While much has been stated on this blog about the importance and the insignificance of choosing a major prior to attending college, it is still somewhat easier to narrow down your college list if you have some idea of what you are interested in. You don’t have to sign on the dotted line and say, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” however, it is a good idea to have some general direction or even just rule a few things out.
The Professor’s Guide blog post, “10 Questions to Ask Before Picking a Major” provides some great insights on things to consider before picking a major. Some of the pointers can be explored while students are still in high school and collecting information now can take some of the stress out of choosing a major when you absolutely have to. The Professors’ tip: “Don’t marry a major until you do some serious dating” is very valuable and summer vacation provides a great opportunity to do a little exploration of careers that may be connected to majors you are thinking about. Here are some ways to investigate different career paths:
Hit the internet: Do you really know what a financial planner does? What does it really mean to be architect? Research some of the backgrounds of some professionals that you have heard of or look up to. Look up the executive board members of a company you think you might want to work for and Google their names. Where did they go to school? What did they major in? What former positions have they held?
Learn about job titles: Now that you have some job titles from the fields you may be interested in, find out what those jobs actually require. Hit career websites such as CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com and view job postings for those specific titles. You might be surprised to learn about what is really required.
Talk to someone in the field: Let’s face it, everyone likes to talk about what they do. Conducting informational interviews is a great way to find out more about a career. Ask your parents or teachers if they know anyone who may be the fields you are interested in. Once you have the contact information for potential interviews, politely ask them if you can meet with them to ask them questions about their profession. Here are some potential questions to consider:
– How did you become interested in this profession?
– What previous jobs have you held that lead you to your current position?
– What did you study in college and how did you pick your major?
– What courses in your major have helped you in your career?
– What advice would you give to someone who is interested in your profession?
– Is there anyone else I can talk to who may be willing to provide me with more information on this profession?
– Are their any opportunities to intern at your company so I can learn more about your business?
Learn by doing: Jobs and internships are another great way to find out if you would like a certain career. When I was in college, I spent an entire summer running a camp for 5 to 8 year olds. I took the position because I was considering being a teacher and I wanted to see if I enjoyed working with large groups of children. I did everything from curriculum planning to first aid and when the summer was over, I knew elementary education was not for me. Without that hands-on experience, I may have entered a major and future profession that I really did not enjoy.
A great way to find potential jobs or internships is through the informational interviews mentioned above. While you are meeting with professionals, it does not hurt to ask if they have positions available.
Don’t forget that when you are researching colleges, it is also a good idea to connect with the Center for Career Development. Last week’s blog post on career questions to ask during the college admissions process will help you further explore if the colleges you are interested in are offering career development opportunities.