The transition from high school to college can be a bit overwhelming. There are plenty of things to worry about — finding your way around campus, getting to know your professors, and keeping your fingers crossed that your assigned roommate isn't Satan in spandex, just to name a few. But one of the things first-year students worry about most is their career development: What do you want to be when you grow up? Remember when you were little and adults would always ask you that? Maybe you wanted to be an astronaut, maybe a zookeeper. Heck, maybe you were even an advanced sort of child interested in genetic engineering. The point is, our whole lives we think about careers and we worry that the time has come to start making some decisions.
The first thing to keep in mind is that your first year of college should be a time for career exploration, not decision-making. You don't have to decide on your future career right now. In fact, we encourage people to wait until they are a sophomore or junior to decide. Think about it this way: if you are entering college at 18 years old and go to school for 4–5 years, you'll be graduating around 22-23 years old. Then, you work and work and work, finally retiring around 65 years old. That means you worked for over 42 years. Wow! 42 years of work! So, do you really want to rush into a career you may be at for over 42 years? No! You want to start slowly and build your career information base by carefully researching and considering your options. Here are some tips for starting your first year off on the right foot, career developmentally:
- Concentrate on your academics. Learning how to study effectively and strengthening your time management skills will help you to begin your college career with a strong academic foundation. If, down the road, you choose a profession where additional schooling will be necessary, your grades will matter.
- Utilize your campus career center. Drop in and talk to a career counselor. Visit the Center for Career and Service Learning. Browse the career resource library — it's loaded with books, directories, periodicals, computerized career planning programs, and more, all designed to help you build your information base.
- Enjoy your first-year seminar course. Not only does it help with the transition from high school to college, many also offer a career planning component that helps identify skills and interests while exploring different majors. They are also great classes in which to make new friends.
- Get to know yourself. Identify your own personal skills, values, needs, and interests. Take some self-assessment tests with career services to help you pinpoint careers that suit your interests and personality.
- Explore what Catawba College has to offer academically. Learn what majors and minors we offer. Take some classes that interest you, even if they aren't part of your general requirements. Talk to different academic departments. Get to know faculty. Explore.
- Talk to people who are in a career field you are interested in. Participate in a job shadowing experience, conduct an informational interview, or volunteer with an organization. Consider what you are doing part-time or during the summer, and if it isn't in a field you are interested in, find something that is.
- Start a career journal. Write down jobs your hear about or see on TV. Keep notes in your career exploration. When you hear of a new major, write it down. When a friend tells you about the cool job their uncle does, write it down. Keep notes about what skills you enjoy using, leadership activities, and work experiences. This information will be of great use when you talk to a career counselor.
Right now, college graduation probably seems like a distant goal. As hard as it is to believe, your years in college will pass quickly. Just ask anyone who's been there, time flies. Before you know it, you will be out pounding the pavement, searching for the perfect job to kick off your new fabulous career.
So, begin with the end in mind. Start your career exploration now. Don't feel pressured to make any quick decisions today. Besides, you can't be expected to make such an important decision right now; you have to figure out where your ENG 101 class is, what professors best fit your learning style, and how to get Satan's spawn transferred to another room!