Hello! Today I am sharing another story in my college real talk series! This post, talking all about choosing a career path and why it’s okay to change your mind, is written by Sarah at Caffeine and Conquer. I think this post is so important, because it is incredibly common to change your career path both during and after college! Read on to hear Sarah’s story and get some honest advice about what to do if you can’t decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.
Find all the posts in the college real talk series here.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
We’re asked this question throughout our childhood, mainly as a way to get cute responses (“Ohhhh she wants to be the candy man”) that no one takes seriously. When we enter our final years of high school that changes. Suddenly our future becomes a very serious topic of conversation.
I remember in my final year of high school there was a day dedicated to applying to colleges. We were ushered into a computer lab where they helped us apply to our top three choices. Everyone was expected to have chosen their tentative career path at the age of 17. The pressure to choose the right thing is even higher when you’re investing over thousands of dollars! See the problem?
I didn’t take choosing a career very seriously.
When the time came to apply to universities and colleges I had many ideas about the direction my life could take. As a multipotentialite (someone with many interests and hobbies), choosing one career path is hard! At the age of 17, I was passionate about history, visual arts and literature. Sadly, it’s become common knowledge that careers in the Arts are less important as they used to be. However, I have always been the type to do what I love rather than do what will provide me financial security, so I just followed my gut.
In retrospect, the first warning sign that I hadn’t settled on a career were my application choices. I applied to St. Catherine’s University to pursue a career in Education as a history and geography teacher; Lakehead University to pursue a degree in Fine Arts; and the University of Ottawa for art history. The common theme here appears to be history and art but I had no plan on how to apply it towards a career. I just wanted the experience and to learn. I accepted the offer from the University of Ottawa (it was only an hour and a half from my hometown).
Learning for the Sake of Learning – Not a Career
I spent the first year in the History and Theory of Art program but later switched to general history and classical studies because I enjoyed the broader topic. I enjoyed learning about history, mainly because I love absorbing information and learning about the world. The only problem was I had no idea what I was going to do with this degree once I completed it. I felt a university arts degree left me ill prepared for anything beyond continuing my education through a master’s degree or teaching. Although I could write a great research paper, I couldn’t tell you how to do anything else. I had little confidence in my degree and my ability to obtain gainful employment with it.
As I was finishing my final year of university I was left with a choice: try and gain employment with an Arts degree or continue my education to gain practical experience. I chose the latter.
What Now? Continuing Education.
I immediately went from my university to a college without a gap year. I had an Arts degree in history in my arsenal, so I decided to go further into this subject and spent three years in the Museum Studies program at Algonquin College. The goal here was to gain practical experience, which I was lacking.
I will say that this program was amazing! If I had to compare my experience between both educations, college wins hands down. University taught me how to research and analyze information. College taught me how to use power tools, preserve artifacts, use a professional camera, work with databases, plan and develop exhibits, graphic design and evaluate historical artifacts. The difference was general skills vs. very specific experience targeted at specialized employment.
10 Years Wasted?
Oddly enough, I ultimately didn’t end up pursuing a career in the history or museum field, despite investing 10 years of my time. It has been a year since I graduated college and I have changed. A lot can happen in 10 years, and while my intentions were good, I mainly had a yearning to learn, which doesn’t always translate into a lifetime career.
Parents reading this might be going “oh my god, I hope my child doesn’t waste this much money”, but my investment wasn’t a waste. There are a lot of transferable skills that can be used in other employment situations.
In February 2018, I made the choice to abandon my pursuit of employment as a collections manager in a museum. Instead I am self-employed, building my own career as a content creator and artist. I have found ways to use my research and writing skills to create content for my website. My experience using a professional camera and graphic design programs are skills needed for the visual elements of content creation. And lastly, as a multipotentialite, the possibilities on the internet are endless. There is so much to learn and many new ways to monetize these skills that it’s exciting and has given me life again.
What to Do if you Can’t Settle on a Career Path
First, it’s completely normal. Statistics show that people will change their career at least 3 times during their lifetime. Whether this happens early in life or later, it happens.
If you’re being pressured to pursue higher education and you’re not ready to invest in something you’re unsure of, have a serious conversation with your parents.
It’s important to keep learning and put yourself in new experiences. If you can do that without spending $30k that’s even better.
Talk to people who know you and ask them what jobs they think you’re a good fit for. It can often be hard to evaluate yourself, therefore family and friends might have a different perspective.
If you’re a multipotentialite like me, then changes are just going to be part of your life. But don’t fret, you will bring the skills you learned from your previous careers into your new career.
Lastly, if you finish higher education, and decide to go in another direction, know that there are thousands of other students doing the same thing. We just aren’t ready to settle on something we aren’t completely in love with!
Thanks again to Sarah for sharing her story and thoughts with me about choosing a career path! I loved what she had to say about not freaking out when you realize you’re doing the wrong thing. I too chose a career path at random when heading to college, and changed it a few weeks in when I finally realized what I wanted to do!
Make sure when you choose your career, you choose what YOU want. Not your parents, not your professors, not society. Listen to yourself and what you like to do. I always wanted to teach, but was pushed away from the profession by many people. Once I arrived at Ball State, however, I knew what I wanted. Once I got away from the naysayers, I made the decision that I knew was right for me. Now, as I am entering the first year of my career, I am so happy I chose what I wanted, and not what other wanted for me.