MaryKate:

Last week, a co-worker was telling a group of us about her horrific time as an intern for a large company one summer in college. I laughed and commiserated with her, but I came away with a valuable idea: my co-worker only found out she didn’t like that particular industry because she experienced it. How can a person know what they like or dislike until they’ve done it? I think this is a conundrum that many college students and recent graduates face today; with tuition costs rising, there is an immense amount of pressure on students to choose a major and complete their degree in four years or less. Unfortunately, almost no one knows what they really want when they enter college; I know I didn’t. I happened to enjoy reading novels and writing, and that translates into an English degree. At least I was on the right track because I knew math and science were not for me. There are so many choices but not nearly enough time to figure out which is the best fit for you; so, with so many options out there, how do you find a major or a job that you will enjoy?

While working as a graduate assistant in the College of Education while in school, I talked with many students who switched their majors to Education and then had to stay on for extra semesters in order to finish their coursework and student teaching. I admired these students because they weren’t afraid to pursue what they really wanted, even though it took more time and money. I realize that staying in school for an extra semester or even two is not possible for many students, especially if they have a scholarship or are taking out loans. What I want students and recent grads to understand is that you don’t have to feel as though you’re under the gun while choosing a major (or a job). A friend of mine gave me excellent advice when I started my first job: “The best time to look for a job is when you already have one.” He meant that if I found this job to be unsatisfying, it doesn’t have to become my career and it doesn’t have to be all that I do. I can always look for new opportunities to expand or build on my interests and passions, and this works well for students, too.

I did so much more in school than just attending classes, reading novels, and writing papers. I took on an editing internship the summer of my sophomore year of college at a small magazine in Philadelphia and I learned so much about the entire publication process. The following spring, I contacted Karen about an internship possibility and working with her brought me out of my comfort zone (in a good way!). Though I tend to be a shy person, I accompanied Karen to various networking events and met new people. It was (and still is) a great experience working with her because I find myself learning something new about myself and others every day. During my four years of college, I became a tutor and helped everyone from freshman to seniors to write papers for their various classes. Since graduating with my Master’s, I’ve taken on different freelance editing and writing work to expand my knowledge of something I love. I’m not listing my skills and experience to let you all know how wonderful I am, but I want to illustrate a point: if I hadn’t tried different internship and volunteer opportunities, I wouldn’t have an idea of what I really want from a career. I find that it would be easy to fall into a rut at work or school but I won’t let that happen. I want to be challenged every day, not just go through the motions.

Don’t get discouraged if you are worried that you’re not doing what you love in work or school. You can make that happen. Find something that interests you and pursue it; in fact, there are endless resources in libraries, career counseling centers, and online. Take advantage of them and you will feel more fulfilled—I promise!

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