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Managing the Crossroads

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I am fortunate in my position with the Davidson Management Honors Program (DMHP) at JSOM to meet with students every day who tell me about their life plans. Where they will live, what job they will take, when they will get married, and how many kids they will have. I love hearing about their dreams.

And plans are great. They provide focus and direction. They help us identify our goals and what we want to accomplish on this journey through life.

But plans change. A lot. Many of you have probably already encountered this through a variety of life circumstances. Some good, some difficult, some painful.

For others, college might be the first time you start to question those plans. As your scope of learning expands, so too does your realization that there is a wide range of options out there. As you meet students, faculty and staff from all over the world, your dreams start to magnify. (Or maybe you just take a few classes or do an internship and realize your intended major/occupation bores you to tears.)

This can, understandably, lead you to feel overwhelmed and confused. But it can also be incredibly exciting! Here are some tips to remember when you find yourself at the crossroads:

Stay Open and Aware 

If you replace the words “unsure” or “undecided” with “keeping my options open,” do things seem a little less daunting? I know they do for me! In DMHP, we host a variety of events with alumni and other professionals to speak about their career/life paths. Their stories almost always include a nonlinear road to where they are now. And they also usually entail taking advantage of an opportunity they never expected or planned for. I once had a student who secured a summer internship at a major company by engaging in a conversation with the person behind her in the security line at the airport. What if she had been staring at her phone with her headphones on instead? Keep your eyes and ears open, and NEVER turn down the opportunity to listen to someone who is willing to tell you their story.

Self-Reflect

You have likely dealt with change and the unexpected at other times in your life. How did you handle those situations? What did you do to navigate that time of uncertainty? What helped and what didn’t? Rely on strategies you have used before, and if you don’t have any successful ones, reach out to resources to assist you. From the Career Management Center to the Student Success Center to the Student Counseling Center, resources abound on campus to support you.

Keep Exploring

There is no time like college to try out many different paths. Maybe you can’t change your major every semester, but you can look for internships, student organizations and volunteer opportunities to give you exposure to a myriad of environments. If one thing doesn’t work out like you thought it would, try something else! Please don’t feel like you have to know what your passion is — that word is terribly overused. Ask yourself the following questions. The answers to them might be some areas worth exploring.

  • What activities do you get lost in doing?
  • When do you feel energized?
  • What are you doing when you procrastinate?
  • What is your “reward” when you focus for an hour on studying?

You might find that life doesn’t happen exactly the way you planned (even tomorrow might not happen exactly as planned). But with an open mind, resources and the self-permission to explore and keep trying, your path will unfold exactly how it should.

Caryn Berardi

Caryn is the Associate Director for the Davidson Management Honors Program in JSOM. Caryn started her career in public relations before transitioning to higher education. She loves engaging with students and helping them grow both inside and outside of the classroom. Caryn received a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Master’s in Education from the University of North Texas. Read more articles

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