Monday, December 17, 2012

Why it’s important to follow your passion when choosing your degree program

The average, full-time employee aged 15 and older works a little over eight hours per day, five days a week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This time accounts for one-third of each day. If you spend one-third of your day working and another third sleeping, doesn't it make sense to enjoy the time you spend in the workplace?

It might seem like an easy question to answer, but we find that many students choose their college degree programs based solely on the salary or benefits of the job they hope to obtain after they graduate. And while it's important to take compensation into account when deciding what career path to take, making a career choice based on salary or benefits alone won't necessarily make you happiest long-term. You should also consider a profession you're passionate about.

Career success requires a strong work ethic, diligence, and commitment -- qualities that are difficult to give if you don't have a passion for what you do. By choosing a path that you're passionate about, you'll be excited to go to work each day and stay dedicated to your daily duties. This can help you shine in the eyes of your supervisors and coworkers, strengthening your value to the organization.

So how do you achieve the balance between choosing a career path you're passionate about and one that will pay the bills? Here are some steps to consider if you haven't yet chosen a career path, and some steps if you have chosen one.

If you haven't yet chosen your degree program:
  1. Consider your ideal work situation. What type of schedule and work environment would help you thrive in your career? Would you prefer an office job, or something more physical? Do you enjoy working within a team, or as an individual? Answering these types of questions will help you narrow down the types of jobs that are right for you.
  2. Assess your skills. Get real work experience, whether through an internship, job shadowing, or a co-op program, to find what it is that you enjoy doing. Sometimes you're not sure what work will fulfill you until you've done it for a while. If you're not sure what you're interested in, take our Focus Assessment. It will evaluate your skills, personality, strengths, and weaknesses, and then give you a list of suggested occupations. You can take the test from home or the Career Development Services Center.
  3. Research job market data. See what the hiring and salary trends are for the career path you're considering, as well as what academic experience is required. O*NET, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, and PhilaWorks are great tools to find this information. It's important to consider all of these facets, because the job market is constantly evolving. A career path that's growing now might not be when you graduate. A sustainable career path is key.
If you have already chosen a degree program or a career path, but aren't sure you're truly passionate about it, you also have options. This advice can apply to those in the middle of a degree program, as well as adult learners who are considering going back to school.
  1. Take a personality or career exploration assessment. If you've decided that your chosen career path won't make you happy long term, take a personality or career exploration assessment as soon as you can. Be sure you're completely honest in your answers, as that's the only way to identify a path that you'll truly enjoy. Even if you're on the wrong track, there's always the opportunity to correct yourself. It's never too late!
  2. Determine what education you'll need to practice your passion. Once you've determined a new path, figure out what education level you'll need to accomplish your goals. One of the best ways to do that is by speaking to a career counselor, as well as professionals in the field, to determine what kind of educational program fits your objectives and the next steps you should take.
  3. Identify how to transfer your skills to support your passion. For example, if you've gained soft skills, such as creativity, communication, or critical thinking, through your current career path, those can be transferred to almost any profession. So think outside the box and consider how you can apply the skills you've learned to a position you're passionate about. There's always a job out there that will lend itself to the things you're interested in if you have an open mind.
Remember, your career is fluid and it's never too late to decide what you're passionate about. No matter what degree program or career you select, you can always learn more, you can always study more, and you can always change courses.

Our doors in Career Development Services are always open to discuss these ideas and more, and we're happy to help guide you in choosing the field that will interest you and start you on a fulfilling career path. Visit us on campus at the CDS Center located on the sixth floor, College Hall, email us at, or call us at 1.888.467.3472, ext. 9202