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Friday, June 14, 2024

Advice for College Students Choosing a Career

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As a college student, I was like many others who chose a career based on what was popular on campus or what would provide the highest immediate pay. That is how I started my career in investment banking. However, with more life experience and learning from others, I discovered a better way to approach career decisions. Below is a framework that I use when discussing career options with the students that I work with:

When considering career options, there are three key areas that students should take into account:

What they find meaningful: Students should choose a career that aligns with what they find meaningful in their lives. What is meaningful is different for each person, and there is no universal right answer. It’s important for individuals to be honest with themselves about what they truly value. Additionally, while it’s ideal to find a career that directly aligns with personal values, it’s also fulfilling to work in a career that provides the time and resources to allow for meaningful activities outside of work, such as participating in charitable causes or raising a family.

What they can be excellent at: Students should also choose a career that utilizes their unique talents and gifts. It’s essential to find a career where one has a “high ceiling,” meaning that with dedicated time and effort, they can be better than most. For example, if someone loves basketball but is not tall or athletically gifted, it’s not the best use of their time and energy to pursue a career in basketball. Instead, they should focus on a career where their talents give them a competitive edge.

What people will pay them for: While it’s important to choose a career that aligns with personal values and utilizes individual talents, it’s also essential to consider market demand and supply. Students should look for careers where there is sufficient demand from people who will pay for their work, whether that’s an employer or customers. It’s best to identify careers where demand is greater than supply and where demand is expected to increase faster than supply. In my opinion, cybersecurity and nursing are two such career areas.

I often get asked why I left the corporate finance industry to start a career coaching business. I respond by saying that I used the above framework when making my decision. First, I carefully thought about what I found meaningful. Researching stocks to make rich people richer was not meaningful for me. Instead, I found much more meaning in mentoring the younger generation and helping them succeed. Second, I thought about what I could be excellent at. As a stock analyst, I felt that I had no competitive advantage and that I could quickly be replaced by other ivy-league MBA graduates. With career coaching, I have a competitive advantage and unique offering since not many career counselors have my educational and professional background. Finally, I considered the current and future market opportunities. I wanted to work in an industry that is experiencing high growth. Through my research, I concluded that demand for career coaching would experience high growth over the next 20 years as it gets more competitive for college students to obtain great jobs after graduation.

I hope this framework helps students choose a long-term career that they find both personally and financially fulfilling. When considering career options, students should take time to reflect on what is meaningful to them, what they can be excellent at, and what the market demands. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask for advice from professionals or mentors, and they should keep an open mind to new opportunities that align with their values and strengths. By using this framework, students can make informed decisions about their careers that will lead to long-term success and satisfaction.

James Pak
LA Career Coaching
(949) 630-8729