One of the most significant decisions that a college student make in life is choosing what to study in college. In more ways than one, college paves the way for a smooth transition between student life and being a student of life in the real world. The choices you make—primarily your school and major—can have a tremendous impact on your future. It is clearly not something you can rush through without careful consideration.
What is your passion in life? What major do you want to focus on? What career do you want to pursue? These questions are vital in helping you map out the career path that will guide you through that shift.
Making a firm decision about your career of choice can make a huge difference in how well you perform as a college student. Knowing that any knowledge, skills, and experience you will acquire will bring you closer to the goals you have envisioned should push you to do better.
That said, it’s not all that hopeless for you if you’re stuck in uncertainty about your future career goals while in college. Sometimes, all you need is enough time to explore your options and see where your interest truly lies.
Good universities and colleges across the country have career support and career development systems in place to help students to guide and offer different perspectives as students make their decisions and weigh their options.
But whether or not you know you have a clear picture of your academic and career pursuits, it matters that you use your time while in college to navigate the choices you have. Here are some of the best ways to do just that:
- Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
- Narrow Down Your Career Options
- Choose Your Networks and Mentors Wisely
- Learn to Leverage New Technology
- Develop the Skills Employers Seek
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
The point about exploring your career options is to try learning about other areas of study and discipline beyond subjects you are passionate about. The National Center for Education Statistics report cites that in 2014, 28% of undergraduate students pursuing an associate’s degree abandoned their majors at least once to switch to a new one.
Do you breeze through mathematics and sciences but find humanities and art challenging? Attending college and getting out of your comfort zone while at it—such as engaging in creative writing—can help develop your interdisciplinary breadth of knowledge. This can also open your eyes to other options for your major if you have not decided on one yet. Through this, you will become a well-rounded individual with a solid background in a variety of disciplines.
Narrow Down Your Career Options
After exploring your academic options and making a decision about your top major or majors, your next step is to discover and learn all about your career choices. Do you want to work in the field of marketing? Has being a medical doctor always been on your list? Along with these questions come a gamut of other considerations as well, from the possible job descriptions and salaries to the skills you need to develop for your chosen occupation.
Many colleges underscore the importance of professional development early on, preferably once students arrive on campus or before they formally start with their online learning journey. The search for job opportunities begins when you are still at school. Knowing what you want to do after graduation can prepare you for the challenges to come. That is why students are taught how to create professional materials like resumes and cover letters. You will also be trained to do interviews. Narrowing down your career options is a great start.
Choose Your Networks and Mentors Wisely
Building connections at school goes beyond its social benefits. This is also integral in helping you navigate your career path. They call this networking, both in the social and professional fronts.
You can start by joining clubs and engage in activities that can introduce you to people who share your passion. Many alumni functions are open to students. They usually involve talks about career development. This is also an ideal resource for potential internship opportunities.
It is also common for universities and colleges to provide support to students through the career development department. Through it, students get expert counseling and find themselves in organized events that bring students and alumni together and give them the chance to cultivate relationships. The alumni can act as mentors for students, too, given their insight into various industries. By finding a good mentor, you will find someone who can guide you through the rigorous job search process.
Learn to Leverage New Technology
When it comes to looking for the right job, knowing the tools and technology to help you make the job search process easier is just as important as having a mentor. The internet age has revolutionized the way you can search for jobs, with online databases and social media platforms at your disposal. LinkedIn is one stellar example, offering a wealth of opportunities to build networks and look for prospective employers.
Social media is more than a channel that helps you build your networks and connections. It is also a tool that you can use to create your personal brand and portfolio. Some students, especially those in the creative field, consider making a website where they can showcase their works and impress their future employers.
Develop the Skills Employers Seek
Most jobs have corresponding descriptions and requirements for applicants. Employers are particular about necessary skills that will make a candidate the perfect fit for a specific job description. Beyond the technical skills, they also consider how a potential employee will deal with problems, use critical thinking, and interact with other people.
Regularly interact with fellow students, professors, and advisors while in college. Try to develop social skills for actual employment scenarios where frequent interactions and collaborations are crucial. Learn teamwork, leadership, and communication skills that are just as priceless in all careers, regardless of level or industry. Develop the set of skills you need to overcome hurdles at work and stay motivated.
Deciding on your career path can be pretty daunting, but learning to navigate through it while in college can tremendously impact your goals and efforts while in school. No successful adult ever has it easy, but with the right mindset and enough preparation, you’ll get to where you are ultimately headed.