You want to make a good decision, but examining your career options doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, it can be a fascinating and enlightening time of self-exploration.
Below, we’ll consider why it’s important to consider your options carefully before making a decision. Then we will discuss how you can explore your career options via introspection, research, job shadowing, networking, and taking elective classes.
Why Exploring Your Options Is Important
According to Ohio State University, “as many as 50 to 75 % of all undergraduate students change majors at least one time before earning a degree.”
That is not necessarily a bad thing. But when you explore your career options thoroughly before choosing your major or early in your training, you can avoid the time and expense of having to take extra classes to obtain your goals.
The first way to get your career on track is to get to know yourself – it’s time for a little introspection.
Introspection has been defined as “looking inward.” It involves thinking about your feelings and emotions, your likes and dislikes. What subjects and tasks do you enjoy? What field of study excites you? It’s a grown-up version of the childhood question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
According to Charlie Pappalardo of The Michigan Daily, that query “isn’t just a question of profession, it’s a question of identity.” Our careers often define us, so before making your decision, take time to quietly and seriously ponder who you want to be and what you want to accomplish in life.
Learning about your prospective career is deeply entwined with this process. Before you make your final decision, it is important to do a bit of research.
Do Your Research
Research is a handy skill in almost any career path. It can also help point your efforts in the right direction. You might discover that jobs exist that you never even imagined.
Consider an example. Let’s say your childhood fascination with dinosaurs has persisted into adulthood, and you’re interested in studying paleontology. You imagine yourself digging up dinosaur bones in Montanna like Dr. Grant from Jurassic Park.
But with a little research, you realize there are a lot of jobs out there related to paleontology – lab and research assistants, science journalists, museum curators, university professors, project coordinators, environmental specialists, lab managers, forensic analysts, and research scientists. These might suit you better than working in the field.
Next, you need to take steps to determine which of these jobs is right for you.
After learning about the many jobs in your desired field, you should tag along with a professional to see what a day in their life is really like. This can help you narrow and hone your goals.
Through job shadowing, you may find that your desired career isn’t quite right for you – but that a related job is. That was the experience of Mikaela Ekobena, Pharmacist in Charge at Medvantx.
Ekobena explains, “ I actually had thought I wanted to be a doctor. I had taken the exams and was looking at doing applications for med school. And then I just had this feeling and it didn’t feel right… I started doing some shadowing, and I shadowed a pharmacist in my hometown and loved it.”
How can you find the right person to shadow? Networking.
Whether or not you are in college yet, you can begin building your professional network. Attend events—such as career fairs, lectures, or open houses—where you can meet people in your industry. Ask teachers or guidance counselors if they can help you find job shadowing opportunities.
You can cement your network by connecting with them on LinkedIn. Build a profile and reach out to individuals you have met. Let them know that you are interested in a similar career path, and ask them questions about what the job is like.
It is also beneficial to explore fields you have not previously considered. After all, many positions—especially those in technology—are needed by companies in vastly different spheres.
One effective way to do this is by taking elective classes in school or other classes in the community. Explore different aspects of your current interests, or be adventurous and try something totally new.
Exploring your career options thoroughly before you commit to a college major or accept a position with on-the-job training can save you the time and expense of making a change later. You can do this by examining your own passions and proficiencies, doing research, shadowing current professionals, building your professional network, and exploring unknown fields through elective classes.
Of course, you shouldn’t feel bad if you decide to change your major or even make a shift mid-career. The explorations described above can take place at any time in your career.