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Choosing a career is like clothing shopping

Like clothes shopping, students choosing a career or major can get expert help by visiting the Career Center.

During their career exploration, students may ask themselves, “What if I like my major, but I don’t love it?” “What’s wrong with me that everyone else has found their passion and I haven’t?” A better way to frame one’s exploration process is to “find your fit.” To help do so, think about career exploration in terms of clothing shopping.

Pick Out Your Own Clothes
You may dread the prospect of clothing shopping, but society still expects you to get dressed. You could ask a family member to go shopping and pick something out for you. It would be easier and you wouldn’t have to deal with browsing through racks of clothes or persistent sales people. However, the end result is that you’ll end up with something that your family member thinks will look good on you, but that may not make you feel confident or align with your personal tastes.

The same is true for choosing a career. People who know you well can offer input and suggestions, but ultimately you’re the one who has to get up every day and do the work. To truly find occupational satisfaction, the decision should be your own.

Get in the Fitting Room
Maybe you hate the idea of actually going into a store and trying on clothes, so you order something online that looks good on the model. You may get lucky and wind up with something that fits perfectly, or you may get pants that are three inches too long and a shirt that gaps when you button it. Online shopping may seem more efficient, but in order to find the right pants, you need to get into the fitting room.

Likewise, you can do occupational research online, but it takes hands-on experience to really determine if a career is the right fit for you. This hands-on experience comes in various forms, including part-time employment, community engagement, job shadowing, relevant coursework, or internships.

Own Your Style
When you’re trying on clothes, you will probably find a lot of items that fit you. But we all have that one go-to outfit that makes us feel confident when we wear it. It fits just right and brings out the color of your eyes. Similarly, there are a lot of career options that we might find satisfying. Look for the option that makes you feel most comfortable and confident.

Plan for Big Purchases
Perhaps you’ve tried on your dream outfit and it looked great on you. Then, you looked at the price tag. You may not be able to start in your dream career with limited experience. Like saving up for a big purchase, you have to put a plan in place and take steps to reach your goal. Look for experiences that will help you develop skills and build connections that may lead to your ideal career down the road.

Remember That Trends Change
Keep in mind that styles change over time. While we may keep a few classic staples in our closet through the years, we update our wardrobes over time to match current trends and our own evolving tastes. What we choose to wear fresh out of college might not be what we envision ourselves wearing forever. Luckily, you don’t have to choose one outfit that you commit to wearing every day for the rest of your life.

Career interests change over time as we develop new skills, gain experience, and learn more about ourselves and our options. It is the norm for people to change jobs and career paths multiple times throughout their lives. Embrace the fact that at some point, you’ll probably find yourself back in the fitting room.

If you’re an undecided “shopper” looking for the right career fit or major to study, let the Career Center help you explore your options.

The Career Center assists all Illinois State University students with developing, evaluating, and implementing career decisions.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

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