Succeeding in University Part 3: Thinking Ahead to a Course and Career
If you’ve just begun university, should you already know what career you seek in the future and what courses you should take or what you should take? Good question!
Some students say they have known from a very early age what they want to do after university, choose the university that is best for that plan, never waiver from the plan and choose and register each course with the one goal in mind, and then enter their chosen career after university or graduate school.
At the other extreme, some students have only a vague sense of direction before beginning university, take a wide variety of courses, select the degree to focus on or transfer to only when they reach the point that they have no other choice (or perhaps change departments multiple times in schools that allow it), and then after university choose to work in an entirely different field.
Some students choose to focus on an academic subject simply because they enjoy that subject, never concerned with what kind of job they may get afterward. The traditional idea of liberal arts education is that you can go to university not to prepare for a specific career but to become a well-educated person who is then in a better position to work in any number of careers.
None of these different approaches to choosing your course of focus and a career is better than others. All students receive the many benefits of university, and all are likely to find a more fulfilling career.
So where are you in this great variety of attitudes about career and course choices? Have you already written JAMB and plan to do a change of course or do you plan to change departments after you have gotten admission?
Assuming you are yet to start or are still early in your university program, the take-home message here is that you don’t need to make any hurried decisions yet. Chances are, as you take courses in a variety of subjects in your first year and meet people in many different fields, you’ll naturally discover something about what you really enjoy doing and what career options you may choose to pursue.
On the other hand, help is available for discovering your interests, strengths, and personality factors related to careers. You can learn a lot about your options and what you would be good at by visiting your university’s advising or counseling department. Almost all good universities have tools to help you discover what careers you would most enjoy.
The Strong Interest Inventory is such an assessment tool used by many universities in developed countries. You answer a series of simple questions, and the computer-scored tabulation provides information about your interests, strengths, and personality related to different types of careers. This tool can also suggest specific courses, jobs and internships, and extracurricular activities relevant to personal and career interests. Ask your university’s career counseling center or departmental advisor (if assigned one on resumption) if such a tool is available.
Another widely used tool is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI is a personality inventory that identifies you as one of sixteen distinct personality types. Each personality type correlates with happiness in certain careers. Ask your university’s career counselor to see if the MBTI is available for you. A free online assessment, like the CareerLink Inventory, is a relatively simple tool that can teach you a lot about yourself.
Although there’s nothing wrong with starting out without an intended degree programme or career path, take care not to accidentally take elective courses that end up not counting toward your program goal or degree. You could end up in university longer than needed or have to pay for additional courses. Be sure to read your university catalog, handbook or brochure carefully and to talk to your academic advisor. Remember, you don’t have to have everything figured out from the onset. However, thinking ahead about who you really want to be and what you would love to do can save you from regrets and time wastage.
Personality and skill inventories can help you discover the right career for your future and the best course or course combinations in school.