Under Pressure to Pick a Major and a Career


I am a college student. I recently have been getting pressure from my family to
pick a major and a career but I’m still taking classes and learning about new
subjects and while I realize the importance of choosing these things I really
have no clue what I want to do. I mean isn’t this what college is supposed to
be about? Why can’t I just enjoy the learning and not worry so much about the
major and the career?


The Career Doctor responds:
One of the raging debates in academic circles is how early students should be
locking into career choices and whether college (and even some high schools
these days) should be so vocational or focused more on the appreciation of
learning and acquisition of knowledge.
That said you also do not want to be like that 30-something college student –
I believe in Minnesota — who still has not graduated and now plans a study-abroad
term to extend his graduation even further.
I think college is the perfect time in life to begin the first phase of focusing on self-assessment.
I say the first phase because you will most likely change careers several times over
the course of your adult life.
The most important thing you can do for yourself (and perhaps for your family too) is to
find time over the summer to do some self-assessment and career exploration. There
are all sorts of ways to do the assessment but I suggest a combination of tests and
self-reflection. You can find online assessment tests (both no-cost and fee-based) as
well as at your college’s career office; that’s the easy part. The harder part is the
self-reflection where you should examine your likes and dislikes your strengths and
weaknesses and the activities and classes you enjoy the most.
The goal from all these exercises is to learn more about yourself and your interests.
Once you have discovered these things about yourself the next step is exploring careers
that fit you. There are lots of books and Websites that give information about careers
though one of the best sources is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. I would suggest also talking with people in your network
(including your professors) about careers — and perhaps even conducting some
informational interviews once you have narrowed your prospective career paths.
Where to get started? Go to these two sections of Quintessential Careers:
Career Assessment
and Career Exploration.