Finding a Career after College

Ah, Freshmen.  So young, so bright, so clueless.  What do you want to do when you grow up?  Who should you work for?  How do you get there?  You have so many unanswered questions, and you have walked on to a college campus without figuring any of them out.  Now, you are coming up into your first semester without any real idea of what you want out of college. 

Here are some helpful tips in picking one out: 

1. Don’t worry about it too much.  Most colleges require core courses that practically everyone has to take the first year or two anyway, and about half of students change their major throughout college.

2. It may not matter.  Other than some specific jobs – like engineers – it may not really matter what your major was, just that you have a college degree.  Some degrees are more useful than others in hunting for a job (particularly business or science-related degrees over liberal arts), but many employers may be searching for what your courses or experiences were rather than your specific degree.

3. If your college has a career office, they may be helpful in determining what you can do with some of those personality and skill tests.  Sometimes the results may surprise you.

4. Take practical courses that are useful in any field or have long-term value.  Personal finance, statistics, and technical writing are good recommendations with nearly universal applications.  In whatever field you find yourself, practical skills will be the ones that set you apart from the students that do not have them.

5. Do NOT be afraid to try something hard.  You may like it.  If you don’t, you still have an accomplishment under your belt.

6. Do something that sounds fun.  Go ahead and take that odd liberal arts course.

7. Get involved with a campus service organization.  Do some volunteer work.  It helps people, enriches your own life, and may help you discover who you want to be.

8. Take advantages of opportunities in your path.  There are plenty of “freebies” that not everyone knows about that many colleges offer, like the career office or help in searching for a job.  Many colleges offer job fairs as well.

9. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.  College isn’t for everyone.  There is an unfortunate – and undeserved – stigma attached to several trades, and there are plenty of good jobs out there for good welders, plumbers, HVAC technicians, mechanics, and similar hands-on fields which you can get trained at a Vo-Tech school.  If you have ever had to pay for some of their services, you know that they don’t come cheap.  Even better, someone who is in a trade and understands how to run their own business can do as well as, or maybe better, than someone with a liberal arts degree from school who has to go back.

Hopefully the above suggestions will set you on the right path in discovering what you need or want to be.  Keep in mind, there are many grown-ups who never quite found what they wanted to do until later in life, or we wind up in an unexpected place and do not mind it so much.