One day you’re interested in philosophy, and the next day you think a career in journalism would be cool. The following day you lean towards a major in finance, and the day after that you swing way back to your fascination with archaeology. Eventually, you’ll start the circle all over again, perhaps with four other interests. In short, you like everything — or so it seems — to the point that you’re practically immobilized when it comes to choosing just one major or career to pursue.
You aren’t alone. In fact, campus career counselors often meet with students, and even graduates, who are in your shoes. With all of the career possibilities you can explore, it’s easy to do nothing, because you’re trying to keep your options open. This may result in drifting from interest to interest without doing anything to explore each area or plot a career direction.
Getting your career bearings when you have too many interests isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here’s a four-step approach you can use:
1. Rule Out What You Clearly Don’t Like
You may think you enjoy everything, but you really don’t. We all have dislikes and even hates. So work on identifying what you don’t like and what you don’t see yourself pursuing as a major or career. If you’re iffy about a particular major or career at this point, keep it under consideration. For now, rule out only those possibilities that are definitely not for you.
2. Prioritize What You Want to Explore Further
Once you’ve eliminated the don’t likes from your list of possibilities, take the majors and careers remaining and prioritize them as best you can, given what you know about each one, which may be very little in some cases. Which three or four areas are you most interested in exploring further, and which can go on the back burner?
This is a critical step, because in order to explore majors and careers, you have to start somewhere. I know that sounds simplistic, but you may have to remind yourself of this concept. By prioritizing what you should explore and then starting your exploration, you move closer to figuring out your career direction one small step at a time.
3. Start Exploring Your Top Priorities
- Learn More About Yourself.
Consider, for example, working with a campus career counselor to get a better sense of your skills, personality, values, likes and dislikes. In addition, find out whether or not those traits match up well with the majors and careers you’re researching.
- Explore the Actual Major or Career.
Learn about the major or career through reading, talking to people who are in that major or career and, if possible, participating in an experiential activity — an internship or a co-op — to get a hands on sense of what the major or career is all about.
4. Use What You’ve Learned to Reprioritize and Eliminate
Once you have a better picture of yourself and the majors and careers you’ve explored, you’ll more than likely change your list of initial priorities. Perhaps you’ll even drop some of those options from consideration. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to narrow your options to just one major or career at this point, but that’s normal and for the best in many ways. The idea behind this process is not necessarily to eliminate all but one major or career, but rather to reduce your initial list to one you can more easily manage.
As you might guess, this process is neither quick nor easy — at least not if you do it right. But if you’re willing to invest some time and energy, you’ll slowly be able to replace your debilitating confusion with action-oriented exploration that gets you moving toward an informed decision about your major or future career.