Thursday, June 4, 2015

Having second thoughts about your future? You’re not alone

If you’re reading this, you’re probably experiencing some level of uncertainty about your future. Let me start by telling you you’re not alone. In fact, according to an American study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, an estimated 75 per cent of students will change their course of study at least once. Personally, I changed mine three times before finding my way, so don’t panic.

Figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life is a major decision, and one you shouldn’t take lightly. Unfortunately it’s something most students may have felt “forced” into deciding, either by their parents, peers, media, or some other influence. For others, it may have been more retrospective: realizing the program you were passionate about at first just wasn’t what you thought it’d be. And really, how certain can you actually be in deciding what career is the right one for you out of the thousands of different jobs out there?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with changing your mind about your future. We grow, we change and we continue to learn more about ourselves with each passing day. We build and develop personal values, goals and aspirations in life that may not necessarily be career-oriented, but might affect the type of career that suits our lifestyle and who we really are.

Students change their mind for a variety of reasons. I’ve heard about nursing students changing their minds because of a newly-realized phobia of seeing blood. Sometimes it’s for the simple reason that your heart just isn’t in it. And who can fault you for being true to yourself?

There are a couple of things to consider before making the decision to leave your current program:

  • Determining the best time to withdraw: You can certainly withdraw any time you wish, however there are two dates you’re going to want to be aware of. The first, and earliest in the semester is the withdraw deadline for obtaining a partial refund. This is usually about the second week of classes. The second date occurs about two months into the semester, and is the withdraw deadline to avoid academic penalty. If you drop your program or course on or before this date there is no refund, but the courses and applicable grades won’t be added to your official student record.
  • Sticking it out for classes that will help you down the road: There are a number of courses that you might need in a future program, such as college communications, global citizenships, mathematics and general electives. If you can find it in you to finish courses like these, it’ll definitely be worth it as you won’t need to take them again in another program you pursue.
You’re also going to need to make a plan for what you’re going to do next. To help find your calling, here are a couple of tips:
  • Speak with a college advisor: Centennial College offers support services in helping students and potential students make well-informed decisions on educational programs and courses consistent with your career goals and personal values. Advisors offer great perspective and in-depth knowledge on what’s available at the college and can act as a guide to the types of courses that might best suit your needs.
  • Talk to current professionals: In order to get a true sense of what a career in a certain field will be like, try reaching out to those currently working in those areas. They could be a relative, someone you play basketball with or a friend of a friend. Utilize LinkedIn by taking advantage of your connections and who they might know. Or you could reach out to a professor in the program to see what they might suggest. Most professors will have worked, or are still working in the industry you’re interested in, so they might be able to offer first-hand information and advice.
  • Career counselling: If you’re currently enrolled at the college or are a graduate looking for assistance, Centennial provides career counselling through the Career Services and Co-operative Education centre. They put on a number of workshops and events, in addition to providing individual support. In order to help get you on the right track, counsellors might use a variety of assessment tools and customized career-coaching techniques.
  • Self-Reflection: Sometimes taking the time to think about the things you did and didn’t like about the program you left (or are about to leave) can help you narrow your options. One exercise that worked for me was a writing exercise in which I put down on paper all the things I like, and to keep writing until I couldn’t think of anymore. It ranged from types of sports and animals to foods I like and songs that moved me. It didn’t matter how weird the combination got because I was essentially putting “me” on paper. When I felt I had an exhaustive list, it was time to analyze the results. I connected the proverbial dots, grouped some items together and looked at the common themes. For me, I realized I’m outgoing, creative, enjoy writing, and am a major “people person” (among other things). My new task was to search out a career that fit ME and not the other way around. For me, the answer was public relations. Maybe it’ll work for you, maybe it won’t, but it's a start.
Whatever you decide to do, remember the decision is yours to make. Only you can determine what’s truly important in your life, so if your heart’s just not in it, take action and do what you need to do. Remember to take advantage of key dates and courses, take the time to reflect and go after your passion. No one can hold you back except yourself.

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