Walking around campus, especially passing through student hubs like Rand, I can’t seem to escape the mobs of students decked out in suits and carrying leather portfolios. Fall is recruitment season for next summer’s internships and post-graduation jobs for seniors. Although some lucky seniors have already solidified their plans for next year, many are anxiously scrambling to plan out the first few years of their career.
Even though I’m still on the younger side of the undergraduate student body, I’ve still noticed that my friends have started to take career events and applying for internships more seriously. Many feel pressured to attend the Career Fair even though there are no companies there that you’re interested in or other networking events. As a sophomore, I think it’s still a bit early to be seriously pursuing internships that will lead to jobs, but many students are starting to actively plan their next few years. While this can be motivating in a positive way, sometimes it can distract from the undergraduate experience.
I’ve been trying to stay away from solidifying career plans too early, even as my courses become more career focused. My entire schedule this semester is packed with courses solely for my majors and minor, which are related to my career path. While I do enjoy my classes, I often find myself wishing I could take that interesting course on coffee’s global economic impact, or a course on hallucinations. Maintaining a balance between taking courses for your major and future career, and making sure to enjoy college opportunities just for fun is tricky.
I also often hear peers worrying about whether the career they’ve chosen to pursue will be the right one for them. While I do agree that it’s important to have a general career plan and goal, I have to remind myself that I don’t have to stick with one career forever.
When I was taking Organic Chemistry at the University of Maryland this summer, I had two classmates who were in their late 20s. One had spent her first few years out of undergrad working in finance in NYC. She then decided to pursue what she was always passionate about: medicine. She wasn’t daunted by the pre-med courses she had to take, or the many years ahead before she could become a doctor. She just followed where the path led, listened to her gut and was excited about her career change. The second student had spent five years serving in the military and was also headed back to school to become a doctor. Meeting these two adults who had decided to become students again was encouraging; they are both making huge career changes, but didn’t regret their first career choice.
This is all to say that I think students should be wary of being too career focused, especially while we’re on the younger side of the undergraduate student pool. Try to strike the balance between taking career focused classes, and classes just for fun. And, keep in mind, that nothing is ever set in stone. You can always pivot in your career later on, whether it’s changing within your field or switching fields completely. The road is wide open.