Since I was little, one of my biggest questions to myself was: What do I want to be when I grow up? That question has been especially on my mind lately since I have graduated from college and my career is beginning to unfold. So how do you pick a career path? Here’s my take from what I’ve learned so far:
Start with your interests. What keeps you up at night? What makes you tick? What books and blog posts do you read and what classes you take? What do you make time for during the day to do what you love? I have always been a voracious reader and writer, which lead to me pursuing a college major in English. I thought I would be a journalist or a professor—until I attended a conference hosted by my college whose theme was the education of women and girls in a global context. Now I’m forging a career path in communications and girls’ empowerment, with some entrepreneurial flair mixed in, and I couldn’t be more psyched. (Though I do regret never taking a computer science class! Knowing how to code is the wave of the future.)
Test drive an internship. Or two. Or three! My internships have helped me discover the kinds of work I like to do—and could do for eight hours per day, five times per week—along with the types of people I click with and the company culture I thrive in. I had an internship at a newspaper one summer, which I absolutely loved. I was immersed in interviewing and article-writing and even pitching topics. But the hours weren’t the best: I alternated between the 10 am – 6 pm shift and the 3 pm – 11 pm shift, and I wasn’t sure if the pace of a newsroom would fit my future. I have since realized that startup culture and freelance work are more my stride.
Drink lots of coffee. And by that I mean, use coffee shops as your stomping grounds to build relationships with career women and women you admire. I’ve had my share of awesome convos with awesome people doing awesome work. And they’ve helped me reflect on my own career path: Where am I, and where do I want to go?
Go with the flow. If you have your career path planned out from A to Z, that is awesome. And if you don’t, that’s a-okay, too. Career aspirations can change—you might end up not liking a job as much as you thought, or a job could shape into a entirely new role. If you had asked 7-year-old me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you that I wanted to be a published author, illustrator and professional figure skater representing USA at the Olympics. Now, I can’t draw much beyond scribbles in my notebook, I never moved beyond my beginner’s ice skating class and my published professional work is more along the lines of blog posts and social media than novels. But I couldn’t be happier with the direction my career is taking. And who knows? There could still be a novel in my future.
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