Thursday, October 19th, 2017

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First Things First: Passion or Practicality?


  • Connect your passions to practical career options.
  • Go to a variety of sources when considering opportunities.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

This was easy to answer when we were kids: "I want to be a ballerina. An astronaut. A racecar driver. A doctor. A teacher. Superman." And the adults laughed and encouraged us to play out our dreams.

As we get closer to becoming adults, people expect our answers to that question to be more realistic. We are supposed to be practical rather than follow our passions.

I’m a firm believer in being practical while planning a career. There are some basic pieces of reality that must be considered in career choices, such as grades, test scores, natural ability, motivation, economic trends, opportunity, finances, etc. But far too often, I see people ignoring their passions, the first part of the career-planning equation, and losing their connection to what they really enjoy. The pressures of needing to decide, having to be responsible and growing up often cloud our sensitivities to what is truly important to us. Yet as we listen to people talk about what has made them successful, it usually relates to finding something they truly love to do.

"I think I’ve been successful, because I loved the job."
— Katie Couric, broadcast journalist

"Most successful people enjoy their work. The real issue is not what’s ‘hot’ but what you like to do."
— Jeffery Allen, writer

"I didn’t become an actor to develop a personality cult or to get power over people. I went into this because it’s
fun — because it’s a great way to make a living.
— Tom Hanks, actor

(Quotes from Major in Success by Patrick Combs)

Follow these practical suggestions to get in touch with your passions and identify what you really want to be when you "grow up."

Pay Attention to What You Find Enjoyable

What interests you most or captures your imagination? What classes do you get the most from? What jobs sound interesting to you? Write them down and keep a career options list where you’ll see it often.

Collect Information About Jobs That Interest You

When you read or hear about different careers, file away those that sound particularly fun or interesting. Pay attention to any patterns you see in these jobs. Do they all have something to do with words? Do they relate to solving technical or scientific problems? Do they have to do with a particular environment or industry? Do they involve helping people?

Use Your Campus Career Center

Talk with a career counselor, take some career assessments, enroll in a career-planning class, identify your core values and learn to research your areas of interest. Check out your career center’s Web site for career-planning links and resources.

Learn from the People Around You

Talk with people who are working and ask them how they chose their careers and why they like them. Start with family, friends and professors, and check out the MonsterTRAK Career Contact & Alumni Network. It’s comprised of alumni, employers, parents, students and friends who represent diverse career fields nationwide and have offered to share their career experiences with students and alumni.

Attend Campus Career Fairs and Talk with Company Representatives

Learn about the opportunities in different industries and begin to identify those of interest to you. Attend company information sessions to get more detailed information (and often free food). Also, check out the Employer Showcase to research companies and their hiring practices.

Learn About Various Majors and Careers

A good place to start is MonsterTRAK’s Major to Career Converter, an interactive tool that lists career opportunities reflective of your major, skills, interests and values. For more detailed industry information, check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook for basics covering a variety of careers. Look at the working environment and training required and explore related careers.

Read Up in MonsterTRAK’s Career Advice Library

There you will find information on specific careers, ideas for choosing your major or career and information on internships to try out.

Deciding on your college major and choosing a career option can be overwhelming, but there are some things that can make the process more manageable. Remember, choosing a career is not a one-time decision. It is a lifelong process that involves connecting to your passions and then identifying the practical options. The first step is to keep your eyes, ears and heart open to what truly interests you and see where it could lead.

2006 – Monster Worldwide, Inc. All Rights Reserved. You may not copy, reproduce or distribute this article without the prior written permission of Monster Worldwide. This article first appeared on Monster, the leading online global network for careers.

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