We all remember being asked what we wanted to become in life back when we were still growing up. Without fail and like an unspoken code, the response was almost always “I want to be a doctor”, “I want to be an Engineer”, or “I want to become a lawyer”.
These 3 career paths seemed to be the only available career options- despite the fact that there are a plethora of them. Considering the fact that students hardly set out to study mass communications in those days, it almost felt like such fields were created for the sole purpose of accommodating those who didn’t make it into law school. Microbiology became a department of solace for those who didn’t make it into medical school. Mass Communication, Interior Design, Economics, Literature weren’t favorite picks and those who ended up studying such subjects were often times regarded as not being intelligent enough. Given the cold reception to these fields, I can only imagine the comic gestures and exclamations that must have ensued as a result of a response like “I want to be a Chef”!
The process of deciding what to be in life, career wise, is one that taunts many people. Not surprisingly, it is a topic that not only perturbs college students but also some already established professionals. Thankfully, there are tips to aid in navigating this life-pertinent process of deciding what to be in life.
The good thing about those core classes you never wanted to take
If you are in college, this is a very valuable channel to explore various opportunities. College students are usually mandated to take certain classes, unrelated to their major, in order to graduate. The purpose of these classes is to expose the student to disciplines he/she may not have opted to study. This is an excellent opportunity for the student to get a sneak peek at what you may enjoy doing in life. On the other hand, these classes could just serve to inform you of fields you absolutely abhor- do put your best into the classes and don’t be too fast to judge.
What you get out of joining student clubs
College students should also endeavor to be active members of student organizations. Active participation in extra-curricular activities benefits the student in that it provides the opportunity to meet new people, collaborate with people from different student clubs, meet with college authorities, get leadership training, get exposure to topics that they may not have otherwise explored, etc.
By serving as the public relations officer of the Liberian Students Association, for instance, a student may realize that he/she enjoys working with people and is actually good at representing a body. A biology student who serves as treasurer of the Biology club could realize that he/she enjoys punching numbers more than ecology, botany or even microbiology. In addition, these experiences equip the student with the qualities- leadership skills, team spirit, ability to self motivate and initiate – necessary for success at the work place.
You still need to burn the night candles
Winning the award for the most active student club participant will never substitute for having a strong GPA. Participation in extra-curricular activities is an added value as opposed to being a substitute for strong academic performance.
For college graduates
For those who have already graduated from college, and obviously cannot go back to school in order to participate in extra-curricular activities, there are still other ways to go about discovering what to be in life.
Whether employed or unemployed, there are various volunteer opportunities sponsored by non-profit organizations. These opportunities serve the same function as the extra-curricular activities aforementioned. Just like in extra-curricular activities where you get to work on projects with people from other clubs, such volunteer opportunities give you the chance to meet different people- people who can mentor you, refer you to someone who has taken the career route you intend to take and in some cases you may meet people who can hire you.
Also endeavor to join organizations specific to your field like the Financial Women Association for women in finance, National Association of Black Accountants for those interested in business, National Society of Black Engineers for engineers, etc.
Get a Career Mentor
Regardless of where you are in life, there will always be people behind you and ahead of you. A mentor, someone who is interested in helping you and is much more knowledgeable than you are in your field of interest, is invaluable if you are to succeed.
Emmanuela Anyanwu holds a degree in Economics from the City College of New York. She currently works in the financial services industry and has substantial experience coaching on career related topics. She is very passionate about Africa – and wants to propagate positive change. Lifestyle writing is more than a craft to her- it's a medium through which she expresses and explores the multi facets of life.