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Why & How to Figure Out Your Path as College Student

Rachel Serwetz
Rachel Serwetz
August 3, 2017
College students — Here’s why you need to — and how you can — figure out your path

Let’s discuss 1) the criticality of taking control over your career while you’re in college, 2) what’s going to trip you up and how to avoid it, and 3) how to figure out your passion.

I went down a traditional path of joining an investment bank because well, they came to my campus. While I had a good experience, there were a few really easy things I could’ve done to figure out a better role to target. By doing this, I could’ve been investing those early years of my career climbing the ladder in an area that mattered to me, versus starting over later. I’d like to make sure you are set up for success.

1. Take control now

Young adults in today’s job market are convinced that they can and should change jobs every few years. Tons of articles support doing so in order to improve your salary. And I, too, support this move when it makes sense for your career, and if you will be inputting yourself into a fitting environment where you can thrive. However, for students in college, please, I beg you, do not use this as a sense of comfort that you don’t need to be thoughtful about your first job.

I’ll tell you exactly what will happen if/when you choose a job based on the wrong reasons. You will be miserable. The reason you see young adults changing jobs after 1–3 years is because they want to be doing something closer to their interests. So why not try to reflect on this sooner?

Let me also make clear to you that job hopping later on requires you to actually job search again. To go through the long, stressful, daunting process that you will go through in college. Why, on earth, would you want to go through this again? Yes, you will likely go through it at some point in your career, and that’s fine. But, if you could land in a company you align with, and a division/role you find interesting, and set yourself up with experience you can leverage later on, getting you closer to rise the ladder that you will find thrilling, are you going to tell me you don’t want to do that? Let me assure you that if you do this, your next roles will simply find you.

2. What will trip you up

If I haven’t convinced you yet, let me tell you a few classic tales that you have likely seen happen to others.

a) You are going to choose a job (and/or major) based on its stereotypes, i.e. you think it is a “stable” or “secure” path.

  • If you choose a job solely based on this, and do not think about what the job entails, let me assure you, it will not end well. You will want to move jobs/companies, and this can often mean a very miserable first job experience. It can sometimes mean an experience that is hardly transferable to what you actually care about, wasting valuable time that you could be investing in a career you care about.
  • Let me assure you that the most stable path is the one you care about. You will be motivated and thus you will rise as a star. You’ve probably heard about “employee engagement” — the reason companies struggle with this is because folks are in roles they do not care about — don’t let it happen to you.

b) You think your college major defines (confines) you.

  • Companies are not hiring students based on their major. What will matter is your experiences and what your true interests are. Let me tell you that during college is the best time to think carefully about the right realm of what you might be interested in — ignoring your major, because it’s really the only time you’ll be able to do it. Once you begin working, what you will have to leverage is your past work experience — so choosing the area that you gain that work experience in is critical.

c) You are doing what your parents are telling you to do.

  • Refer back to “a”

3. How to figure out your passion

To answer this important question, it is simply a matter of good self-reflection.

  1. Think of an experience you loved doing (preferably one you chose to do by your own volition without anyone asking you to do)
  2. Translate what you were doing into more generic terms and in what area/context/industry you were doing it in.
  • For instance, when I created a student satisfaction survey, I was essentially trying to improve the student program to improve the experience of the end user. I was doing this within higher education because I care that students have the resources they need to succeed.

It’s my personal mission to help students make better decisions, and I’m working on a project that will help you if you’re currently in the process of “figuring it out.” By looking at your experiences, your interests, and what environment you will enjoy, we will land on a path that intrigues you. If you’re a college student struggling to figure it out (or think you know your path), take a few minutes to fill out this tool and let’s set you up for success….

Why & How to Figure Out Your Path as College Student

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Rachel Serwetz’ early professional experience was at Goldman Sachs in Operations and at Bridgewater Associates in HR. From there, she was trained as a coach at NYU and became a certified coach through the International Coach Federation. After this, she worked in HR Research at Aon Hewitt and attained her Technology MBA at NYU Stern. Throughout her career, she has helped hundreds of professionals with career exploration and for the past 4.5+ years she has been building her company, WOKEN, which is an online career exploration platform to coach professionals through the process of clarifying their ideal job and career path. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Binghamton University and has served as a Career Coach through the Flatiron School, Columbia University, WeWork, and Project Activate.

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