Ask an Expert: Taking “Perfection” Out of Exploration

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Lauren Hinkel, Career Advisor, All Majors

Question: How do I know if I’m making the “right” major and/or career choice? 

As we enter November, it is often a common time of reflection for all of us as we round the corner to the end of the semester. Some of us may feel very comfortable and assured in our choice of study and pathway. Many of us, however, may be questioning how we feel about our major, our career plans, and if these are the “right” choices.

If you are among these many people, welcome! You are experiencing something that is very normal for anyone as they grow, change, and learn about themselves. Although uncertainty can be scary, we can also embrace this as an opportunity to learn, and feel confident in what we want and need. With that, let’s unpack some common career myths, and the realities associated with them.

Is there a perfect career out there for me?

First, let’s talk about the word “perfect”. Merriam Webster defines perfect as “being entirely without fault or defect”. This is not a realistic expectation for ourselves, much less for a career or major choice. Perfection in and of itself limits us, and can make us afraid of any potential imperfections in even great career options. There is likely not one “perfect” career or major, but there are several excellent options once we remove the barrier of perfection.

 I am worried that I will choose wrong. Is my first job my forever job?

No! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average job tenure is approximately 4 years among all workers in the US. If you are under 30, this can be even less (around 2 years). This tells us that there is a great deal of mobility in the world of work. While you may start in a certain role, you will likely learn even more about your skills, interests and values during this time. Exploration does not have to stop at graduation, and it likely will not stop.

 What if I do not like my major when I graduate?

Your major often does not determine your career pathway. In a recent study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about 27% of graduates end up in a career directly related to their major. Meaning, what we do in the classroom is only one piece of the puzzle. Your part-time work, internships, student organizations, and other experiences are just as much a part of shaping your career as your coursework. If you realize a major is not for you upon graduation, you can work with your career advisor to determine additional pathways, or use What Can I Do With This Major to research.

Do I have to figure out my major and career on my own?

Absolutely not. You have a team of advisors (academic and career) available to help you every step of the way. Book an appointment with either an All-Majors or College Career Consultant to choose an exploration plan that is right for you.

By Lauren Hinkel
Lauren Hinkel Associate Director, Undergraduate Career Coach - Russell Palmer Career Management Center