Late night study sessionsAs a young adult, it’s difficult to answer the question, “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?” At this time of year, when students are heading out the door to college, the question becomes very real. “What do YOU want to do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!”

With one year of college under my belt, I’ve seen classmates and others on campus make this decision, and believe my insight might help others in the 16-20 age bracket trying to answer the age-old question.

Homework First

First of all, do your homework. No, I don’t mean get going on that research paper! I’m talking about exploiting search engines, books, and — God forbid — even your parents. These resources can help you pinpoint the career you want when you get out of school. For instance, log into This website allows you to view real job postings, giving you an idea as to just what employers look for in specific jobs. If you want less specific information, simply ask Google things like, “What are jobs like in marketing?” “Is it a good idea to study philosophy?” In return, you’ll find copious articles that could help you.

If you don’t have much luck on the internet, try a book or magazine. Money, Time, and Entrepreneur discuss many types of careers and projects from around the world. You may find one that interests you.

If you prefer not to read, do what you might find unthinkable . . . ask an adult. You may be able to regurgitate the Pythagorean Theorem, but when it comes to real life experiences, adults really do have the upper hand. Don’t be afraid to use them.

Be Yourself

After you’ve done your homework on available careers, consider my second piece of advice: be independent. It is a quick point to make, but critical to your happiness. A lot of people think they know what the “next big thing” will be. My dad suggested I be a petroleum engineer. Luckily, he was never overly pushy when it came to my career goals, so when I said I wasn’t interested, he didn’t press on. At the end of the day, you should be the one to make the decision. Regardless of job prospect reports and median salary estimates, if you hate going to work every day, no amount of money is worth your life.

Take Your Time

Finally, as you try to answer the question, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” be patient and don’t be afraid to extend out of your comfort zone. If you are applying for colleges and don’t know exactly what you want to do when you finish school, say that! Later, you’ll find college resources that will be able to guide you in the right direction. Even if you are leaning towards one subject, but don’t know 100%, report that you are undeclared. Most colleges don’t require you to declare your major until after your third semester. Even then, you can still change your major.

Essentially, I encourage you to explore. I believe we experience the most changes in life between the ages of 19 and 22. You may find it more difficult to change your career route after these years, so don’t shut any doors just because it doesn’t seem interesting at first. Personally, I only took one business-related course in high school and that was consumer economics (which was required to graduate). Now I work for Illinois National Bank and am less than three years away from earning a degree in finance.

You can find your own answer to “What do I want to do with the rest of my life” by:

  1. Doing homework.
  2. Being Independent
  3. Being Patient.

Good luck!

Noah Horton is a student at the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign where he’s planning to major in accounting or finance. He spent the summer working at INB as a teller.