What Do I Want to Do When I Grow Up?

to_doNow you are in college and you, most likely, are (or over) 18 years of age. In many countries, you are already considered an adult and seem entitled to do whatever adults can do. And… here comes the big question: what do you want to do?

This is a good and complicated question, and most likely, you will answer this question yourself in an indefinite amount of time, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start the thinking process. Actually, now is a perfect time to start thinking, and maybe do some initial planning as well.

If you entered college with a clear life-time goal, that’s great. You can probably start to accumulate and use all the means and resources to achieve the goal and have a head start. Of course, you can also start college as a confused young student, which is great as well—you are flexible. Flexibility is an advantage, because it leads to a wide open future. You are open to a large selection of opportunities, and one of them might lead to your dream career. (This can be true for people with clearly defined goals: keep your minds open, and you might discover something fantastic.)

College time is a great chance for this self-discovery process. The hints are everywhere:

  1. The classes (and majors). As you are introduced to a wide range of topics, your critical thinking skills as well as your beliefs are challenged. What classes are you taking? What do you like/hate about them? Is there a part that excites you? What topics do you wish to explore further? Take a minute and ponder through simple questions such as these. You will probably be surprised by how much you have learned about yourself, and the world. (So the other hint is: take a bunch of different classes to broaden your horizon.)
  2. Professors and alumni. Need support? They are there for you. Chances are, they have gone through the same exact dilemmas as you. They can offer you good advice. You can learn a lot by just talking to them. Plus, they can give you insights about certain occupations, fields and even introduce you to their networks, which may be very helpful.
  3. If you are curious about a field, the most straight forward way to explore is to work in the field. Various companies offer different levels of internships for students. Through the internships, you will find out whether you want to go further in this particular field, or perhaps move in a different direction completely. Your co-workers are great resources, too. They might show you far more about this field than you could ever imagine. The experience you gain gain through an internship will provide strong insight into the specifics of a particular profession..

The above points are some suggestions among hundreds of ways to answer the big question. Combine these thoughts with your interests, habits, and dreams, and see if you can form a preliminary impression about what you want to do. Why not prepare now, so when the opportunity arises, you are ready to take advantage.

Lastly, I’d like to quote the great Japanese cartoon artist Hideaki Sorachi:

Dreams are like trees: they are more fun to climb than to just gaze at. There are things that you’ll learn only when you actually climb after them.

Good luck. The future awaits.

Shu Zhang, Quest Scholar Alum, Wesleyan ’13