“What do you want to do when you grow up?” This is a question asked of us since our earliest childhood years. The outlandish answers are cute when toddlers say them, but when teenage years arrive, the world expects more ambitious and serious answers. Once students get to college, the question becomes ever more real and much harder to answer.
In his book, Will College Pay Off? Peter Capelli defines “The Home Depot Approach,” an idea that employers believe all employees fit a specific job for a specific purpose, just like a tool in a toolbox. Capelli says that this ideology is false – employees’ backgrounds, studies and experiences all primarily compose the value they contribute to the workforce. It has become an unrealistic expectation that those of us graduating college have to fit into a specific mold in order to achieve a worthwhile career.
At the start of our freshman year, we have a vague idea of what we want our future career to be, but this is often driven by future earning potential, others’ perspective of your major or hobbies that you once enjoyed in high school. Most people hardly know what they want to do even after all four years at college. Developing your passions and skills is the most valuable way to decide where you want to be after you graduate.
However, selecting the best major for yourself is the first step toward propelling yourself into a happy and successful career. According to the Washington Post, only 27 percent of college graduates have a job related to their major. This is proof that what you are studying doesn’t define your career — it defines your opportunity. Even more exciting, you can choose how to fulfill that opportunity. How you develop your character outside of your resume impacts your future career a lot more than how well you did on that Spanish test your sophomore year.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted a survey of hiring managers about the most valuable skills in new employees. Written and verbal communication, effective leadership and knowledge of technology came up as the main ideas. This shows the importance of taking a variety of opportunities throughout your time in college. By allowing different skills to develop, you build yourself up as a quality candidate for multiple potential careers. It is important to create a package of skills that demonstrate that you are well-rounded.
During my freshman year, I felt unsure about what I wanted to do after college. I had a major and a course layout for the next four years, but I didn’t have much direction on what job title came with what I studied. Once senior year arrived, I realized that the compilation of classes, jobs and personal ventures I had accomplished had prepared me to begin my future career with promise.
Let’s start celebrating the unknown opportunities to come rather than fearing we won’t succeed in the step-by-step plan the world has given us. Spend time taking advantage of opportunities, enjoying the moments you are in and opening yourself up to experience.