What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

by Stephen Todey

How many of you reading this know exactly what you want to do? Okay, so maybe half of you thought yes to yourself. But what do you REALLY want to do? If you were to graduate tomorrow, would you know what company you would absolutely die to work for? I’m going to guess about 3 people are thinking yes. As for everyone else, you’re in luck. There is absolutely nothing wrong with not knowing what you want to do. I’m going to be graduating in less than 7 months and I’ll be honest, I don’t have a clue where I’ll be going after I graduate.

A lot of freshmen (and sophomores, and juniors) think that they have to know what they’re going to do with their future. When I started at Iowa State I thought I was going to get a degree in Chemical Engineering, go get a masters in ChemE and then start to make a lot of money. That lasted for about 8 weeks before I switched to Chemistry and Global Resource Systems (Globe). Next, I thought I was going to end up an organic chemist working on pharmaceutical research and solve cancer. Then maybe I thought instead of research, I might like to be a doctor. That was the first semester of my sophomore year. The following summer I went to France and worked in an organic chemistry lab on biofuel by-products. After this, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to do research full time, or at least I didn’t want to be doing organic chemistry and chromatography columns (if you don’t know what these are, consider yourself fortunate). However, I really enjoyed the research I was doing in the inorganic chemistry lab, so I thought I might want to go on and get a PhD in inorganic chemistry working with solar cells. Through my adviser in Globe I ended up finding an opportunity to go work in a forest in Uganda. I had been thinking about going to graduate school in environmental science, but this internship (while I enjoyed it) did not convince me that environmental science was the way to go. I then thought about environmental geochemistry, but again, that interest has faded away as well. Currently, my post-graduation plan is to get a job somewhere and wait a couple of years before I go to graduate school. (Hopefully when I graduate I’ll still want to do this…)

Now, my point in all this is not to bore you with the details of my college experience (trust me, I know it’s boring.) The point is this: It is alright not to know what you want to, but it is not okay to get hung up on it. If you don’t know what your passions are, you need to start trying different things until you find something that you are interested in. Find a job in a research lab, join a club, or work for a company that seems interesting over the summers. Chances are, you won’t like it enough to want to make a career out of it. In fact, you may even hate it. But not trying anything will get you nowhere. Because maybe, just maybe, you’ll find something that really interests you. The point of going to college is to find something that interests you and to learn more about it. So get up (metaphorically) and go find something to be involved in! Because it might just help you out in ways you’d never imagine.


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