Once upon a time, you might have dreamed of being a doctor, engineer, astronaut or even an actor. Who knows? Perhaps you still want to be any one or more of those things. Unlike any other time of your life, choosing what you will be is perhaps the most exciting and the most anxiety-bound activity you will ever get to do.
Back in the day, women were only hired in very specific fields of work. These were usually limited to teaching positions, secretarial work, or even staying at home to raise children. In the current day and age of gender equality, women are rising to the occasion and taking up careers in all different fields! Careers such as computer scientists and engineers were once seen as a male-only field, but women today are breaking those barriers and excelling at all types of work.
With so many choices, it may become overwhelming to even scroll through a website or college catalog and effectively narrow decisions down to a few select options. Every year, several young women are ready to go off in search of their future life. They end up in tears, buried with so much information about what they can do with their lives, they can barely enjoy the privilege of selecting just one thing.
It is a complete privilege to be able to receive an education and choose what we want to study! In many countries there are incentives for choosing majors where there is a low supply of educated workers, and a high demand to rapidly fill those deficits. For example, Australia has a variety of educators, so there is less of a likelihood of graduating as a teacher. America is the land of the free, and free choice abounds when it comes to selecting what you will do with your life!
Let’s take a look at that thought for a minute. What you decide to do isn’t necessarily what you need to be doing the rest of your life. Career Builder indicated that 51% of 2014 graduates were working in fields that had nothing to do with their degree. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be preparing for a career in the field of your interest, though!
So, how do you make a career choice less of a gamble and more of a well thought out plan? How do you ensure that your career will be a sustainable way to earn a living in the future? I coach numerous graduates and those who are well-seasoned in their careers, and they will all tell you that there are several things to consider before picking a college major.
I am going to highlight six things that you should consider when looking into training for a future career.
Don’t choose a field because one of your family members has the same job.
Even if you love the fact that your father is a sports announcer or that your mother is the best designer on the planet, know that you do not have to follow in their footsteps! Unless you are passionate about the same things, this often leaves graduates feeling like they are simply allowing their parent to vicariously experience a career through them over again. One graduate was finishing up his residency and was ready to take over his father’s practice in Internal Medicine, when he confessed his complacency and disappointment for not doing something more “out of the box”. Instead of considering a career in public relations, which he enjoyed in his late high school years, he chose to follow his father. Even if you have a job “waiting” for you, consider whether it’s like having a lover waiting for you who you really aren’t interested in any more, and ask yourself, “Is this really how I want to be spending my time?” Even though it may have worked for a family member, there is no guarantee that it is also meant for you. Following in a parent’s footsteps because you feel you should, could be detrimental to your career.
Take a public speaking class.
Even if it’s not a required part of your major, enroll in a public speaking class! Regardless of the field you will enter, strong communication skills are key. Being comfortable with public speaking will make you a better interviewee, negotiator, strategist, informant and overall well-rounded individual.
Find something that you are passionate about.
Knowing what resonates with you is important because it will help ground you in your choice of a career. Is there a cause that really speaks to your heart? What do you love to do regardless of pay? What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What do other people notice is an exceptional skill or talent you have? Websites such as MyCoolCareer and Career Overview can provide additional skill and interest assessment tools.
Investigate career possibilities.
Make a list of everything you can do with a specific career. For example, communication studies majors can work in content marketing, political campaigns and social reform, but are not limited to only those specific roles. Graphic Designers can work in advertising, publications, fashion illustration, court sketching, display marketing, and so much more. Typically, the area of employment you’ll find is obvious, but the options for varied venues of employment within the same major can create a more desirable career field.
Be open to options.
One of my clients wanted to become a physician, but really did not want the burden of debt or the time commitment of completing this goal. Rather, she opted for a major in physical rehabilitation, and is ready to open her own practice! She was able to find the field she loved without the extra years and added cost of medical school.
Consider job shadowing and interviewing people in your prospective major.
A great way to determine if working in a field is appealing is to spend a day or longer shadowing individuals already working in that arena. Many schools already have options to do this in place but if your current school does not, consider contacting people to interview or shadow on the job. This can be a real eye opener when you are able to see just what the daily experience of working in a particular field can be like.
Remember that it is now estimated that people will switch jobs every 4-5 years and actually switch careers as many as 6-7 times in their normal working lifetime.
Choosing a college major should not be a stressful experience, but rather one to embrace and enjoy! Most of all, look at it as a choice of where to begin your future rather than where to have it end up.
A career is not a defining choice by any means. In fact, a career is one of the few areas where you can choose to re-invent, re-examiner and re-establish a different goal or skill frame that is completely socially acceptable and in this age, even encouraged.
One final note, I will never forget asking a small child what he wanted to be when he got older and having him respond, “ I still want to be me, I don’t want to be anyone else!”
He had not allowed what he would be affect the who he wanted to be!
This is my ultimate wish for you: remember that what you do does not define who you are.
Kathy Brunner is a certified career coach and designer who works with people who are looking to move from a day job to a dream job either in a different career or as a business owner. She is the author of Finding Your Fire and speaks at a variety of venues about career choice and career change. Learn more about Kathy at her website where she offers free tools and consultations for moving from a day job to a dream job. She is also on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.