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Stop Stressing About Picking the “Right” College Major

Stop Stressing About Picking the “Right” College Major

Freshman year

The more you learn about possible career paths, the easier your transition will be from college to career.
Get involved. Investigate and join on-campus organizations that provide opportunities for you to develop skills, make connections outside the classroom, and when the time is appropriate, lead activities to achieve goals.
Assess yourself as an individual. As a freshman, you get to reinvent your high school self. Ask yourself: What am I good at—my talents and hard won skills? What are my values? What gives me meaning and purpose?
Don’t think majors. Economists and business leaders do not know what jobs will be available when you graduate. However, they can reasonably predict which skills employers will value and the essential functions needed in the workplace. Take courses to attain and develop these competencies.

Sophomore Year

It’s time to take control and focus your academic and extracurricular efforts and interests. Declare a major that aligns with your interests and develops valued workplace skills.
Focus on a few vs. many things. Students, especially the success-minded ones, take on too many commitments.  The problem with this strategy is, if you try to do everything, you’ll be good at nothing. Employers look for job candidates who demonstrate command of a skill and show leadership.
Master the informational interview. One of the best ways to learn more about a potential career path is to talk to people who are actually living your career. Talk to alumni, your parents, and friends of your parents to see who knows someone in your field. It’s a great way to start building your professional network.
Find a mentor. Faculty advisors, professors, school administrators are important relationships, but are academic vs. work-focused. Your school may have a formal mentoring program that matches students with an appropriate mentor.

Junior Year

Craft the story of you—-a real person who knows what s/he does and why s/he does it. It’s a unique way of describing yourself to people who don’t already know you and informs them about your fit with the organization.
Sign up with LinkedIn. Create a profile page that tells your story.
Practice. Create and practice your response to ‘tell me about yourself’.
Write a resume. Create a keyword, action verb, accomplished-based and personality-rich resumé and make sure it’s applicant tracking software (ATS) compliant.
Get experience. Internships provide you the opportunity to test-drive a career field, make contacts, build marketable skills and figure out your likes and dislikes within specific fields and cultures. Today’s graduates without work experience will stand little chance of securing a job after graduation.
Get into good physical and mental shape.  You do need to be concerned about the impression you make on job interviews. Employers fairly or un-fairly make quick judgments about job candidates based on how they look and how they dress.

Senior Year

Big dreams are great. If you don’t create space in your life for making progress toward them, then they’re fantasies. Turn a dream into a plan and work the plan to land your first professional job.
Develop a job-search plan. You really do not want to leave launching your career to chance. Understand what is it takes to find a job in today’s job market and develop a targeted plan with goals, daily/weekly tasks and deadlines to work to your way into the companies on your list.
Start your job search early. Landing a job in today’s market can take quite a lot of time. Be sure to attend career services sponsored career fairs and your department’s networking events. Take any opportunity to meet employers who are looking to hire young talent.
It’s not always who you know, but who knows you. Networking is NOT about you. It’s about building a relationship with people who want to connect for mutual benefit. Even when starting a career it’s about finding out what someone else needs and helping them get it—being a resource in any way that you can.

 
Finding your career and getting a job in that career is a process you can’t leave to your senior year. Taking the time to create and work your plan nets the results you want.