It was my first day of classes at the University of Toronto, and I stepped onto the trampled turf of front campus with a pair of juvenile—and, admittedly, cliché—Converse and a backpack-sized collection of goals for the incoming year. I was brimming with a plethora of productive emotions, such as anxiousness, homesickness, and—probably the most helpful one—fear.
Luckily, I made it out first year alive, and with zero regrets. Zero regrets, that is, except for one.
While I accomplished a lot of my academic and extracurricular goals during my first year at U of T, I regret not focusing more on my career. I was so absorbed in going through the motions of test-acing and journal-editing and macaroni-cooking that I forgot to consider how my classes and activities aligned with my future career aspirations, and what they revealed about my passions and interests.
It was almost like falling asleep after a day of hard work, and then violently jolting upright once you realize you have an essay that you completely forgot about due tomorrow at eight AM.
My situation is not unique; many of my friends and peers feel anxious and bewildered about their future careers, even though they are successful in their academic and social lives. Especially at U of T, it is easy to become so engulfed in assignments and essays and tests and extracurricular activities and stress-eating macaroni that there is almost no time to really think about your career—not just feel anxious and overwhelmed about it—until it is time to graduate.
At the beginning of first year, I wish I had come up with a small list of short-term career goals to keep me focused on my future. That is why I’ve personally decided to implement three career goals to refer back to and keep me focused throughout the 2016-2017 year:
One: Get a head start in career exploration
The panic I felt after first year upon the realization that I had neglected to truly consider my career is not one I want to repeat. This year, I will use the resources U of T’s Career Centre offers to build my professional identity and explore my career options. (Psst, you can follow along with my blogs this year to find out how this goes.)
Two: Focus on what I’m passionate about
While it’s important to try new things and harness new experiences, it’s also important that I learn to say “no.” In my first year of university, I plunged so deeply into campus life that I took on responsibilities for things I didn’t enjoy, which ate into time I could have spent on activities I was passionate about. This year, I want to put my energy into experiences and skills that I’m interested in to learn more about what I want out of my future career.
Three: Do at least one thing a day toward my dream career
The job market is terrifying. The thought of having a job I hate after graduation is terrifying. The thought of not even having a job after graduation is terrifying. But a way I can get rid of some of that anxiety, while also being productive, is to do at least one thing a day that works toward my dream career. By taking small, specific steps toward my dream job a little bit every day, I am hoping that the terrifying, nebulous idea of the future will seem less scary. Hopefully, I will also see results by the time it is actually time to graduate and find work.
As I walk across front campus this year—this time, in a pair of professional Oxfords—I feel a little less apprehensive and a lot more excited. I’m excited to see if I can complete my career goals, and where they will take me. Wish me luck!