Staff Opinion: It's ok to not know

By Hannah Sievert | December 5, 2017 3:55pm

Hannah Sievert is living editor for The Beacon.
by Brennan Robinson / The Beacon

It happens to me all the time.  I’m a communication and English major, and whenever I tell someone — my hair stylist, the family friend who is over for dinner, a random passerby — about my major choice, the usual response is, “Oh, what are you going to do with that?

Usually the tone of their voice suggests they think I’ve made a bad move with my humanities majors. If you’re a humanities major with no clear path ahead, you probably can call to mind this exact conversation you’ve had with someone you know. Nursing, engineering and business majors (I would argue) have a pretty set understanding of what they’re headed toward. But for me and the rest of my English/history/philosophy/*insert artsy major here* crowd? The future, and our future careers, is not always so clear.

I started out college not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, and now I’m a junior, and I still don’t know. But I’ve come to find peace with it, and I’m slowly making my way out of the cloud of uncertainty into the light of career direction. If you’re not certain what to do with your life, here are a few suggestions on how to decide on a career from one “not sure yet” soul to another.

  1. First of all, calm down. It’s totally OK not to know. We think we’re getting too old to not know what to do with our lives, but the truth is that ZAYN knows the truth. You still got time. A lot of people change their careers or realize what they want to do over time. Because as an undecided student who isn’t limiting yourself to one career, you can check out a bunch of careers and research which ones could be right for you. What if you’re meant to be a chef? A lion tamer? A beekeeper? (For Arrested Development fans: Bees?) Which leads me to my next point…
  2. Do some research! In my own personal struggle of figuring out the future, I’ve found it’s most helpful to talk to people whose careers you might be interested in. Real Adult People with Real Adult Careers are usually so down to talk to confused college students about what their jobs are like. Because they remember being a confused college student back in the day, too. Reach out on LinkedIn to people who have jobs you’re interested in who graduated from the University of Portland and ask if they’ll grab coffee with you.
  3. Take a skills test, like the StrengthsFinder. A good career for you to go into would be one that lines up with your natural skills. A test, like the StrengthsFinder, can tell you what your top skills are. If you get “Analytical” as a top skill, you could maybe steer toward the STEM careers. If you get “Communication” as a top skill, take the hint (like I did) and maybe run away from those science classes that were killing you anyway.
  4. Ask yourself the hard questions. What do you want out of your life? What does a meaningful life look like to you? What kind of lifestyle do you want? The answers of these questions and by identifying what’s important to you — salary, personal free time, person-to-person interaction — can help lead you toward a job that fits your values.
  5. Collect diverse experiences. Go travel or take some different classes or take an art class or intern at a company to see if you like it. Your experiences will help shape your career path as you realize you’re into one thing, and as you leave another thing thinking, definitely not that.

Your time at UP is all about learning about yourself and your interests — who you are as an individual away from your parents and family. Hopefully your career will be meaningful, fulfilling, worthy of your time. But it probably won’t be a straight line (and that’s OK).