I am a 21-year-old undergraduate and have no idea about which career to choose. I want to be financially independent by the age of 40, wh…

Answer by Balaji Viswanathan:

Take a deep look at this Venn diagram and start pondering the 3 circles. Where all the 3 intersect is your career.

Step 1: Find career paths

Right now, take a piece of paper and start writing a list of all things you are really passionate about. It could be playing guitar, programming, writing, researching data on the Internet, etc. Be as specific as possible. If you don't have more than a page full of things you are passionate about, you need start exploring more.

Here is one resource you can use to start understanding different career paths – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is US based, but a lot of job descriptions are the same. You should also reach out to your friends, college seniors and relatives to understand what they do. Don't ask for jobs or favors. If you are just interested in finding what they do for living, they might be more open to helping you understand the career path they took. Find as many of these as possible.

Step 2: Find Strengths

Find internships – free or paid – and work with interesting people. Give more than what they expect and use the opportunity to find out if the task you are expected to do is fun for you and whether you can work 15 hours a day in that. If you already have a job, find ways to work on a few other projects on weekends and nights that will help you discover your strengths.

If you think, music is your strength, record a couple of songs on soundcloud or Youtube. You can quickly find whether you got the talent or not. Try finding simple ways to test your strengths.

Start circling the passions you wrote in step 1, where you have tested your strength.

Step 3: Find the market

Of course, most people want to be artists. Our popular media [controlled by artists] make you think that way. No one would make you realize that Statistics and Data Sciences is among the sexiest qualifications you could possess right now. Start questioning the media assumptions on what is sexy and what is not. Again the BLS link I put in step 1 would help you understand what career path has a growing market right now.

From the things you have circled in the previous step, find which of them have fast growing markets. Reject the ones where the market is declining.

Final tip: When you are going through these tips, you might be tempted to ask for jobs. Never do that. Convey your interest in a particular career, but unless you have conveyed your strengths to the person, never ask for jobs. In most cases, that would end the conversation. However, if you have made clear on your passions, your interests, the other person might volunteer for connecting you. That will usually work the best.

I am a 21-year-old undergraduate and have no idea about which career to choose. I want to be financially independent by the age of 40, wh…


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