As a freshman in college, I had lots of ideas for what I wanted my career to look like, but no solid idea or plan of what I actually wanted to do. I thought of many things but nothing seemed exactly right to me. I came in as an Engineering student, but switched to the division of general studies shortly after. I have explored a different major pretty much every semester, including English + Secondary Education, Pre-dental, Psychology, Architecture, and finally Economics. I have joined clubs and organizations in many different realms - I even became a CA (similar to a TA) for an introductory computer science class and was a member of the pre-law honors society. After all of this, I have discovered more of what I like and do not like, and learned even more about myself. However, I still don’t fully know what I want my career to look like, or “what I want to be when I ‘grow up.’”
One thing I do know is that I want to do something that makes me happy. To me, this means working in a field that is interesting to me and that pays decently well while leaving room for me to pursue other things (hobbies, fitness, family, etc.) As a college freshman I thought so much about how to make that tangible - I tried to find the “right answers” and figure out all the specifics of what my career, job, and salary would look like so I would never have to be uncertain.
Unfortunately, the certainty that I strove for is impossible to find. Instead of searching for perfect, simple answers to complex and ephemeral problems, I have learned (and am still learning) to be content with uncertainty. One way I do this is by focusing on the things that I already know and by keeping an open mind to explore the things I am passionate about.
After reading the book Choose Yourself! by James Altucher (as well as other similar books), I have been more comfortable with the idea that doing the things I want most now will lead to happiness and success later on. The book emphasizes doing only the things you feel excited about and to make time for only the people and places and events that you really want to. As a dedicated student who has always strived to exceed the expectations given to me by my parents, teachers, and society, I found this idea liberating. Before, I was so wrapped up in achieving goals that were set for me and looking for the answers. At the end of the day, I didn’t know what to major in or focus on career-wise; I just thought “I don’t really know what I want to do, but it’s definitely a good idea to get good grades and build a resume that recruiters want to see so I’ll just do that.” I spent so much time on these things that I never really got to explore my own passions and interests until I read this book. Since then, I have shadowed teachers, dentists, endodontists, and lawyers; participated in job shadows for large corporations, small companies, and start-ups; and completed a month-long Architecture boot camp.
Exploring as much as I did helped me manage the “risk” of taking classes without knowing what I want to do after graduation and helped me figure out where and how to direct my future. There is still plenty of uncertainty ahead of me, so for now I am just trying to make the most of my college experience by doing valuable things that I love. I am pursuing a minor in Art and Design, working as a Resident Advisor, and planning to study abroad in the fall.
I chose these things mostly just because I am drawn to them; the practical value is just an added bonus. I can definitely say that I love each of these things (my minor, my job, and the chance to study abroad), but there were other things I did or considered doing before coming to this point. Now, I weigh each option individually when deciding whether to pursue it, but I don’t even weigh things that I would not enjoy doing - those get tossed out right at the beginning.
Overall, the techniques I have used in college to manage risks associated with an uncertain future include exploring many fields and pursuing the ones I find myself most passionate about. I am not as concerned about financial uncertainty for now because I am focused on increasing my human capital wealth. Exploring the things I love and succeeding in my classes now will pay dividends for the rest of my life. Most importantly, these things will help me find a job that will support me financially and help me grow intellectually so that I won’t have to worry too much about the future.