Choosing a Career


Audrey Sioeng, Staff Writer

“So.” Their eyebrows raise and eyes narrow; they lean forward as if to devour their prey. Which happens, at this very moment, to be you. It’s practically a rite of passage for kids at family gatherings, but you know they have good intentions. Nonetheless, you brace yourself for the question that’s coming: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When I was younger, I thought nothing of it. Just the protocol, right? We could say anything—doctor, librarian, pilot, artist—and the adults would nod and laugh, knowing that these answers would likely change over time. It was in middle school when their eyebrows began to furrow, and saying “clown” wasn’t funny anymore. I clearly remember being scared out of my wits in sixth grade when one of my teachers said we should figure out what career path we wanted by the end of middle school.

His logic was sound, after all. Choose a career to pick the right classes, to ultimately enter a good college, land a stable job, and live comfortably. At the time, we were also introduced to Naviance, where we took a career quiz. I remember everyone buzzing with excitement, as if these career paths were our futures set in stone. 

This tacit expectation and obvious encouragement followed me into my freshmen year and through the beginning of sophomore year. A few of my friends had narrowed their choices down already, some even settling on a major for college. I felt that my time was up, that I was pretty much doomed when it came to colleges, and that as much as I feared it, I would end up disappointing my parents.

It was the beginning of second semester that I mustered up the nerve to schedule a meeting with my counselor, Ms. Rachel Chan, to discuss how I could get back on track. What I learned in that lunch period changed my entire perspective on the future as a whole, and motivated me to branch out and try new things.

One of the revolutionary pieces of information Ms. Chan gave me was that committing to a certain career “will not play a major factor in your college applications [unless] you’re applying to an impacted program (high ratio of applicants compared to spots available) or a school dedicated to a very specific field (typically visual and performing arts).”

Thus, you shouldn’t decide on a specific pathway too early, because in doing so you may end up closing yourself off to other options and opportunities. 

Encouraged by this, I inquired about Naviance and its purpose as a resource. In response to my mentions of the career test, she advised me to consider the results and “read [up] on at least one new career with an open mind,” but to also remember that “these results are just one test” and to not “feel pressured to pursue what it’s suggested.” 

As for Naviance in general, Ms. Chan said that Naviance is a tool “to research lesser known careers, what fits your strengths, what type of education is required, and the type of work you would do within that career.”

In regards to the overall pressures to select a career path, Ms. Chan said that she “personally [didn’t] think students should be pressured to figure out a career path, but rather to start exposing students to many different potential career paths out there.”

Throughout our time she continually emphasized an open mindedness, and also brought up extracurricular activities as opportunities that should help students explore and learn, rather than “something students do to merely add to their college applications.”

On the topic in general, she assured me that “there is no timeline or deadline that fits for every student on when they should have this figured out” and that “rather than pressuring yourself to have to decide or figure it out as soon as possible, it’s more important to have an attitude of learning and growth and to set goals for yourself to explore, learn, and experience different fields.”

In the months following our conversation, I went on to apply for various leadership positions, signed up for our school’s Retail Marketing class and applied for a job! Sure, maybe working at Claire’s isn’t quite my cup of tea, but through some of these awkward experiences, I’ve found myself growing more than I would’ve ever dreamed possible.

So now, whenever someone asks what I want to be when I grow up, I smile and say “happy”. Instead of awkwardly discussing a particular career, I talk about all my interests and hobbies. Instead of trying to confine myself to a box, I have tried and failed and laughed at inevitable mishaps and mistakes that I can’t bring myself to regret.

All in all, I think the moral of this story is to stay open minded and not let fear of the all-consuming, ever-looming future prevent you from trying new things. After all, we are still young (despite what it may feel like at times) and colleges know that even if we do have a five, or thirty year plan, odds are we’ll deviate from it. And if you ever have any questions about anything discussed in this article or concerning classes, colleges, careers, etc., feel free to contact your counselor!


Graphic courtesy of YOUNGINCOME.COM