I'm going to say this first, and then I'm going to say it again at the bottom, because it's something I say a lot: the best way to use college to prepare for a career is to use college to prepare for a number of careers. Focus on strong work habits and deep thinking. Don't feel too committed to training for a particular job description.
I often advise students not to tie their college applications too closely to their intended major. You may think you know exactly what you're going to do after college, but that can change pretty quick once you're actually there.
And even after that, lots of people end up taking very different career paths than what they expected. So plan on doing well in college and get a good broad education, independent of what you currently think your major should be. It will work itself out.
I say that all the time, but rarely give examples. After all, I didn't change my major in college (though I did change colleges half way through). I even went and got a Master's Degree in the same subject as my Bachelor's. My wife didn't change majors and hasn't changed her career. I don't think my parents changed their majors--my mother's essentially had the same employer my entire life. Do I give any good examples to make my case?
No, maybe not. But I know somebody who does. TAGlines is the blog of The Alexander Group, an executive search firm (they help match up business people looking to get hired with business looking to hire). Last week they had a post, with examples, of interesting people who have switched careers, some of them several times. My favorite is the lawyer-turned-fireman-turned-gym owner.
Strangely enough, at the first high school I worked at, three of my co-workers had law degrees. The charismatic U.S. History teacher worked at a law firm for several years before deciding it wasn't the life for him. (Major Life Tip: if at all possible, decide you don't want to be a lawyer before spending three years and thousands of dollars in loans on law school.) We also had a Dean of Instruction who had been a very successful bankruptcy lawyer for 20 years before moving into education. And there was also the Assistant Principal who had gone to law school but never practiced law. I asked him about it once, and I haven't forgotten his response: "I only went to law school because my father expected me to. Thank God he died before I had to take the Bar Exam."
When I was very young, the man who lived next door to us was a plumber. I later learned that he had a degree in accounting. He knew that accountants made good money, and so he went to college and got a degree in accounting to make good money. But he hated being an accountant, and he gave up that job and the money that came with it for plumbing.
Maybe all these examples are too old for you. Your generation thinks and works differently than older ones. But, according to LinkedIn surveys, your generation is a lot more likely to switch jobs more often.
And so...you knew this was coming:
The best way to use college to prepare for a career is to use college to prepare for a number of careers. Focus on strong work habits and deep thinking. Don't feel too committed to training for a particular job description.
Please share this with someone who would like to read it. If you know a good career-change story, leave me a comment.