The How-To on Getting a Fulfilling Degree and Job

So I’ve been thinking of writing up a sort of a handy guideline to those who are in high school, college or out of college. This is designed to help guide you to a happy fulfilling career while giving you less stress along the way. I have an abundant amount of information that could be helpful for you, so bear with me if it seems to be all over the place. This is here to help you, the reader, and you’re more than welcome to ask questions. In fact, I encourage it.

This will each be sectioned off by: High school, in college and out of college. Although one subject may not be for you, there could still be valuable information in it. (I highly recommend reading the second section if you’re out of college).

[High School]
Ah, high school. This is the perfect time to really start thinking about what you want to do with your life, and to start asking yourself, What interests me? From what I’ve went through while in high school, I never had the proper guidance as to what I wanted to do with my life. Nothing really interested me much. So, first things first.

-Step 1-
Here is a small list of what you’ll need to think about when deciding to continue your education:

1. What are your interests? What do you enjoy doing? Make a list of it. [Tip]: You should go to your community college’s website and search their majors and class-section and see if anything catches your interest. I highly emphasize searching the classes that the school offers (it’s most likely offered at a 4-year college as well if it’s on the 2-year website). Seeing a description of the classes will give you a feel of what the class has to offer you.

2. What kind of school do you want to attend? There are plenty of choices: 2 year community college (best first choice in my opinion), 4-year school and trade schools.

3. Money situation: will you be paying, taking out loans, or getting FAFSA?

Through my experience, I took the first semester off from college so I can take a small break from school in general. I worked full time at Target and really thought about what I wanted to do with my life, because at the time, I hadn’t the slightest idea.

When deciding what major you want to be, also think about what jobs they have to offer. For example, I received an English Writing Bachelors degree. In this field, there are many forms of job opportunities ranging from teaching, writing, editing, etc. (Those are very broad topics and could be further broken down).

What interests you?
After doing some research make a list of the majors/classes that catch your interest and see if any of them cross paths. (For example: Let’s say you have an interest in art and you also have an interest in the mind and psychology – together that can give you a major of Art Therapy / Clinical Art Therapy.)

Never feel that you have to choose just one major interest, because if you’re lucky, you can most likely combine your interests into one major. (NOTE: If you’re looking into a 2-year school, it’s not going to offer you the same amount of majors in comparison to a 4-year school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t attend the 2-year school). – Also remember, nothing is ever set in stone. Ever. I changed my major about 3-4 times, so don’t worry if you fall into that boat in the future. It’s okay.

What college do you want to go to?
Onto the next topic..! Now, what kind of school do you wish to attend? Two-year, 4-year, trade school? Standardized college (2/4 year school) isn’t for everyone, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting educated from a trade school. If you feel you will be fulfilled and will excel doing a more hands-on type of job, go for it – the money is good. Personally, starting off at 2-year college was perfect for me. It was extremely affordable, the classes were generally small, and it gave me the college experience I needed to move onto a 4-year college.

For those wanting to attend a 2-year college:
• First off I would go to their website and check out their classes and majors (if you haven’t already).
• Secondly, I would see if there are any school-tours available, or at least, find out how far it is from your house. Figure out bus schedules, if need be.

For those wanting to attend a 4-year college:
• I highly recommend starting your search on: collegeview.com – it helped me out a lot. It gives you in depth analysis for each school that you wish to consider, ranging from: location, price, general college information and their statistics (Men:women ratio, ratio of graduation etc.), majors, and degrees that are offered.
• Never choose just one college, especially if you’re right out of high school. Four-year schools are a lot more competitive than a 2-year college, so you may set yourself up for disappointment if you only choose just one. (If you’re currently in a college, I will discuss further information later on in this article).
• Similarly to the 2-year info above, check out the potential schools website, and see where they’re located. Will you be dorming or commuting? These are important to figure out. Search thoroughly on their websites and make sure they have what you’re looking for.

After you’ve done some extensive research on the majors you’re interested in and the schools you’re interested in, re-list everything and see what fits. Do the schools you wish to attend match the criteria of schooling you’re looking for?

Another super important item to look for when on the school website is make sure they have a Co-op/internship section. If nothing shows up during your search, don’t worry, you can always ask a guidance counselor if interning is available. Trust me, when I say, if it wasn’t for interning, I wouldn’t have a full-time job right now. Interning is how you get that experience. During your time at school, I absolutely recommend grabbing those internship opportunities when you can. It’s an amazing way to network and really get a feel of what you could be doing as a career path. There are some available internships at 2-year colleges, but from my experience, there are way more at a University level.

-Step 2-
This section is for people who have decided on what majors interest them, and what colleges they are interested in. Now that you’ve got that taken care of, the next step is applying. Know that some of these schools will require SAT scores, high school information, etc. Personally, since I went to a community college, they didn’t need SAT information (which is great, since I never took an SAT exam).

Some colleges have application fees, which can be about $50 (I think). You may need your parents/guardians information as well to add on these applications, but I’m not too sure (it has been a while since I had to fill out these kinds of paperwork).

Apply to as many schools as you want to, if you’re going for a 4-year school. Usually 2-3 should be fine if you have decent grades and SAT scores. You will eventually get a letter or a package in the mail stating you got accepted or not.

Do you have poor grades? Also didn’t take the SAT exam(s)? Don’t worry. A 2-year school may be a better path for you. They have lower requirements in comparison to University requirements. Attending a 2-year school is the perfect place to redeem yourself and get a good feel of college.

After applying where you wish to apply, now you play the waiting game. During this wait, you can do some research on the schools websites and really get a feel of the major(s) that you’re interested in. Really see what each major entails – see what classes you need to take, see what electives you can choose, etc.

What will you get out of these classes? Will they be enriching you with wonderful information? Education can be extremely difficult sometimes, but with the right amount of dedication these classes can become really enjoyable and enlightening.

You should also really think about what these majors have to offer you in the realms of career work. Nothing can be more of a buzz kill than earning your degree and not knowing what the hell to do with it. (It happens, but it’s nothing to fear. Even if you’re in that boat, it won’t be forever, I promise you.) Although searching on-line could be helpful, I would rather get a more hands-on opinion and ask your high school counselor what types of careers could you get with the degree you’re interested in.

When visiting colleges, ask the guidance counselors there too. Usually 4-year college guidance counselors specialize only a handful of degrees, which is very beneficial. If you’re interested in becoming an English Major, you should speak to that counselor about what their college has to offer and what to expect after graduating. There are so many jobs out there that you can get with having a 4-year degree. (Or even a 2-year degree), so try not to worry too much. Many places, such as the IRS only need a nonspecific Bachelors degree.

[In College]
Okay, so you’re currently in college at the moment. Whether it’s a 2-year college, or a 4-year college. Maybe you have a few semesters to go, or maybe you’re down to the final semester. Either way, at this point of your college career you should have a good feel of what you enjoy doing, and a good feel of the college that you’re attending. At this point in your college career you should be thinking about three things: transferring, interning and your portfolio.

-Step 1-
If you’re currently in a 2-year school and wish to transfer to a 4-year school, I would scroll back up to the previous section (What college do you want to go to section) and make a list of places you wish to attend to and apply to them. If you don’t want to transfer and are happy with the 2-year degree (or you are in a 4-year college), you should start finding out how to intern if you haven’t already. Interning is one of the most important parts of your college experience.
-Step 2-
Why interning is so important:

• It gives you amazing hands-on experience. This hands on experience can give you an idea of what to look for (or what not to look for) in a career.
• You’re networking. Believe it or not networking is just as important as getting that degree. After I had a wonderful experience interning, I decided to apply for the position the company had to offer. The connections I had there when I interned highly recommended me, which helps a lot in a competitive field.
• It’s a great resume builder. The majority of the time graduate-students complain about not being able to get a job because most entry level positions require experience. This is where you get that experience.
NOTE: You should be aware that not all interning opportunities will pay you – mine didn’t, and I wasn’t expecting to get paid. All of my hard work paid off in the end, and that’s all that matters.

If for whatever reason there aren’t any available internship opportunities, I would stay close to the professors. Being on good terms with professors can also help you network and could be used as a great reference when applying for jobs. And if you haven’t already done so, I would sign up for a LinkedIn account and start networking with other students, current/previous employers and your professors. LinkedIn is a professional networking site that is designed to help put your resume out there for potential employers to seek.

-Step 3-
Your portfolio is another very important piece to think about. This is what you may need to bring with you when you’re applying for a job or another school. This gives the potential employer/school a real idea about who you are. It lets your work do the talking for you and it’s also a great topic of discussion during the interview process.

What should be included in this?

• Your resume (and copies of this to give to a potential employer, at least 5).
• Any achievement certificates that you’ve received in college or high school. Personally, I would only include anything from college and on, unless it’s something really important. Some examples of this would be a copy of your 2 or 4-year degree, or honor society certificates. Don’t bother adding your high school diploma if you already have a 2 or 4 year degree – it’s redundant.
• The bulk of your portfolio should contain examples of your work. For instance, if you are a writer, any interesting pieces of writing that you’ve done while you were in school. Pick out your best work, and before doing anything, review a few more times and print it out very neatly.
• If you’re a Forensic Science major, you’ve probably had a lot of hands-on lab activity at your school. If you have any crime-paperwork, I would add that in the portfolio. Also, if this is your major, and you’re doing lab activity, make sure to bring in a camera every now and then and photograph your lab “evidence” – visuals to your work are always a plus.
• If you’re an artist, you may need something bigger to fit your work in. There are plenty of places where you can buy big portfolio binders. Similar to the writing example, put the best of the best work that you’ve completed in your portfolio.
• Just remember, whatever you’re adding in the portfolio should be relevant to the job that you are seeking. (If you want a better idea of what to add to your portfolio, just ask!)
Photography can also be a great addition to your portfolio.

Just remember to be creative and formal. There shouldn’t be any spelling errors, and the pages should be as crisp as possible. If you have a lot of your work on a personal website, I would add that website to your resume along with a mobile barcode, if you feel like being creative. One can be made at this site: http://www.barcodelink.net/

[Out Of College]
So you’re currently out of college right now. You received your degree and hopefully had a chance to intern. If you haven’t, it’s okay, because some places will still take you even if you’re out of school. First and foremost, I would try and contact a counselor or co-op counselor at the college(s) you attended. They should be able to provide further help when seeking an internship.

Even though you’re out of college, interning is still very viable if you haven’t found a relevant job yet. I would also keep in close contact with your professors for any potential positions that they may be aware of.

As stated in the last section, you should have a LinkedIn account and keep the information updated frequently. There are actual job offers and internship offers on the sidebars in LinkedIn which could be a great place to start looking for a career. Use LinkedIn as a tool to network among people that seem to share the same job interests in you. This will give you an idea of where to start looking for a job.

I hope this has been helpful, and, as always, please feel free to comment with any questions or comments.

Comments

  1. I think many, many young people make a dire mistake in assuming there is a direct connection between their education and future employment. Both are important in order to have a well-rounded life, but unless you are taking a strictly professional major such as law, medicine, or accounting, there’s no direct route from college to work at all!

    My first degree was in Communications. Where did I end up working? Sales (10 years). My second career (20 years) was in the technical areas of the motion picture industry. I can’t recall even meeting a co-worker with a degree related to what we did, except for the studio maintenance guys, who had electrical engineering certs from trade schools. Then I went to a trade school myself and got certified for medical imaging (AS degree). For the first time in my life, employers looked for me in order to hire. It’s because the job is one that is in demand.

    My point is that choosing a job that is in demand will have more effect upon your success than “doing what you like”. You can do what you like after hours.

    • True, but if your goal is to only go for a career that is in-demand versus something you’ll enjoy doing, you may find yourself to become either unhappy or stressed, etc.

      For me, my education did have a direct connection for my future employment (through the various connections I made with my professors and having a great opportunity to intern). I received a Bachelors degree in English Writing and now work at a company as an Editor/Writer. I consider myself very lucky though since I know that could be a rare occurrence (getting a job right out of college that’s directly related to your education). — Although, on a side-note, I technically do have another “useless” degree in Criminal Justice.

      Thanks for the comment by the way! I love the feedback 🙂

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