“What do you want to do when you grow up?” This is the age-old question…
If you haven’t identified your dream career, deciding a major (and a college) can feel daunting. In reality, some high school juniors and seniors have a solid idea of what they want in a career, but most really don’t. Exploring options and finding careers that fit your interest, personality and abilities requires some strategy. So how do you find that right major…perfect job…dream career? Here’s a start:
4 steps to finding the right major
- Assess what fields of study you love. You know this instinctively, but in case you’re not sure, take a look at your Discover and PLAN assessments that you took early in high school. Your grades don’t always reflect your love for the subject, so seek out information beyond the classroom.
- Search for “bright outlook” careers. Good sources online for this are the Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*Net Online, both websites that give tons of information on careers and job outlook. Give yourself time to explore and discover your dream career.
- Look at jobs that seem interesting to you. Read and research in any ways you can: Online, in the world of work, talking to people in person, everywhere. People love to talk about their work and how they chose it, especially people who are happy in their work, and those are the people you want to learn from.
- Shadow people who work in jobs that you might like. Spend a few hours or a couple of days just watching someone who is in the field you think you might like. Arrange to “shadow” them, which simply means that you will follow them on the job. A good shadowing mentor will allow you to ask questions and will also explain their work as they go about their day. Some areas, such as health careers, are difficult to shadow because of privacy issues, but if you ask, you’ll find some worthwhile alternatives. Your parents, guidance counselor or admission coach can help you with setting up shadowing opportunities.
Talk to Real People
Ask your mentors and other professionals in the jobs you like what majors they recommend. You may be surprised at their answers. Many people will tell you the pros and cons of the major they chose, and they can help you understand how versatile certain majors, especially liberal arts majors, can be. You can also find lots of information on the websites of the professional associations related to the career fields, for example, the American Physical Therapy Association or the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Take Time for Thorough Research
Give yourself some time because you are seeking information from a number of resources. Also, you want to take the time to get to know yourself better and reflect on and evaluate the new information you’re learning.
Get Help from a Pro
Discovering a career and choosing a major is a journey and a process. It takes work. There are many people who can help: guidance counselors, career counselors, and independent educational consultants (IECs) (also called College Search and Selection Team)who guide individual students and their families in the total college search and selection process. These are people who are living their dream career!