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A College Degree Opens Doors, But How do You Decide Which Door?

Dr. Cheryl Minnick is a Missoula career consultant, career coach and certified resume writer. Her work is featured in academic journals and many industry publications.

At age five, you pretty much knew what you were going to do with your life. You had big plans. You were going to kindergarten, and you knew that if you learned to read, write, take turns and share, you would get a big promotion — to first grade. From there the sky was the limit … middle school, high school and off to college. But few of us think beyond graduation to, “Now, what?” A college degree opens doors, but how do you decide which door to knock on? Grab paper, pen and a pumpkin spice latté, and let’s complete eight self-reflections.

Describe two moments you felt “it.” Easy flow of effort, peace of spirit and confidence in your abilities is key to success, whether on the job, volunteering, interning, doing extracurricular activities or simply having fun with friends. Note times you felt “flow” at work and try to identify patterns. A career with easy flow of effort is a career of successful effort.

Reflect on your childhood. As a kid, you were most truly you and thoughtlessly revealed your natural talents and interests … you were a reader, explorer, teacher, super hero, outdoor adventurer, Barbie-princess-ballerina, pro-athlete, etc. What gave you fulfillment or pleasure as a child … was it learning? Challenges? Being alone? Being with people? Fixing stuff? Being active? Helping people? A career honoring your authentic self and using your natural talents will bring you on-the-job happiness and success. 

Pinpoint moments of joy. List five circumstances that brought you ear-to-ear grinning joy. Look for themes in those circumstances. Now, make a list of industries, companies or careers where those same joyful moments are required job criteria or job success factors. 

Volunteer yourself a future. List two duties, projects or areas at work that you could volunteer to help with that would let you develop skills/talents, build networks, or just fill your day with more joy. Now, go volunteer … volunteer your way into a career or up the ladder of success. 

List three work tasks you rocked! Reflect on your jobs, internships or volunteer experiences to list three responsibilities you did well, that brought you success or joy. Now, list three things that brought you heartache and difficulty that you don’t ever want to do again. Make sure the “do well” tasks are in your future job description and the “don’t want to do again” aren’t!

Ten things I like about ME! List 10 things you’re damn good at (on the job) and list their common denominators. Try to find employment doing those things.

Who’s in your network? Most career success is built on networking and in our current economy it is the #1 way to find a job. List your 10 strongest network connections and get knocking on their doors to network! 

Complete these sentences: a) My colleagues would say I’m particularly good at … b) my supervisor has commented positively about my ability to … c) I’ve been positively recognized at work for … d) My supervisor or colleagues would say I need to work on … e) At work, I could be better at … and f) At work, I am really pretty good at and found success doing …

Come to find out, growing up to be a superhero or Barbie-princess-ballerina takes a lot more energy and thought beyond learning to read, write, take turns and share, and that a college degree is just the beginning to finding a career that will bring you success AND happiness.


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