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10 Tips for Picking a Career Path in College

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In the sage words of Yogi Berra, "if you don't know where you're going, you'll be lost when you get there." Picking a career path boils down to a cost benefit analysis and a gut check. It is a game of reality versus passion, and you can start blazing a meaningful path in college.

But hopefully you can appreciate that every career has an arc, and you are at the beginning of the curve. Don't be surprised if your career direction changes significantly a few times before and after you reach the peak.

With that message in mind, here are my 10 tips for picking a career path in college:

1. Don't let anyone crush your dreams. However, the riskier your dream, the better your backup plan must be.

2. There is a huge difference between a childhood dream and a dream job. If you dreamed of being a lawyer since the age of twelve, you better make sure you know exactly what attorneys do on a given twelve hour work day. Did You Know: In a survey of 800 attorneys, only 55 percent reported being satisfied with their career.

3. Make sure your dream job is not an avocation (a hobby). An avocation is a vacation from a vocation, because the pay ranges from little to nothing.

4. No matter what your part-time jobs or summer jobs are, always be thinking about how those experiences will enhance your resume and work skills.

5. The most important thing for deciding on a major or career path is to get out of the classroom and into an internship which exposes you to the day-to-day ups and downs of that profession. "Learning by doing" will give you a better appreciation of the job than learning through textbooks.

6. Do what you love but don't let your career choices jeopardize anyone you love. Including yourself. Translation: Take care of others but don't forget to take care of yourself, sometimes before others. Listen to our airline flight attendants: "Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others with their masks."

7. Determine whether you are driven to be your own boss or if you crave the stability of a steady paycheck. Assess your personality traits and the risks inherent with both paths. (e.g., the risk of putting up your own money as your own boss versus the risk of losing a job in a company you work for) Did You Know: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists occupations with the largest job growth projected through the year 2018, starting with registered nurse.

8. Rather than casually asking career advice from parents or other relatives, set up a time to interview them, with prepared general and specific questions. This approach will make them think more thoughtfully about their responses, and may reveal their personal career challenges and triumphs.

9. Don't rely on luck or fate in your career. Professional success is about putting yourself in a position to create numerous opportunities.

10. Over the course of your lifetime, there may only be a handful of impactful career opportunities. Assemble an inner circle team of advisors now, so you'll be able to act quickly to objectively assess the pluses and minuses of future opportunities.

And finally, clean up your social media presence online! What's publicly available might not bode well for your future employment. Did You Know: In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission approved the practice of employers conducting social media background checks going back seven years for job applicants.

Perry Binder is a legal studies professor at Georgia State University. His career path tips are from his book, 99 Motivators for College Success, along with other tips on his 99 Motivators blog.