• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

“Figuring Out What I Want to Be”

Students and career goals.

March 3, 2016
 

How did you figure out what you wanted to be when you grew up?

And yes, I know, “I haven’t yet.” That’s cute. But honestly, how did you?

I’m asking because so many students struggle with trying to figure out a career goal. A fair number of them, when asked, will say that identifying a career goal was a primary motivation for going to college at all.  

Career counseling helps, especially early. But I’m guessing relatively few adults identified their career goals that way.  

Having a goal makes it easier to stick around when things get difficult. Struggling towards a definable and desired goal feels productive; struggling towards nothing in particular just feels pointless.  We know that students who don’t know why they’re in college tend to persist at lower rates than those who are working towards something.

For me, a general sense came early, with fine-tuning taking longer. I think that’s probably pretty standard. And that’s okay - the kinds of jobs that are out there change over time, and some of the hot jobs of ten years from now probably don’t exist yet.  (Ten years ago, was “social media consultant” even a thing?) I had a general sense of my strengths, weaknesses, and tastes, and I gravitated towards fields that seemed to fit.  That involved some trial and error, naturally, but that’s to be expected.

Weber makes a great distinction between making accidents happen -- which is impossible by definition -- and making yourself accident-prone.  Given that there’s some level of accident in discovering career goals, are there scalable ways to make more students accident-prone?  

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