Two vexing questions torment most college students sooner or later. They are: What’s the best career for me? And how will I get paid for it?
I’m wondering about these things more and more as I approach the end of my sophomore year. I hear a lot about the virtues of practicality—searching out a job that will pay and actually exists. This is surely important, but as I see it, I still have two years of relative freedom to pinpoint the career I really want, whether or not it pays and/or exists. Call me idealistic, ’cause I am. But this approach is practical too—the more I know about myself, what I like and what I’m good at, the more I’ll be able to communicate who I am and what I do to others and find the most appropriate career for me. If it’s not perfect, that’s okay. But it’s well worth my time to hunt down that ideal career now when I can, before I get too distracted, so that later I’ll be able to find the closest thing that actually does pay and exist.
The question remains, How do I find my ideal (if imaginary) career? The answer is this: listen. Be aware of yourself and your innate feelings about different subjects and activities. Notice how your feelings change in different environments—are you motivated to do this thing on your own, or only when competing against other people? (I’m very motivated to do mathematics in a classroom setting, but the motivation suddenly and completely disappears when I’m on my own.) What is it about this subject that keeps you engaged?
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” -Elie Wiesel
You want to find a subject that you care deeply about, and that means you’ll experience a variety of emotions toward it. Sometimes the activities you’re best at and most interested in can be the most frustrating, but that happens naturally. It’s much easier to hate a family member than a stranger. Just make sure that your ideal career is something you really and deeply want, not something you only want to want. It’s a subtle difference, but if you start doing what you think you want to do now, the truth will emerge soon enough.
Search out, hunt down, and find your ideal career. If it’s imaginary, call it a goal. It’ll give you something to work towards, and half the challenge is knowing what your goal is. The key is finding something that you care about.