There are often two different approaches when advising high schoolers about their future careers.

The first approach says don’t worry about your career now. Focus on getting a good education. College is a time for learning, for broad exploration to expand your knowledge base. You’ve got plenty of time to figure out a career.

The second approach says think about your career early, and pick a college with a high return on investment. Don’t graduate with a PhD and then become a barista! What is college for if not preparing you for your future job?

At Signet, we believe that the college experience should be a blend of both approaches.

A broad-based liberal arts education will help you understand the world and find your place in it. You’ll learn how to relate to others in society, and gain transferable “softer” skills that are especially important in today’s ever-changing economic landscape.

At the same time, it’s important to use time in college effectively towards a future career. If you already have a particular career path that you’re interested in, you may need to structure your academic coursework accordingly. If you want to be a doctor, it’s smart to take the prerequisites for medical school during your first four years of college. There’s no reason to wait!

Of course, much of finding one’s profession and career has to be figured out over time, through first-hand experience. This is certainly a lifelong process, but starting it now can help you make meaningful choices through college and beyond.

Below, we’ve listed some tools that might be helpful to get the conversation started. We particularly like tests and assessments that focus on personality types and individual strengths, not just professional fields where you may have an aptitude.

Remember that this inquiry should be open-ended—you don’t need a conclusion by your graduation from high school. One of the most productive uses of your time might be to come up with a list of career questions, and to then be open to learning the answers to those questions during your college years. Conversations with adult friends or your friends’ parents can also be invaluable during this time. Asking questions and getting curious is the name of the game!

This blog post was co-written with Signet’s Kristen Sweeney.

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