What are you going to do after you graduate?

Curtis Powers

Back when I was a little kid, people would ask me, “So, what are you going to be when you grow up?” I’d say stuff like, “Major League Baseball player” or “NBA player.”

Once I hit high school, I think I started to realize that most unmotivated, fat, slow, finesse athletes don’t make it to the pros, even if their height and weight look good on the roster — me: 6’1″, 215 lbs. You know it’s pretty bad when you yell before getting hit by a pitch.

It’s also pretty bad when you get put into the last game of the junior varsity basketball season and when your Hail Mary 3-pointer goes in at the horn to give your team a 25-point victory, the crowd roars like you won the state title.

So I thought that I might become a sports announcer or something else really rad. Then I remembered that my parents had been preaching for years that I needed to go to college and major in something that will get me a job — some of you reading this may need to think about that.

I thought they might be onto something, so I applied for college. Since my dad had majored in engineering, I thought that was the way to go.

After about six weeks into my freshman year in electrical engineering at Iowa State, I decided that was a bad idea. So I switched into the college that many other weeded-out freshmen end up in: business.

Since my mom was an accountant, I settled on accounting even though most of my early accounting classes were pretty boring. The reason I stayed in accounting was due to one of the best professors I ever had, Bill Terando.

During all of these boring accounting classes, I was coaching a third- and fourth-grade basketball team. Terando’s oldest child happened to be on the team.

After one practice, we were talking and he said something to the effect of, “You know, most accounting classes suck. Just hang in there because there’s probably going to be one or two classes that you just love.”

And you know what? He was right. I took his tax accounting class and just loved it.

My internship ended up being in auditing, but my heart was still with taxes, which means I’m pretty nerdy. After all, how many people do you know who are passionate about tax codes?

Anyway, so there I was as school was winding down and the question had become, “What are you going to do after you graduate?”

If you’re graduating soon, you already know how annoying this question is. If you’re not, know that this question is not far around the corner.

Beyond the annoyance, though, it’s a good time to think about this question right now. After all, it’s Career Fair week.

The Engineering Career Fair is Tuesday from noon to 6 p.m. The Business/LAS Career Fair is from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday. They’re both being held outside the Scheman Building, which is on the west side of Hilton Coliseum.

Even if you’re just a freshman or older folks who’ve never been, you should consider going because it will give you an idea of what these things are like before you are in a job hunt.

Plus, it’s a great time to start networking with people for future internships or full-time jobs — remember, internships often lead to full-time jobs. Worst case scenario, it could give you a benchmark for how the economy is doing.

I remember when I was a freshman and showed up to the career fair. Hilton was packed with so many companies that there was overflow in Scheman. When I was back as a senior, not even all the spots on the floor of Hilton were occupied. It was a little creepy.

After deciding that I wanted to pursue a career in the government/nonprofit world, I decided to pursue jobs in that field and apply to graduate school to Iowa State’s Master in Public Administration program — the only one in the state of Iowa.

It would help me meet my education requirement for becoming a certified public accountant and give me some flexibility in case I couldn’t find a job.

Turns out, that was a good idea. I couldn’t find a job, but I did get accepted into the MPA program and got an assistantship.

It’s been one of the best things to happen to me, too. My time in the program has been wonderful and is helping me figure out what I want to do and, more importantly, what I don’t want to do.

In fact, over the past few years, I think the best idea I’ve had about figuring out what I want to do with my life is first figuring out what I don’t want to do. Process of elimination has been a far better strategy than trying to precisely plan my path.

So when people ask me that question now, “What are you going to do after you graduate,” I look at them and say, “I’m not sure, but I’m slowly figuring it out.”