While many think back fondly upon college as a time of freedom and fun, the purpose of this time in an individual’s life isn’t to engage in four years of leisure, but instead to create a solid foundation upon which to build a stable future. Though college is certainly, for many, an enjoyable experience, it is important to keep in mind that the purpose of college is to prepare you for a career. By focusing on this fact as you approach college, remembering it while you are in college, and even returning to the process of pondering your career options once you are in the workforce, you can heighten your chances of making your adult years happy ones.
To improve your chances of later-in-life career success, begin thinking about your career goals long before you ever set foot on a college campus. During high school, put effort into developing an individualized career plan. List some jobs that you are interested in and spend some time exploring them, gathering information about the jobs from reputable sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. As you learn more about each job, narrow your list, eliminating occupations that don’t seem to be a perfect fit for you. With a narrowed list, explore colleges that have programs designed to prepare you for the careers in which you are most interested. By taking these steps you can improve your chances of attending a college where you can get the education you need to be successful in the future instead of allowing yourself to haphazardly select a college because of your best friend, or because you thought the campus was beautiful during a tour.
Once you enter college and select your course of study, contemplation of your future career shouldn’t end. 50 percent of students who declare majors ultimately end up changing them, so don’t be married to your initial choice. After you take a few courses in your major, you will have a better idea of what working in that occupation would look like. If you can’t envision yourself in that field, switch majors. Even if this means spending a few more years in college, you will find that it’s worth it as the degree you earned is tailored to the job you want. This makes getting your dream job more likely.
If you graduated from college and realize that you want more than your current level of education allows, don’t settle for less. Even if you are too busy working to return to school full time, you can still have an educational advantage over others by seeking an advanced degree. Many schools now offer online graduate degrees which allow greater flexibility for students who may have family, career and personal obligations. For example, if you are toiling away at a less-than-desirable job in the business world, but aspire to move up the corporate ladder, consider an online MBA program. With an online program, you are able to earn an advanced degree without taking leave from your job, and you can study on your own schedule.
Many mistakenly believe that career planning only happens during the undergraduate years, but in the words of Alan Lakein, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” If you want to succeed, then put in a little extra work and plan accordingly. You will not only have a better chance of attaining your goals, but you will also find more satisfaction with your career in the long-term.
Joseph Baker’s business experience in management spans more than 15 years. A leader of development and management teams, he also implemented budget reductions professionally and as an independent contractor. Joseph led strategic planning and systems of implementation for nine organizations, public and private, and worked extensively with small businesses. His education background ranges from teaching to school administration.