexpensive area that you’d always imagined for yourself.
When you look to the future, no detail is too small. Think about whether you’d like a job that would require you to work with others much of the time, or if a career would allow you to work remotely some of the time.
For this exercise, you should get a good idea of your ideal lifestyle and see how a career would fit into it, not the other way around. You will likely have to make some concessions, but the closer you are to the life of your dreams, the more your career will feel like your dream job, too.
6. Determine the Financial Outlook
While money isn’t necessarily the deciding factor for a career, it is certainly an important consideration.
Your financial future rests on more than just your personal salary: some companies offer a host of benefits, including health insurance programs, paid time off, retirement contributions and guaranteed vacation time, that can affect the forecast of your personal finances in significant ways for many years.
Take into consideration, too, how much a career path would require of you before you make the kinds of money you hope for.
Those with an entrepreneurial spirit may have their sights set on running a self-built enterprise that generates outstanding profits one day, but it may take a lot longer for the endeavor to be as lucrative in a financial sense as a career in a corporate position.
7. Practice Building Relevant Skills As A College Student
If your dream job involves helping people, but you know it will also involve a lot of data entry or maybe some communication in another language, it is a good idea to try to enroll in a few courses or workshops that will allow you to both develop your skills and get a good feel for what will be required of you while on the job.
Many people enter a career and find that some of the details of their workload bog them down and distract them from why they got involved in the industry in the first place, so the sooner you can become acquainted with these details, the more likely you are to feel comfortable and prepared in your job search when the time comes.
8. Try a Few Internships As A College Student
If you have a few potential prospects that seem equally, or nearly equally, as plausible, you should try to find an internship within each possible opportunity as a sort of “trial run” for the careers you might have in the future.
Internships give you a firsthand look into the ins and outs of a workplace you may find yourself in one day, including some advantages and disadvantages that may further attract or deter you from that career.
Internships also make you a more competitive candidate in the hiring process, and some internships even lead to employment opportunities after a certain amount of time. In fact, studies have shown that employers look for internship experience over good grades when they consider candidates for entry-level positions, so your time as an intern could spell benefits for you in more ways than one.
9. Give Yourself Time to Decide
You should be absolutely certain that a career path is one you want to pursue before you take the necessary steps to do so, and for this reason, it is okay to take some time to make up your mind. Reach out to a career counselor or professor for guidance in your decision-making process, and don’t be afraid to change your mind as many times as it takes to discover something that feels right for you.
Keep in mind that many people even change their career path later on in life, or even shortly after college. Your decision may simply serve as a stepping stone to greater things, or it may reveal even more about what you want or don’t want out of life.
Regardless of where it takes you, stay connected to your inner values and remember that every step you take toward the future will give you good information about who you are, who you want to be, and where you’re going.
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Paisley Hansen is a mother of three and a small business owner. She spends her time caring for her children and taking her business to the next level. When she’s not busy working or taking care of her kids, you can find her at the gym or curl up with a good book.