How Soon is Too Soon to Explore Careers on Campus?
First-year college students have a lot to figure out during their transition from high school to higher ed: making new friends, managing their time, finding exciting extracurriculars, and choosing a major to study. Although post-grad life seems far away, career discovery should be on freshman and sophomore students’ radar as they make decisions about their major (because those four years fly by!).
Data Shows That Isn’t the Case, However
A survey conducted in 2017 by Gallup and Strada Education Network found that 40% of American college graduates would’ve changed their major if they could. Maybe these regretful grads wish they had chosen a major more closely aligned with their passions, one with more career prospects, or more relatable to the work they do now.
Precious A. Smith, the Deputy Director for the Center for Academic Excellence at Howard University, believes many students “might have just made different choices if they had different information at the time they were picking a major.”
So, what does this tell us about how underclassmen students go about selecting a major?
In an eye-opening presentation at the Tempe Research Institution Summit in April 2018, Tom Matthews, Case Western Reserve University’s Executive Director of the Career Center, revealed three interesting findings:
- Students are not as decided as they present
- Students are looking for connections
- Students are living to build a resume instead of living their lives
Making decisions based on what will look best on a resume — doing what they believe they should do and not what they want to do — leads directly to the decision regret Smith suggested many students experience.
Career Discovery Starts with You
As professionals supporting undergraduate students in selecting majors and pursuing internships and jobs, your role is to expose them to as many relevant career discovery pathways as possible. Early in the student lifecycle, encourage breadth through career discovery. As they become increasingly clear on their interests, support them in drawing deeper connections between their degree of interest and careers.
If you can reach second-semester freshmen or first-semester sophomores at the discovery phase, present them with opportunities for exploration through job shadowing and alumni mentorship. At this point, it’s not too late to change majors and still graduate in four years, and the student will feel more confident in their major declaration knowing that they took full advantage of the career discovery and exploration resources at their disposal.
Bottom line, there is no such thing as starting career discovery too soon. Even though a freshman might not be ready to pursue a summer internship or build a job-ready resume quite yet, helping them explore the connection between degrees and associated career paths will empower them to make a decision that aligns with their curiosity, professional goals, and financial situation.
Not sure how to help freshmen and sophomores start the career discovery process? Learn about nine types of career exploration offerings that will help students home in on their career path of choice.