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How Do I Choose a College Major?

Q: "I'm a sophomore in college who needs to pick a major before my junior year, but I don't know how to decide what I want to do. What is the most important thing to consider in choosing the right career? What's the process for figuring out where to go from here with my life?"

A: Probably the most important thing about picking the right major in college is knowing your choice is not poured in concrete. Current research tells us the average professional changes jobs five to seven times during the course of her career. Consequently, if you are worried about making an irrevocable decision, take heart. You'll have a number of other chances to reevaluate your choice and move in another direction, if you desire.

In choosing the right major/career, first identify your transferable skills. Recognizing these "honed aptitudes" will illuminate the natural talents or gifts you should be using on a daily basis. Some common transferable skills include learning, communicating, creating, organizing, researching, leading, intuiting, observing, handling, using numbers and physical coordination.

To determine your "motivated" transferable skills, think about your classes, hobbies, volunteer projects, extra-curricular activities, part time jobs and other activities that have been satisfying and enjoyable. As you identify the skills you've used in each experience, you'll notice you've called upon some of the same ones again and again. Picking a major that requires these talents will take advantage of what comes naturally.

If you have difficulty developing your own list of skills, go to your college career center. There you should find counselors, interactive computer programs, workshops and web pages to help you. If your university doesn't have a career center, look on the International Association of Career Management Professionals' website (www.iacmp.org) for a certified career counselor near you. She will guide you through a self assessment process, help you create an ideal job description and brainstorm careers that mirror what you want.

Once you've identified a major that sounds promising, talk to the professors who teach its required courses. They can tell you more about the course content and the careers their students tend to pursue. Ask them for the names of their outstanding protégées who are currently seniors or employed alums. Interview them as well. Their impressions of key classes and career activities will give you excellent insight on whether the path they've taken is one you want to follow.

Finally, sign up for an internship in an area that interests you. You'll find one several month experience is worth a multitude of other people's observations. Interning will quickly help you decide if a given career is right for you. It will also provide marketable achievements for your resume and a potential employer anxious to hire you once you complete your degree.


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