By Jenna Moede
I don’t feel like I had really prepared myself when I began college classes.
I didn’t know what my passion was or what my major would be. And, I didn’t take advantage of all the on-campus opportunities that may have helped me shape my career goals.
And now, I feel very strongly that every student needs to understand their full range of options in order to make smart decisions regarding college, choosing a major and moving into a career.
When I began school, I felt funneled into a career that I didn’t know if I even wanted. I started as an international business major without any real understanding of what that meant or what I could do with it.
I had taken an aptitude test at some point when in the college process, and instead of talking to my advisor like I should have done, I just ended up on a business career track per score results.
I felt funneled because after the first semester started, my advisor told me that I would have to backtrack in order to switch from the college of business since I had already started degree specific classes. It seemed like I had cemented a career track without figuring anything out for myself.
Initially I felt that I had to declare a major because I had heard horror stories of people going into college as undeclared and taking forever to finish.
I didn’t understand or had never heard that I had time to try some things out without wasting any classes or credits.
I wish that I had understood that no matter what major I chose, and regardless of when I declared a major, I still had to take at least two full time semesters of general education. I could have taken those semesters and thought about what career fit my goals best rather than diving right into the college of business and putting my general classes off until later.
Additionally, I should have challenged myself with those general classes. Instead, I picked classes based on what I’d heard about the difficulty and the professors, rather than my own potential interests.
I think if I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I could have discovered my passion for teaching and writing while still an undergraduate student.
I wouldn’t have wasted any time or money, and I would have felt better prepared to make a decision.
I also could have tried out a greater variety of on-campus, and off campus, clubs. This might seem more difficult with an online university, but every city I’ve ever lived in has groups that get together for just about anything and everything.
Meet with some groups you might not feel comfortable with just to try them out, and see what opportunities exist. You might discover an unknown passion that will help shape your future.
I also wish I had taken advantage of my professors’ knowledge in college. While my academic advisor could help me, my professors knew the most valuable information about the fields they taught. Talking to them earlier in my undergraduate studies could have broadened my horizons and given me new ideas.
I also had the opportunity to job shadow in college, and I turned it down. I didn’t think I had time, and now I realize I would have benefitted from the experience.
Most colleges encourage on the job exposure, and even students that study online could seek out job shadows in their local area. Seeing someone working their day to day life in a field that interests you may give you a better understanding of the job itself.
Along the same lines, try to land an internship. An internship offers a behind the scenes look that job shadowing doesn’t by giving you more exposure to the job. Even if you get an entry level internship in your related field, you will most likely get to witness the inner workings of the position.
If you don’t feel that you have an opportunity to job shadow or intern, talk to everyone you can. I have interviewed several people in many different fields, and I have found that they typically seem willing to answer questions and they give a lot of unfiltered information.
I have conducted interviews by email, phone and in person. You might gain a little insight to the job that you would otherwise not have known. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and the information you learn might prove very valuable.
Lastly, attend job fairs. I know that you can attend job fairs in person, but a lot of online classes offer virtual job fairs as well. Job fairs can offer career ideas you didn’t know existed, and it might present a great networking opportunity as well.
Overall, take your time and really consider your options when you decide what course of study you want to pursue. If you feel you really know that you have found the perfect job, still try to pursue interviews, internships and challenge yourself with general classes to get to know the field. I don’t think it can ever hurt to broaden your perspective.