Whether you’re a first-year student or you’re approaching your senior year, it’s not always easy to know what path to pursue in college, especially if you have multiple strong interests. For some students and recent grads, deciding what to pursue is as simple as choosing between grad school and looking for a 9-5 job. For others, especially those with many interests, it’s about deciding which passions and projects to pursue, and how. This decision may not be easy, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one, either. If this sounds like you, here’s what to do when you have multiple passions, according to counselors and career experts.
Stick to your values
Amy Drakesmith, the former Associate Director of External Relations at Hofstra University’s career center, recommends keeping your values in mind when determining what to pursue. While you may have a strong passion for multiple topics or careers, ask yourself how many of those things actually align with your personal values and what you want out of life. Then, a healthy bit of self-reflection can help.
Smith tells Her Campus, “It’s easy to feel swayed in a certain direction by classmates, professors and family. By starting this process with a lot of self-reflection, you set the tone for each subsequent decision you make, and [you] will be a lot more efficient (and happy!) in the process.” Remember, all of the advice in the world won’t help if you don’t sit with your thoughts, organize them, and get clear on what you value the most.
In her book The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career, author Hillary Kerr offers college students similar advice with a practical twist. “You spend a ton of time at work, so it’s really important to find a job that you enjoy — at least most of the time,” she says. “In an ideal world, figure out what you love, and then figure out a way to get paid for it.”
move at your own pace
After you’ve asked yourself what you really want — whether it’s landing your dream job, pursuing a creative project, applying to grad school, or otherwise — take a break. Figuring out your life path can be exhausting, and stepping back from constantly refreshing job boards or journaling the pros and cons of a situation can give you a fresh perspective.
If you start to feel overwhelmed, you should also remind yourself that there isn’t a singular path that everyone should follow. “When you’re looking at multiple job listings, or reading program description after program description, you can sometimes lose sight of what you were looking for in the first place,” Smith tells Her Campus. Similarly, Kerr notes that you shouldn’t feel alone in your struggle to decide your next step — after all, everyone has to start somewhere. She says, “Don’t stress if it seems like your roommate has her whole life figured out and you’re still trying to decide who you are and what you’re going to do.”
explore your interests through internships
When exploring what to pursue in college and beyond, Kerr recommends looking for an internship as soon as possible to explore your interests. “Internships are so important because you get to know different companies and different company cultures,” she tells Her Campus. “You can then make an educated decision about the right workplace or career path for you.”
If you’ve already done a few internships, reach out to old bosses and coworkers, or even professionals in your field that you don’t know personally. Smith advises asking for an informational interview, and hearing any perspectives or advice they may have. Even if someone isn’t able to give you specific advice about what path to pursue, listening to their stories and insider knowledge can be valuable. Plus, you may even gain a powerful mentor to help support you for years to come.
Another resource you should take advantage of is your career center. It’s never too early or too late to speak with a career counselor — remember, they have your best interests in mind because when you succeed, they succeed, too. Career counselors also have a broad knowledge base which can be helpful, especially if you are considering different paths that are radically different. “Talking with a career counselor can really help you not only strategize, but also prioritize each task so that [figuring out what to pursue] is as easy as possible for you,” Smith says.
Whether you’re heading to college for the first time or getting ready to graduate, pursuing your passions can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. With some self-reflection, self-care, and help from industry professionals, you’ll be on your way to pursuing your passion in no time. Although there isn’t a one-step process to achieving your dreams, remember, the journey is meant to be the fun part. You will ultimately get to where you need to be, even if the “how” seems unclear sometimes. So, take some time to dig deep and enjoy the process of pursuing your passions. Good luck!