It’s your senior year of college and you’ve already landed yourself a fantastic job for when you graduate. It pays well, has great benefits, and the company values align with yours perfectly. It almost seems too good to be true. There’s just one issue: you don’t know if this is your passion. You don’t see yourself doing this for the rest of your life, but you also don’t know what else you’d see yourself doing, so for now, it seems like the best option, even though you’re in panic mode on the inside. Believe it or not, this happens to many students - and it is completely normal.
What many students don’t initially realize is that no one expects them to know exactly what they want to do with their lives at such a young age. In fact, there are plenty of individuals who have worked in the business world for years and are still trying to figure out exactly what their passion is. It’s important to realize that no one expects you to be perfect, and no one expects you to have a plan for your entire life at age 20.
To dive deeper into this topic, I recently spoke with Hayley Dougherty and Alli Esker to gain a more knowledgeable and experienced perspective. Both Hayley and Alli are Ohio State alumni, were general members of UBWA, and sat on the executive board their sophomore and junior year. Hayley graduated in 2015 with a major in accounting and now works in real estate and property management. On a slightly different track, Alli graduated in 2020 with a major in finance and now works for Microsoft in professional technical services. Although both individuals went in different directions in figuring out how to go about finding their perfect fit, one thing that Hayley, Alli, and probably most students have in common is that they didn’t - and still don’t - know exactly what is in the cards for them. However, what they do know is how to take steps in the right direction to determine what exactly they are passionate about and ensure that they are doing what makes them happiest.
When I spoke to Alli, she gave me a piece of advice that I think is very important to remember: “Having a good interview and resume go far, but having real connections go farther.” The reason I bring this up is because when you are still in an exploratory stage of your career, you want to keep as many options open as possible, and the best way to do that is by forming connections. She also shared that if you’re in a position, give it some time and don’t be too quick to assume you aren’t interested, but if you give it a year and still don’t like it, moving on is perfectly acceptable, because it is important to find something you actually enjoy. Similarly, Hayley added “I’ll ask myself if I could see myself doing it for the next 2-5 years. As long as the answer is yes, then I’m right where I need to be. Maybe I’ll do the same thing for more than 5 years, but at least I gave myself the option to leave and do something new if my interests and goals aren’t the same as what they were years earlier.”
Another important concept to grasp is that it’s okay to not know. It’s okay to feel lost, confused, and not have an exact plan. As Hayley explained it, “I know less about my career future today than I did when I was 21, but I’ve learned that it’s not a bad thing to keep an open mind and be willing to change and adjust your course as you go.” As this is such an exploratory stage of life, the key is to “be open to trying and learning new things. You may find a passion in unexpected places. Take classes unrelated to your major. Ask coworkers/leaders from other departments to get coffee with you and tell you about their job. Intern. Volunteer to take on new projects at work, even if they may be a little out of your wheelhouse.” Alli noted another key piece of advice that it “might take a few internships and jobs to actually get to a place where you are finding enjoyment and satisfaction, adding impact and value, and seeing career progress.” Although it may seem stressful to not always know what’s ahead, it’s important to remember to take it day by day, one step at a time, and what’s meant to happen, will happen.
Lastly, it is important to remember that your job does not have to be your greatest passion. As Alli worded it, “I am passionate about my job, but I am passionate about so many other things outside of my job.” Hayley agreed and added that it is also okay to be passionate about other aspects within the job. Even if accounting, for example, is not your greatest passion, you’re allowed to be passionate about “ the life that job allows you to live (travel opportunities, work/life balance, opportunities to volunteer, etc.) or the skills the role lets you use.” This will hold true throughout your academic and future career because everyone has a life outside of school and their job.
If there is only one piece of advice that you remember after reading this, it should be to find a job that will push you to grow - not only in your role, but as an individual. Don’t do something you don’t love just because it’s easy. Challenge yourself to be the best version of yourself you can possibly be. If you do that, you will succeed. As cliché as it sounds, if you do what you love, you truly will never work a day in your life, so it’s important to find that.