What Colors Can Teach Us About Careers

I have a question for you: What’s your favorite color? Write down what comes to mind.

Second, how did that go for you? Did one specific color come to mind? Did 10 colors come to mind? Did a color come to mind, but you want the freedom to change your mind tomorrow or next week? Write this down too. It is important, and we will come back to this.

When I was little, my favorite color was purple. I was obsessed. When I got home from school on a Friday afternoon, I would change from my school uniform to an outfit that was entirely purple. It was a purple top, a pair of purple sparkly pants, and purple slippers. It was my active transition from my school week as a third-grader to my weekend full of adventures that were more fun in my head-to-toe purple outfit. I never stressed about my purple outfit and never confused my purple pants with a pair of blue jeans. It was easy. I did not experience added pressure or perceive any judgement from others about my favorite color, and I had the freedom to change my mind about my favorite color if needed. All of this is to say, my relationship with my favorite color has not been a big deal or source of anxiety in my life. Rather, it has been a fun way to express myself.

I have another question for you: Why is choosing a favorite color much easier than choosing a career? These two decisions probably seem unrelated, but it is worth thinking about how they compare. For you, I imagine that choosing a career seems like a much more involved and pressured decision than choosing a favorite color. However, I don’t think that these two decisions need to feel so different. Let’s explore why.

Why is choosing a favorite color easier than choosing a career?

Reason 1: Overall you’ve spent more time learning how to identify and distinguish colors. You’ve most likely been exploring and learning about colors for most of your life. By now, you are an expert at identifying them, and it is probably hard to remember a time when you did not know how to distinguish one color from another, but recognize that this was not always the case.

Reason 2: Growing up, you were shown where to look to explore colors and were encouraged to ask and answer questions about them. Whether it was reading the names of colors within your old Crayola box, turning the pages of a childhood book about colors, or watching countless episodes of Sesame Street, you were most likely surrounded by resources that you could rely on for truthful and accurate information about colors.

Reason 3: You know colors well enough to understand little nuances about them, like how the very same color can have several shades. For instance, “red” can also be referred to as crimson, russet, scarlet, or our personal favorite, Bulldog red. These nuances were something you had to learn, but today are not something that you have to spend a lot of time thinking about.

Why is choosing a career harder than choosing your favorite color?

Reason 1: You most likely have not been exploring and learning about careers for most of your life. Most of us are not exposed to career options in the same way that we are exposed to colors. We have to seek out knowledge about careers and know where to look to learn accurate information about them. This makes exploring careers a more overwhelming or daunting process. 

Reason 2: No one probably has shown you how to explore careers or find accurate information about them. Your questions about careers may not feel safe to ask or you may find that you receive conflicting answers from your sources. A quick google search of, Should I major in “x”?, typically leaves us with countless articles about why we should and should not study that discipline. This can leave you feeling even more stressed and confused.

Reason 3: You have not yet had or taken the time to learn and understand the nuances of careers. Like colors, careers have “shades”. Careers with the very same name can look and feel different depending on the organization. These are things that you will learn and come to understand the more time you spend exploring your career options.

How can we take what we’ve learned about choosing colors and use this to make choosing a career seem less overwhelming?

Step 1: Just like with colors, you must start by exploring your career preferences and recognize that this will take time. I recommend starting with what you know about yourself, and it doesn’t have to be a lot. Maybe you hope to travel, know that you want to work with people, or know that you definitely don’t want to take Chemistry. Whatever you know, write this down as a starting place for further developing your career preferences.  

Step 2: You need to know where to look to explore careers. There is a lot of information available to you about careers, but it will not all be trustworthy or true. Use the Free Career Exploration Resources Blog Post to learn about the various places you can look to find accurate information about career options as well as a step-by-step process for how you can get started with your exploration. You can also use the Career Center’s What Can I Do With a Major in…? Pages to help you explore entry-level job titles, graduate school, and professional school outcomes by major. If you would also like to explore career options beyond entry-level titles, use the LinkedIn Alumni Tool to explore how careers of UGA Alumni have evolved over time.

Step 3: You need to understand that choosing a career does not have to be a one-time decision. Like with your favorite color or colors, you are allowed to explore your preferences and even change your mind. The more you learn about careers, the further you will develop your preferences and even change your preferences. Also, like with colors, some people will like one career best, some will like several, and others will desire to have variety and try new occupations over time. Give yourself the time and freedom you need to explore career options and establish your career preferences.   

Get started today with your career exploration. I encourage you to choose one of the steps listed above, grab a pen in your favorite color, and see what you learn about your career options.    

**Please note that the UGA Career Center is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion though all of our work. Therefore, we want to acknowledge that everyone does not experience colors and these examples with color in the same way. If you have any questions regarding this content or would like to chat about alternative examples to this content, please feel free to email Maggie O’Brien (maggieob@uga.edu).

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