Zareen Wajid, Talent Acquisition Specialist
Connect with me via. LinkedIn
Ahh.. the summer is here. The summer is known for its time to chill, whether by the pool or at a BBQ or with endless gaming. In the summer, you have earned the privilege to be oblivious to real life. It really is your time to surround yourself in a laid-back, stress-and-care-free dimension. As great as that sounds, it’s not a good idea (especially if you are a recent high school graduate or a passing-with-okay-colors college student).
Many of us commence our university studies with the presumption that when we step on the brightly-lit, tree-shaded campus courtyard, we will experience a eureka moment from the heavens above and miraculously realize our lifelong dream, a.k.a. career path. Unfortunately, no.
There is a simple answer to figuring out your lifelong dream. I warn you, though, that you may have to dedicate some of your summer to resolve the labyrinth that is your future, or less drastically put, your major.
As an alumni who not only didn’t know what major to pursue, but who also did a victory lap to graduate and land a job of her dreams after graduate school, I can tell you that the answer is to work backwards. Simple, right? It is. All you have to do is pretend that you are a graduating college senior and are seeking a job now.
So, start off by thinking about jobs you find interesting. You can do a search on job boards such as Indeed and CareerBuilder, and on social media such as LinkedIn and TweetMyJobs. For example, if you enjoy science, you might consider job searches in Nursing, Physical Therapy, Research, etc.
Next, read the qualifications for the job. Answer questions such as:
- what subject should you study (Biology, Math, Business, etc; many times multiple degrees can qualify you for a specific position, so just try to figure out the broad subject)
- how long will you attend school (Bachelor’s level, Master’s level, Ph.D., Specialist certifications, etc)
- what type of jobs, in that category, can you realistically obtain upon graduation (staff level, manager level, etc)
- do you understand or at least find interest in the terminology used to describe the position (Group therapy, C++, Six-sigma, etc). As you find new concepts, look them up on Wikipedia and gauge how interesting you find them (do you understand what you are reading? are you at the edge of your seat salivating to learn more? or are you trying to figure out if it’s written in English?)
- the major with the highest placement rate upon graduation
- the companies that the university partners with that hire their graduates (which companies, and typically, for which positions)
- the job outlooks for the jobs you researched, as well as transferable skills
- the ins-and-outs of the career site (as I said, unlimited resources. Also, I’ll have you know that I still use my university’s Career Center interview questions to practice for an interview)
Once you have done your initial background research, you should have a couple of broad categories of interest (aim for 3-5). For example, mine were psychology, business, and math. The second step is not to stalk professionals meeting your categories of interest as most students assume. Just a side rule, networking is great if you know what you are doing. If you don’t know, such as in this case, please be professional in your networking. Remember networking is a two-way street- before asking for guidance, you must entice your person of interest by answering how you can help them.
The next step is to go have a visit with your university’s Career Center. Universities have unlimited resources and individuals to help you figure out your major and to help you land your first job. Utilize it, and utilize it often throughout your four/five/six-year academic career. Anyway, at this time, consult with your Career Center Advisor in regards to:
By now, you should have a lot of data. Now, the moment of truth…. Compare your research with the information you obtained from the Career Center. Anything match up? For me, psychology was a big hit. Unfortunately, the number of years job descriptions were telling me to study was not going to work. Not to fret though(I know how deeply concerned you are about my major/career choice). Through my Career Search Business Plan, I was able to cross-reference psychology with related majors such as business, industrial-organizational psychology, human resources, and training and development (interestingly, they are very similar and close-knit areas of study).
From this point, as you have narrowed your interests and/or majors, the next step is to network. Connect with individuals in your interest area. Notice I didn’t say randomly add professionals on LinkedIn with the introduction “Hi, I want to study so-and-so, and as you are a professional in this field, I was wondering if you could tell me how I can have your job. Perhaps over coffee?” The art of networking involves connecting with professionals. Connecting means involving an interaction. Interaction means dealings of similarity. Perhaps you listened to their lecture and have follow-up open ended questions or perhaps you volunteered at their company and want to explore further opportunities. I think you get the idea. Networking should continue throughout your college academics- you never know who you will meet and what opportunities you will encounter. I landed two internships during college through networking (more interesting still is that both of those internships led to job opportunities).
If you have followed these steps, you should be at the starting point now: selecting your major. I can say from personal experience how difficult of a feat it was for me to choose a college major (I switched my major 4 times back in my day). Looking back, I can certainly say it is much easier to work backwards. It paints a much more realistic image of job growth opportunities and career development. A little time of your summer is all you may need in deciding your major, and it can magnificently commence your college career path as a brightly-lit, tree-shaded utopia of your dreams. You may even pass with vibrant flying colors.
Well, that’s pretty much it. Just rinse and repeat the process if needed.