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Sorry. You chose that major/career. No backsies.

by Jenny Morris, M.S.Ed. | January 28, 2019

Jenny-Morris

At the ages of 10 and 12, my kids’ aspirations thus far have included an MLB player, an author and/or illustrator, a singer, a dancer, a teacher, and POTUS. They still have some time, but it’s not lost on me that in a handful of years, they will be asked to choose an area of study that will likely impact their future professional path.

Ideal?  No.  Reality?  Pretty much.

And I, too, remember playing the ‘What the heck do I want to be when I grow up?’ game. In my case, I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was about five. I’d set my dolls up in my bedroom for class, or my poor sisters would have to come in and be my students. I’d use old textbooks for lesson planning and a two-sided chalkboard to run through content. It probably goes without saying that I was a very cool kid.

I held onto those career plans throughout high school and even concluded my senior year by cadet teaching at a local grade school…an experience I adored. So when college rolled around the next fall, I thought I was more than ready. Imagine my surprise when – three weeks into my freshman year – I completely changed my mind.

Great. Now what?

"I wish I knew then what I know now."

After floundering for a bit, I finally found my way, and I learned a lot in the process. For instance, I learned that changing majors is actually quite common. You know what else is common? Graduating with a degree, reflecting back on your college experience sometime down the road, and deciding that if you had to do it all over again, you’d likely choose a different major.

In fact, in a recent study by Gallup and Strada Education Network, two-fifths of bachelor’s degree holders would choose a different major if they had to start over[i]. FORTY percent! Perhaps that is because we ask 18-year-olds to tell us what they want to do/be for the rest of their lives. Or maybe as someone matures and gains experience, they simply develop different interests and goals for their future than they originally thought. Or maybe their employer or position goes through a restructuring and they are forced down a new, unfamiliar path. All of those scenarios are possible. And none of them are hopeless. 

“But I’m far from 18, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”

I hear this phrase all the time – not just from college students, but also from individuals closer to retirement age. There are plenty of us running around trying to determine a meaningful path that (ideally) uses our unique abilities and makes a difference in the lives of others. If this describes you, here are some resources you may want to check out.

  • Indiana Career Explorer. Indiana Career Explorer allows you to create a free account; assess your interests, skills, and work values; and explore majors and occupations that align with your results. It even connects to current employment opportunities and allows you to create an electronic profile to share with prospective colleges and employers.
  • What Can I Do With This Major. This website highlights typical career areas and types of employers who hire within each major. Better yet, it provides strategies to make you a more marketable candidate. Check out the information for your own major as well as in other areas of interest.
  • CandidCareer. Ever heard of an informational interview? This is when you meet with someone in an area of interest to learn more about their work (e.g. what a typical day looks like, their greatest challenges, advice they would give to you to get where they are, etc.). While there is no equivalent substitute for meeting with someone face-to-face, CandidCareer is a close second. Check out this resource to watch videos of thousands of professionals speaking about their work. You can search for relevant videos by major, job title, and/or industry to gain helpful insights into their professional lives.
  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great way to promote yourself professionally, but it’s also a helpful tool for researching people and positions of interest. You can learn more about the skills needed for a specific role, follow the career paths of those whose positions are intriguing, and even use the alumni tool to network with fellow graduates. Interested in learning more? Schedule an appointment with The Exchange or join us for our LinkedIn or Left Out event to learn more about this helpful resource.

“Okay, but I have zero experience in the role I’m wanting to pursue.”

Maaaaaaybe...but I bet that’s not completely true.

For example, let’s say a job description indicates that they want someone with leadership skills. Maybe you haven’t had an executive title, but have you supervised anyone before? Perhaps you’ve been a scout leader, a coach, or a lead volunteer? Or maybe they want someone with a strong work ethic who takes initiative. Have you ever started a program at your church, worked tirelessly to accomplish a goal, or met some other need in your personal or professional life?

Now you’re getting the hang of it. 

Always put yourself in the mind of the hiring manager. Their job description is a list of their wants and needs. So your job is to understand their pain points and use your resume and cover letter to help them realize that you are someone who can successfully ease that pain. 

“This is so overwhelming.
I just wish I could sit down and talk to someone about everything.”

Wish granted. You can schedule an appointment with our Exchange career development office to meet with a career counselor and discuss your current reality and future goals. Our team can provide free resume and/or cover letter reviews, in-person or virtually; help you prepare for future opportunities with a mock interview; assist you in finding professional attire in our Dress to Impress closet; review your LinkedIn profile to ensure it is tailored for your career interests; and discuss effective job search strategies to save time and improve your results.

So whether you’re currently taking courses and are unsure of your major – or you’re well into your career and feel like you need a change (or anything in between), you’re not alone. You’re not the first person we’ve heard from, and you won’t be the last. But every person and situation is unique, and we’d love to hear from you to determine where we can help. You just need to reach out.

What are you waiting for?

Jenny Morris is the director of career development for The Exchange – Marian University’s career office dedicated to promoting experience that matters. The Exchange works with students, alumni, faculty, staff, and employers to prepare students for experiential learning; to assist students and faculty in locating such engagements; and to teach students how to market themselves for future opportunities. For more information or to connect with The Exchange, visit marian.edu/exchange or contact the office at 317.955.6500 or exchange@marian.edu.

Additional contributions by this author:

 


[i] Gallup and Strada Education Network, On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect on Their Education Decisions, June 2017 Inaugural Report

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