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I’m in second year with no career plan. Now what?

Don’t worry: you’re not alone.

November 22, 2016 — 

You’ve settled in a little, started exploring academically, and you’ve started learning about the kinds of things you enjoy. Second year is the perfect time to get started on your career plan. The career planning process can evoke all kinds of emotions: from excitement to distress. It can be especially stressful when it feels like everyone else knows exactly what they’re doing and you’re the only student without a perfect plan in place. Don’t worry: you’re not alone. It’s normal to be undecided, and it’s within your power to move forward on your career journey. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Plot twist: your career has already started. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve already started exploring a career path. The classes you take, your hobbies, and even your favourite Netflix series can say a lot about who you are and the occupations you could love. For example, a biology student who loves adrenaline sports and is known for binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy might consider a career in respiratory therapy, where they could apply their interest in health and science, as well as engage in hands-on, exhilarating work. Reflect on your interests on your own using The Career Planner or drop in to speak with a career consultant about how your passions and experiences might translate into a real-world occupation.

Think about the classes you like (and the classes you hate). Simply reflecting on which classes and subjects are the most interesting to you can point to careers you might enjoy. If you’re in second year, you’ve already discovered a lot about what engages you academically. By recognizing the ways you like to learn and work now, you can begin to determine how you would like to work in the future. That being said, there isn’t always an obvious connection between classes and careers, so think broadly. An interest in chemistry might mean you’d love a career as a chemist, but you might also enjoy being a food scientist, public health inspector, or a pharmacologist (to name a few possibilities). The Career Planner has a section dedicated to connecting your courses to career plans, so give it a try.

Try stuff: work and volunteer. Sometimes it’s hard to find your direction because you need more experience. If you’ve never seen a workplace in action, it can be difficult to imagine what different positions are like. If you know you want to work with people, but you’re not sure if that means social service or business, the best way to find out is to try both. Explore business by volunteering to do the books for a committee or by getting a sales position at the mall. Explore social service by volunteering with refugees or working part-time as a disability support worker. Pay attention to what you find most engaging. Talk to your colleagues: learn about the broader industry and opportunities within it. By putting yourself in these situations, you’re doing more than exploring careers. You’re setting yourself up for future success by building a strong professional network and gaining skills you can use in any occupation. Find opportunities through the CareerConnect job posting board, join co-op in your department, or find information about volunteering on the Career Services website. If you aren’t sure where to start, drop in to Career Services: we can explore ideas to help you gain experience. You can also try our online resource, Job Search: Your Career From First Year to Graduation. Step outside of your comfort zone, try new things, and take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

Get career help. You don’t have to do this alone: there is a whole department dedicated to helping U of M students make career decisions. The career consultants at Career Services love exploring occupations with students, so stop by 474 University Centre during our drop-in times. We can have a conversation about what you want in your career, what makes you unique, and we can help you identify occupations or sectors you should explore. We will also help you figure out the next step on your career planning journey: whether that’s taking a political studies class, volunteering in a microbiology laboratory, or talking to an archivist to learn more about their experiences.

You don’t need to have a definite career plan right now (or ever). A common career myth is that you need to decide on one specific occupation as soon as possible and that you’re stuck with it for the rest of your life. Professionals today change positions more than they ever have in the past. It’s completely possible to set yourself up to work as an accountant or an intelligence officer for CSIS, while still keeping law school a possibility. It’s all about being creative in your course choices and gaining the right professional experience. This is where working with both your career consultant and your academic advisor comes in handy.

Be patient with yourself, take advantage of opportunities, and get help when you need it. You’re already on your career path and the further you go, the more you’ll learn about yourself and the opportunities ahead.

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