Emilio Lorenzo is the assistant director of career advisement in NSU’s Office of Career Development. He understands the importance of helping students reach their career goals and works with all students, including undergraduate, graduate and professional level students, to achieve their professional goals.
Emily Tasca is a member of the career advisement team in NSU’s Office of Career Development. She works with current students and alumni at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.
In life, you wouldn’t buy a car without first test driving it. You also wouldn’t marry someone unless you went on a date first, right? The same principles apply to deciding on a major or career path for yourself. The steps you have taken to confirm this interest will not only help you understand your own passion but provide a clearer picture as to how to reach your goals. A strategic game plan is a useful tool when deciding on your major. It helps you establish a road map for times when you’re at a crossroads to either change your major or career path.
Talk to faculty and industry experts
Your first step should be to engage in meaningful conversations with individuals who have knowledge, experience and overall insights on your fields of interest. These individuals can include faculty members, family friends and professionals working in those career fields. Talking with someone is going to give you much more accurate information than just looking online and will help you form a connection with someone who can help you reach your career goals, if you decide that specific industry is for you. Although attending office hours with faculty can be a nervous experience at first, these are individuals who are already in your corner and want to support you in your collegiate journey to uncovering your true passions. Talking to professionals, whether you’ve met them before or not, also helps you learn more about the industry. After these interactions, it’s important to allocate time to reflect on what was discussed and what that means to you. You should almost, in your mind, walk through how your day would look in such professions and decide whether that matches the values and goals you have set for yourself. You should also not abandon these contacts after the initial interaction, as these individuals can be valuable connections in the future. You want to ensure you maintain the relationship, whether in person, via LinkedIn or by emailing from time to time.
Shadowing, research and self-reflection
Another great avenue to explore your major is to shadow a professional or immerse yourself in the knowledgebase via research. Both of these provide a more hands-on experience than informational interviews but don’t require as much of a commitment as an internship or job in the industry. Research can help you understand the different contexts of your industry and the applicability of certain knowledgebase areas. Research opportunities can be uncovered by setting meetings with faculty members, which is why office hours can also prove useful down the road. In addition, if you are considering a career that involves research, an experience like this will give you a clear picture of what the day-to-day activities entail. Getting a taste of what a day in a certain career looks like is very valuable in making a decision on a major or minor. Shadowing professionals can help you see the multitude of opportunities available within an industry and how each has its own components to evaluate. For example, if you are interested in the healthcare industry, but not sure which area to pursue, shadowing a dentist, doctor, physical therapist or even an optometrist can really help you make a more well-informed decision that may spark the fire in you to pursue such opportunities.
Internships and experiential learning
A more hands-on approach to making a decision on your major is to actually test drive the career through internships and experiential learning opportunities. Internships are a valuable avenue to explore during college, as they’re usually an 8 to 16 week experience within a company that helps you apply classroom skills and knowledge in a specific organization. Internships allow you to learn certain skills that can’t be fully taught within a classroom setting. It is a great way to build your network with professionals working in the industry and showcase your work ethic, and many times, an internship can turn into a full-time job upon graduation. If you’re unable to commit to an entire internship experience, then pursuing experiential learning opportunities, such as case competitions, is another way to gain hands-on experience and understand your major and minor pursuits. Case competitions offer students a chance to solve a real-world issue within an industry and receive feedback from a company on how you were able to resolve the problem utilizing those same classroom skills. These competitions can show the employer what you can offer, since the cases are issues that employers are facing themselves, and you have now provided a fresh perspective on how to address it.
Deciding on a major and minor can be stressful, but taking some strategic steps to explore and confirm your interest can make the process more effective and will leave you with a better idea about what your future entails.