Voices: How to choose a career

By By Jim White

By Jim White

Choosing a major was one of the biggest stresses I faced at the U. I can’t tell you how much time and energy I spent trying to figure out what to major in and what to do with my life. It wasn’t until I had more credits than I needed to graduate that I had a chance meeting with the dean of students. He directed me to some of the resources that I wished I had known about years earlier. After meeting with a career counselor and doing some career testing and research, I finally figured it out. I realized I needed a master’s degree, and ended up becoming a career counselor. I have been working in Career Services for more than twenty years now. I help students deal with the same issues I used to stress over every day.

If you are trying to figure out what major or career would work best for you, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned (and now explain to students) through Career Services. Hopefully, you can take a lot less time to figure things out than I did.

If I were starting over at the U, the first thing I would do would be to take the Career and Life Planning class. It’s a great class, taught by the counseling center (ED PS 2610). It teaches you how to make good career decisions. I would also get hooked up with a career counselor in Career Services. To find your career counselor, go to http://careers.utah.edu and click “Find Your Counselor” (there is one for undecided majors, too). I would ask the career counselor to show me how to use the Career Library (Student Services Building Room 390) and how I could take some of the career assessment tests that are available online and through the testing center. I would start talking to everyone I knew who has an interesting career, and ask them how they got started. If I didn’t know anyone working in my area of interest, I would talk to a career counselor about the “Career Mentors” list in UCareerLink.

One of the best things you can do is to try out your career choice by doing internships — many of which are paid. Career Services posts hundreds of student opportunities and has a great internship program (see “Internships & Credit” on the Career Services website). You might be able to get credit for working in a job that has relevance to your major or career goal and provides “university-level” learning.

I had a student last semester who did an internship with a sustainable agriculture program in Africa, and I have a student who just applied for an internship with NASA for next semester. We post hundreds of student jobs and internships on our website, but there are hundreds of great opportunities out there. If you ask your career counselor for help, he or she can direct you to them.

We have directories of student jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities in the career library (and our website).

There are reasons to use Career Services even if you have already identified a major or career that really works for you. Career counselors can also help with your rsum, job search, interviewing and a variety of career-related topics. We sponsor several “career fairs” and a “student job fair,” and co-host the “Graduate School Fair.” Numerous companies come to campus during these events to interview students who are graduating.

Don’t wait until you are ready to graduate. Career Services and Career and Life Planning are especially valuable to freshmen, sophomores and juniors. I hope you don’t waste as much time as I did. Take advantage of the services and opportunities available.

The best thing is, the use of Career Services is free to students. Good luck!

Jim White is the assistant director of Career Services.