Selecting A Career

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careerGraduating from college with no clue about what to do now? The insights in a new book could help.

Dear Annie: I?m curious to hear what you think about my situation. In about six weeks I?ll be graduating summa cum laude from college, and I have no idea what I want to do for a living. The problem isn?t that nothing interests me, it?s that everything does. In fact, it?s taken me six years to get through school because I kept changing my major, and at various times I?ve minored in different things too, including business and film.

Now, I?m getting all kinds of advice from relatives and other students, like ?follow your passion,? or else ?do something safe,? like go to law school or grad school. Is there some magic formula for choosing a career? I?d like to do something I?ll still be happy with in, say, 10 or 20 years. Is that a totally unrealistic idea? ? Baffled in Boston

Dear B.B.: Alas, there?s no magic formula but, believe it or not, the fact that you?re baffled is a promising sign. After all, you?ve probably got 40 or 50 working years ahead of you, so it?s smart to make few, if any, assumptions right now about how you?re going to spend them.

?Our society doesn?t accept not knowing as an answer,? observes Nathan Gebhard. ?But when someone is totally sure of their next step, especially if they seem to have gotten the idea from someone else, I always wonder whether they?ve really thought it through.?

Gebhard knows whereof he speaks. Starting about 15 years ago, he and a couple of colleagues set out to crisscross the U.S. in an RV. They interviewed working people, from lobstermen to brain surgeons to celebrity businesspeople like Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Those conversations?about how they ended up in their careers, what they?ve realized over time, and what they would do differently if they could?became the basis of the PBS documentary series Roadtrip Nation and of a fascinating new book you might want to check out, Roadmap: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do with Your Life.

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