Undergraduate students often visit me during advising hours and ask, “What’s the best major/minor/career path for me?” I wish I had a crystal ball that could offer an answer, but the truth is that there is no singular correct answer to this type of question. Choosing a course of study and a career is incredibly personal – it takes some soul-searching and life experience to really figure out what you’re good at and what you like to do. There is no one right way to figure it out. A lucky few are blessed and come out of the womb knowing their mission in life, but the rest of us folks have to learn through good old fashioned trial and error. Luckily, that’s what college is all about!
So, how do you go about figuring out what to do after you graduate? Chances are, you’ll get a hint from the classes you’re required to take – maybe you took a Children’s Literature class you really enjoyed and realized that you would like to work with children (Teacher, Coach, Librarian, Clinical Social Worker, etc.), or maybe you took a Marketing class and realized that you want a career in that realm (Advertising, Market Research, Nonprofit Fundraising, etc.). If your classes don’t inspire you, then think about taking some classes outside of your major focus: add a minor, or peruse UCSD’s General Catalogue and take some elective classes that sound interesting to you. There is so much out there to explore! For the most part, your major won’t limit your career options (i.e. there is no reason a Visual Arts major can’t go on to be an IT Specialist), but you should major in something you like because you’ll have a happier college experience and get better grades if you major in something you enjoy.
Still, to get a clear sense of what path lies ahead of you, you’ll probably need to step outside of the classroom and get your hands a bit dirty. Sometimes the best way to learn what you want to do requires testing out many options and finding out what you don’t want to do. Here are some suggestions that will help you learn more about yourself and what career is right for you:
- Connect with your Professors – Meeting with professors offers valuable insights into the professional and academic world. It is also a good, no-risk way to practice your professionalism and networking skills.
- Apply for an Internship - There is no better way to decide what career you want to pursue than by testing it out. You can even get credit to intern though UCSD’s Academic Internship Program.
- Study Abroad - 93% of students who study abroad say that the cross-cultural skills they learned while studying abroad were professionally valuable.
- Get a Summer Job – Check PortTriton for open positions.
- Do Your Research – Explore Common Careers by Major.
- Join a Student Organization – Make friends and connect with peers with similar interests.
- Attend Events – Check the Career Services Center Calendar and the undergrad@rady blog.
- Academic Enrichment Program – Offers undergrads the opportunity to conduct and present research.
- Volunteer/ Civic Engagement – Volunteering is a double positive: it helps society and adds to your resume.
- Center for Student Involvement -- Offers Communication and Leadership programs to help you build confidence and develop skills in leadership, public speaking, interpersonal, intergroup, and professional communication.
And finally, a little beginning of the school year advice: Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and take risks! You are a student. You are here to learn. Mistakes are never failures; they are learning experiences.
Christina Martinez is the Undergraduate Academic Advisor at the Rady School of Management. She is a UCSD alumna with a major in Literature/Writing. When she isn’t advising students, you can find her with her nose in a book.