On a busy street corner two parents urge their son to step into a yellow taxi. Over the roar of passing cars and honking horns, they shout to the taxi driver, “Just take him anywhere!” The son’s eyes are wide with fear as the taxi driver speeds away, and soon the bright yellow car’s path is lost in the tumultuous, winding streets.
“Who is this young man, and why should anyone care about his fate?” one may ask. According to Jim Danielski, a career counselor based in Plymouth, this young man speeding away into the unknown without any idea of where he’s going represents the majority of incoming college freshmen, and his uncertain fate looms over anyone who enters college without a plan. The solution, Danielski says, is career planning.
Entering college without a plan is common nowadays: roughly eighty percent of incoming college students have no major in mind, and, of the 20 percent that do, approximately half of them will change their minds one to three times. Consequently, many students cannot graduate on time, increasing stress levels, wasting time, and requiring larger and larger sums of money. From 2007 to 2010, the number of annual student loans taken out in Michigan increased by 49 percent, with only a three percent increase in the amount of degrees granted.
To top those financial troubles, many students graduate college holding a degree that is no longer relevant with employers. Discouraged, many turn up in Danielski’s office, where they finally begin the career planning and evaluations they should have started before wasting money on four years of schooling.
The best advice he can give to any college graduates or high school students that enter his office asking what they should do with the rest of their lives, Danielski says, is to go out into the real world with unquenchable curiosity to find answers. “Get to the library, start asking questions, and look beyond what your parents and family members do,” he stresses.
A high school counseling department serves as a good first step in anyone’s curiosity-fueled career exploration journey. Northville High School counselor Maureen Schneider says that “through personal appointments, the counseling department aids students with course selection, career and college counseling as well as advice regarding job shadowing and internships.”
Job shadowing can offer extraordinary insight into the ins and outs of any profession. Observing an adult at their work for a day is a necessary experience commonly overlooked by most high school students. With a better sense of a job and the daily activities it entails, they can make better-informed decisions on whether that job is the right path for them to pursue in college.
Schneider added that counselors can also help students tap online resources like the career cruising website, a career exploration tool that many Michigan high schools require their students to explore.
Career cruising is only the tip of the iceberg of online career resources, however. As any teenager of this generation knows, perusing the Internet can yield pages upon pages of information on any subject. One website, MyMajors.com, provides access to detailed information about 1,600 college majors and 40,000 careers. The website also offers a nine-part survey that takes one’s personality, interests, strengths, and weaknesses into account to determine potential college majors and their corresponding career choices. Another website, careerinfonet.org, serves as a great resource for researching occupations, learning about education and training options, and finding accredited programs.
Despite the plethora of resources available online, it is important not to overlook the jewels found in library shelves. The worn pages of books hold the success stories of people who started with nothing and achieved greatness, promising vital lessons for readers in how they can overcome their own struggles and accomplish their dreams.
With only one life to live, students have no choice but to take advantage of the world at their fingertips. As Danielski says, “Every one of us has to take total, unconditional responsibility for our lives. The sooner we start, the better.”