Just as the path we choose for our career is not linear, neither are the steps one takes in determining what that path looks like. Below are a few guidelines the experts recommend following:
1. Do your research in person
While the internet offers an overwhelming amount of information, the opinions shared by others are not the same as experiencing your school or program of choice for yourself. “Make sure you go visit the campuses you’re thinking of attending because you’re going to be living there for four years of your life,” says Vermunt. “Sit in on a lecture. Speak to professors. Does your older sister have a friend who went there? Talk to that friend.”
By visiting, you are able to get a true feel for the campus, the people and the learning environment. This allows you to use a combination of logic and intuition when making your decision. “Most people say, ‘I should have listened to my gut.’ The gut is almost always right,” says Vermunt.
2. Think about what career ingredients you want in your life
If you’re feeling a little lost in choosing your major, you’re certainly not alone. “Take some time to understand who you are and what you have to offer,” says Cranston. “Anything you can do to better understand the skills, characteristics and attributes you have that make you happy will help inform which direction you take.”
The tasks you enjoy doing, the types of people you enjoy surrounding yourself with—these are all important career ingredients to consider. “You don’t actually have to know what your dream job is to be able to choose what program you want to study,” says Vermunt. “It’s your job to choose something that is going to have better odds of moving you in the right direction.”
Even if you head down one path only to later decide you’d like to pursue a different direction, you will still gain valuable experience, build meaningful relationships and learn important life lessons along the way. “I think navigating your career is like a game of hot and cold,” says Vermunt. “Turn away from the things that feel cold and you’ll have a much better chance of moving toward something that feels warm.”
3. Choose action over inaction
When you’re feeling stuck, sometimes the best solution is simply to keep moving. Once one door opens, it leads to another door, and then another door. “The longer you sit and wait for it to magically become clear, the tougher you’re making it for yourself,” says Botelho. Career exploration is the central purpose of the undergrad experience. “This notion of going to school and then starting your career is not a strong strategy,” he adds.
Seek out opportunities to volunteer in your chosen field, and to pursue internships and co-op placements. “Look for classes that allow you to work on real-life projects,” suggests Cranston. “That experience will provide some context you wouldn’t otherwise get just through academic work.”
If taking on a lighter course load allows you to work part-time to finance your studies, helping you to graduate with less stress, so be it. “In the grand scheme of life, taking one or two more years to complete your undergrad studies is a drop in the bucket,” says Cranston. But use your time wisely. Your future employer will be less concerned with what year you graduated, and more interested in what skills you were developing in the workplace while studying part-time. “That experience will have a great deal of weight towards that person’s future job success,” Cranston explains.
4. Be careful about advice
It’s natural to turn to parents, friends and colleagues for some direction. Getting feedback from others can help you reveal skill sets or characteristics you didn’t realise were there. Just remember, not all advice is good advice.
“You probably have lots of people in your life who care about you and want the best for you,” says Vermunt. “Sometimes the path of least resistance is to do what your mom thinks you should do, or what your best friend is doing. But if it doesn’t feel right for you, that’s not the direction you should be moving in.”
In her role as a career coach, Vermunt asks her young clients the meaningful—and sometimes difficult—questions designed to help them come to their own conclusions about what they want to do with their lives. “That’s really different than giving advice,” she says.
5. Don’t grip too tightly to the original plan
There’s nothing wrong with taking plan B—or plan C, for that matter. “If you’re mid-program and very unhappy and you hate most of your classes, that is a good time to consider changing direction and switching majors,” says Vermunt. “A lot of people see that as a failure or a mistake, but it’s absolutely not. It’s an incredibly wise thing to do.”
Your post-secondary experience is meant to be a time of decision-making. It’s a chance to explore which classes you love and which ones put you to sleep. It’s about developing an inventory of which subjects you excel at, and which keep you up at night. “You may be an absolute whiz at math, but if that doesn’t actually make you happy—if one hour of work feels like 10 hours—then that’s probably not what you should be doing,” says Cranston.
People change, the world we live in changes, and it’s only for natural your career path to evolve and change too. “There are certain things we can’t control; we can’t change the state of the economy, we can’t make someone hire us. But we can do things that give us a better chance of getting where we want to be,” says Botelho. The key is to keep an open mind. “Start to expand what you think is possible,” he says. “That’s one of the magical parts of it.”
Source: Charlotte Ottaway