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It’s a race to figure out what to be in life, and most people hate running

By Rebeca Ilisoi

Know what you want to be when you grow up?

Good for you.

According to data collected by many community colleges, as many as half of the students attending colleges and universities today don’t have a clear idea about their future goals.

This is a cause for concern to some, particularly those at a community college such as Chemeketa, where the average age of a student tends to be somewhere in the middle 30s.

According to Chuck Skirvin, a counselor in Chemeketa’s Career and Guidance Center, undecided students tend to have lower GPAs, are less likely to complete a degree, and tend to have lower income levels throughout their lives.

Knowing what you want to do is no guarantee that you’ll see your career goals come into fruition, however.

According to Liz Freedman of Butler University, 75 percent of students change their major at least once before graduation.

Christian Farley, a first-year Chemeketa student, has not only changed his major but also his career.

After getting a culinary degree at Le Cordon Bleu, he realized that being a chef was not for him.

“As I learned of the 70-plus-hour weeks of extremely fast-paced work with very little breaks or vacations that is required to be a chef, the idea became less appealing to me,” Farley said.

Farley is now back in school, unsure of his next move but confident in what he wants to get from a career.

“My overall career goal is to have a job that I enjoy that makes me a good amount of money,” he said.

Then, recognizing the cliche, Farley said, “That may seem like the most generic answer you could give, but I grew up in a family that didn’t have a lot of money.

“My family is very large, and money was tight growing up, and watching my parents struggle financially has made me want to do everything I can to provide a stable future for myself.”

Farley said that on top of having a stable job, he wanted to enter the hospitality industry because he enjoyed showing people a good time.

Farley advised undecided students to be open to new experiences and to try a variety of things that seemed interesting.

“You never know what kinds of things will interest you until you try them,” he said.

With his newfound inkling about what to do with his life, the percentages indicate that Farley is now ahead of the game.

Also ahead of the game is Abby Jones, a second-year Chemeketa student who hopes to eventually transfer to the University of Oregon to study journalism.

Jones would like to be a photojournalist.

Although she only decided on this career path a couple months ago, Jones said she was certain that photojournalism was a better fit for her than social work, which is the career path she’d previously wanted to pursue.

“I started taking photography this year and liked it,” she said. “It suits what I want to do with travelling, and journalism fits my writing style.”

Jones also advised undecided students to explore different classes and to take ones that sound fun to them.

Unlike Farley and Jones, Evelyn Meador, another Chemeketa student, has stuck to her career choice since she was in the seventh grade.

Meador wants to be a master falconer.

“I read a historical fiction book in 7th grade. I’m pretty sure it was Mary Bloody Mary by Carolyn Meyer, where the main character was a falconer. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. When I looked into it, I discovered that falconry is still around and practiced.

“I’ve always found birds to be both beautiful and fascinating, particularly falcons, because of their plumage and ferocity,” she said.

Meador advised undecided students to keep their options open, to be open to new possibilities, and to be willing to change.

“I’d give the advice of being patient and sticking to something that you love. Despite the fact that I wanted to be a falconer in seventh grade, I didn’t actually decide for sure until this last year,” Meador said.

If college is part of the race to figure out what’s ahead, then Elliott Lownsbery is currently at the starting blocks.

Lownsbery, a second-year Chemeketa student, said he was undecided in every sense of the word, with little idea about what he was going to do down the road.

Still, he appeared to be unperturbed as he leaned back in a chair, crossed his legs, and said, “I feel fantastic. Being undecided doesn’t worry me at the moment.

“It’s a matter of deciding what I want to do for the rest of my life. There are thousands of things I enjoy doing, but I’m not sure what I could do for more than five years.”

Dan Hayes, a counselor in Chemeketa’s Career and Guidance Center, is of the belief that Lownsbery is farther down the road than he might think.

“I personally do not believe that someone has little to no idea about what they want to do,” Hayes said. “I do believe people stifle their ideas.

“The trick with career planning is that one does not have to be totally 100 percent invested in something. They just need to be moving toward something.”

Hayes said that in almost all interactions with an undecided student, there was generally always “something … in the back of the mind that has a tinge of ‘Something I have always wanted to do.’

“I tell them that they … should start walking towards it. Take one small step at a time towards it. Go to the light, as it were,” he said.

Students who are looking for some direction are encouraged to make an appointment with one of Chemeketa’s guidance counselors.

Chemeketa encourages students to schedule an appointment online through ChemekNET via MyChemeketa, by phone at 503-399-5120, by email at, or in person by visiting the welcome desk in Bldg. 2.

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