03. Love Interests: Draw on What You Love to Build a Successful Career in College

Sometimes too much choice can be paralyzing—with so many career options, which one do you pursue? One smart idea is to build a career based on doing what you love and what you’re good at—but before you can start seeking out those opportunities, you need to know what your interests and strengths are. This module offers an interest inventory that pairs activities you enjoy doing with words that might appear in class or job descriptions to help you make savvy choices and pave a path to success.

Your interests are not the way you have to spend your time, but the way you want to do so. They intrigue and motivate you. Often, the things we like to do for fun end up influencing the things we end up doing for work, without us even noticing. Part of the reason that we like doing something is because we’re good at it. Think of the people of whom we say, “she’s a born leader” or “he’s a natural politician.” They may end up taking leadership roles because they’re good at them, and enjoying the work because it comes so naturally to them.


People often tell us that they just “fell into” their work. Is that true of your jobs, internships, or classes? If you think about jobs you did in high school or are doing in college, you’ll realize that even these early jobs, which you probably accepted before beginning to think about a “career path”, are ones that you chose to apply for and accept. What we mean is, if you enjoy being with people, you probably picked work where you get to interact with others, and you’re probably one of those individuals who are said to be “good with people”. If you like reading, you may have applied for a work-study job in the library, or if you’re good at crafting things, you may have taught arts and crafts as a counselor at a summer camp.

Of course, making a choice based on your interests and abilities (and steering clear of your disinterests) requires knowing what they are. If you’ve never really thought about what aptitudes are when it comes to applying for jobs, now is the time to do so. (And if you have, well, it’s time to think a little more deeply.) You can start by asking yourself these questions—jot down the answers if that helps you process your thoughts:

  • What did you like about any of the jobs or classes you have had?
  • What kinds of volunteer work do you enjoy doing?
  • What hobbies do you spend the most time on?
  • What are the activities or classes you really don’t enjoy?

Taking an interest/aptitude inventory

It was probably pretty easy to come up with specific things you do or don’t like doing—most likely they were nouns like “Art” or “Volleyball” or verbs like “Drawing” or “Reading.” But how do these items relate to marketable job skills? That’s where the interest/aptitude inventory comes in. We created the table below to help you identify relevant interest areas that you may see listed when you start your job search. If you find the exercise below particularly fun and helpful, you might want to check out this free interest inventory, which we also mentioned in the module Slipping Out of the Straitjacket, if you haven’t already: http://homeworktips.about.com/library/maj/bl_majors_quiz.htm

Look at the table below and highlight the categories that interest you AND that you are good at doing. You also might want to highlight the specific activities in each line that interest you most or that come easiest to you.

Interest Inventory

ResearchingObserve, investigate, study, perceive, sense, measure, test, inspect, examine
AnalyzingCompare, contrast, extract, correlate, derive, evaluate, differentiate, identify
InterpretingExplain, understand, portray, advise, communicate
Problem-solvingTroubleshoot, improve, critique, re-direct, redesign, restructure, consult
SystematizingCoordinate, organize, develop procedures
PlanningPlan short-term, plan long-term, forecast, strategize, set goals
ManagingSupervise, control, direct, budget, administer, delegate, oversee
LeadingInstruct, show the way, govern, inspire, motivate, assert, decide, advise
Decision-makingJudge, choose, select, decide under pressure, arbitrate
Following throughPersist, persevere, show tenacity, tie up loose ends, bring to closure, finish
MentoringTeach, coach, counsel, advise, and help others to grow professionally and personally
InnovatingInvent, change, develop, devise, break with convention, think outside the box
ImaginingVisualize, conceptualize, fantasize, dream up
VisioningAsk “what if?” or “why not?,” then act to find the answer
SynthesizingAdapt, bring together
CreatingDraw sketch, sculpt, write, perform
CounselingEmpathize, understand needs/feelings of others, relate to issues and concerns of others, comfort, offer kindness, help others, be friendly and attentive, advise
ListeningListen actively and understand the message others are delivering
Communicating in writingWrite clearly, concisely, and effectively, spot grammatical errors, use editorial ability
Communicating verballySpeak clearly, concisely and effectively, use the spoken word to get results
Persuading verballyConvince, influence, overcome opposition, sell, talk into
NegotiatingMediate, intervene, resolve differences, arbitrate
InitiatingInvent, change, develop, devise, break with convention, think outside the box
InnovatingTake the initiative, be among the first to do or try, get things started
Changing dynamicsBe flexible, adapt easily to change, be aware, go with the flow
Working on a teamCooperate, be a team player
AssemblingBuild, prepare, fabricate, fashion
InstallingFit, tailor, customize, test
OperatingRun, maintain, fix, set up, oversee
Module 3 | Love Interests: Draw on What You Love to Build a Successful Career in College