A Quarter Life Crisis: Tackling the College Student’s Career Search

Us college students, much to our dismay, are no strangers to probing questions about the future.


Do you know what you want to study?


What’s your major?


What can you do with that degree?


And everyone’s favorite, What do you plan on doing once you graduate?


These seemingly benign questions send shivers down our spines and twinges of fear through our bodies. We think I don’t’ know! Am I supposed to know? Does everyone else know and I am the only one with no direction in life whatsoever?! Evidently, this line of thought can spiral out of control and force us to address some questions that are simply unanswerable. The problem here is that society has made it unacceptable to simply respond, “I don’t know” when realistically, that’s the truth. We end up fumbling and feneigling our way through some half-hearted half-true explanation about our grandiose plans for the future. After all, we have to give our audience what they want to hear.


“Well political science is a very versatile major so I’m interested in becoming a senator or a lobbyist or a researcher or a professor or a campaign manager. I’m just keeping my options open,” a confused college student might respond to their second cousin making small talk at Thanksgiving dinner.


I’m here to tell you that instead of stumbling your way through a broken answer, just say “I don’t know”.


We often view those who know what they want as “together” or “ambitious” or “successful” but the truth is, that isn’t true. Being ahead of the game doesn’t necessarily guarantee success so take your time. Explore things that are genuinely interesting to you rather than what you think will sound good when you’re describing your future to a distant relative. Don’t let other people’s expectations of your future determine your own expectations of yourself.


Here are some ways to stay centered in choosing your career path in order to find something that you love:


Be relaxed.

I know, that’s much easier said than done but it really is important. Although I’ll admit that it is impossible to be relaxed 100% of the time about such a significant aspect of your life, the more relaxed you are, the more clearly you’ll be able to look down the road ahead. It’s easy to get caught up in a spiral of worry and anxiety so remind yourself that you have time, you are capable, and that you will find the job for you.


Be confident.

In looking for the career for you, know your strengths and be confident in them. Maybe you’re really good with numbers or you have a knack for creative writing. Take an inventory of what you excel in and never doubt your skills. Don’t be afraid to show them off and use them to your advantage when your thinking about your next (or first) career move. Oftentimes, being confident in your strengths will help you enjoy exploring and utilizing them in your career.


Be Open minded.

Know your strengths and explore them in your career options but don’t be afraid to try something that you never expected. Stepping outside of your comfort zone could introduce you to an entirely knew skill set that you didn’t know you had. It could lead you to something worth considering when thinking about pursuing one career path versus another. It might sound cliché, but this is the time in your life to try new things. To try everything. There is nothing holding you back at this point in your life so take ricks and learn about yourself. Take a class that you would never think to take, apply for an internship, volunteer at an organization. Being open minded can help you learn about yourself and lead you to discover what you want in your professional life.


Be humble.

Knowing your limitations is just as important as knowing your strengths. Be aware of your setbacks, admit them to yourself, and try to work on them. Nobody is good at everything and it’s best to acknowledge the areas in which you don’t excel so that you can be realistic in terms of heading down the right career path. Maybe you’re a procrastinator, or your artistic abilities are subpar, or you’re better at multivariable calculus than you are at writing an email to a professor. It’s okay to have weaknesses. Being humble about both the things that you are good at and the things that you are not will help you clearly recognize the career choices that are best suited to your skill set.


Be Connected.

Most college students don’t have a problem with staying active on social media. Young people are constantly posting, tagging, tweeting, liking, and sharing across all social media platforms. However, don’t just look at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as a forum to show off the great weekend you had with your friends (even though that’s always great). Use social media to connect with people outside your day-to-day interactions and build your network. Of course, face-to-face connections are just as beneficial, but if you utilize the benefits of social media for your professional life, you have the potential to make meaningful connections that would not have otherwise been possible. These connections could even be the source of a new and interesting job prospect. So join a Twitter chat and follow someone new on Instagram because you never know where your connections could take you in the future.


At the end of the day, remember that your career path is entirely up to you. You can start when you want, end when you want, and make your own twists and turns in between. But most importantly, stay centered and stay true to yourself because that is how you discover talents and passions that make you excited to go to work every day.