By Brian Reece, Associate Director, Assessment & Communication
When I was younger, I remember being told all sorts of things about what I should be (and who I should be, for that matter) when I “grow up.” Now that I’m all grown up, I still don’t really have a concrete answer to this question. It gives me anxiety from time to time—maybe I’m just in denial–but I’m slowly coming to the realization that I don’t have to be just one thing. It’s okay not to know what I want to be when I grow up. As I move ever closer toward my 30s, I can see how all of this education, regardless of the name of the field of study, the major, or the framework, influences me in countless ways.
I wound up in a job doing assessment and communication for a career center. To many of my colleagues, this is an odd sort of mix. But then again, I’m an odd sort of mix. I have degrees, minors, and certificates in English, Spanish, Music, Higher Education, Nonprofit Management, Prevention Science, and Counseling. In other words, I’m a writer, a translator, a musician, an educator, an organizational manager, a data analyst, and a helper by training, and this is exactly what I now do as my full-time job. Interesting how it works out.
I ended up where I am today not because I chose a straight and narrow path toward a specific career, but instead because I explored a variety of options, developed expertise in multiple areas, and was open to the possibilities, including those that didn’t yet exist or that I didn’t yet understand. Whether you’re an incoming student, a senior getting ready to graduate, or an alum with years of experience, here are some tips for living your passion even if you don’t know what it is yet:
Explore anything and everything. If it excites you, learn about it, practice it, and get good at it. If it scares you, dive right on in anyway. If you think you’ll hate it, find out if you’re right! Your experiences define who you are and your attitude about engaging in new opportunities defines who you’ll become.
Don’t make a decision (yet). It’s okay to be unsure! You may be unsure because you don’t have enough information—so do whatever you can do learn and gain experience. You may be unsure because you have too much information—so take time to reflect and digest it all. You may also be unsure because all the options sound great—so think creatively about ways you can have both/all instead of just one or the other.
Prepare for change. Things don’t always go as we planned. In fact, they rarely go exactly as we planned. Preparing for uncertainty means having contingency plans, but it doesn’t mean you can’t commit wholeheartedly to Plan A. It just means that you’re ready to go with Plan B or C or D if the original plan falls through. Or if you’re really creative and you like Plan B enough, you might find ways to merge the two. Now that’s innovation!
Be open to living your passion outside of work. Each of us lives and operates differently. Some of us want our work to be a calling. Others of us want our work to support our calling. No matter how you live your passion and no matter what your passion is, remember that your work is or will be a huge part of it in one way or another. And be open to having many passions—enjoy life to its fullest!


You’re not alone. At the Toppel Career Center, we offer many different ways to explore your interests, values, skills, abilities—to learn what your passion is. We also have highly trained and motivated staff who can help you as you do. Take advantage of your network: friends, colleagues, mentors, professors, supervisors. And if you want help doing so, Toppel can help with that too!