In his sophomore year, Jackson Krajnak was feeling unsure and overwhelmed.
He heard of other students getting internships or planning out their masters degrees, while he hadn’t even declared a major yet. Jackson was taking a variety of courses like psychology, business and podcast production, but wasn’t certain what field he wanted to pursue post-graduation. Though he had a strong interest in math and knew of a lot of students going into the burgeoning field of data science, he’d never done any coding. Before it got too far into sophomore year, he decided it was time to try out the Fleishman Center for some guidance.
As a Binghamton Advantage Program (BAP) student, Jackson has been able to draw on resources from both SUNY Broome Community College and Binghamton University. Coming to the Fleishman Center for major advising seemed like a no-brainer. “Why not?”, he figured. “It’s free for my use, why not take advantage of it?”
At the Fleishman Center, Jackson met with Jordan Smith, one of the Center’s very energetic, knowledgeable and supportive career consultants.
“I was so overwhelmed hearing about a lot of kids who were already getting internships, already had things lined up,” Jackson said, “and I felt like I had just gotten here and didn’t really know what I wanted to do.”
But with Jordan, they started from square one. With students like Jackson, the focus is on zooming out of the plethora of possible pathways and zooming in on what really interests you, so that together you can make an actionable plan.
“I think it’s really brave when someone comes in and says they don’t know what they want to do,” Jordan acknowledged. “Reflecting on my own journey, I kept guessing majors because I didn’t want to say I didn’t know, when in reality that would have helped me get some guidance to explore my career identity.”
One of the most useful tools for this is the Focus 2 major and career assessment. This helps you test for your strongest affinities. After taking the Focus 2 assessment, Jordan and Jackson looked at the results together and found that his interests lied mainly in education and engineering. New avenues and choices came into focus: Perhaps he could transfer into Watson. Or maybe he could look more into education. He just had to figure out what he really wanted to do.
“Even just that first meeting took a lot of weight off my shoulders,” he recalled.
It was in his introductory podcasting class with Dr. Sarah Bull that things started to click into place. After giving a presentation in class, Dr. Bull remarked on how great his skills were, and asked if he considered becoming a teacher.
It wasn’t the first time Jackson had dipped his foot into the education sphere. Thinking back, he had also worked as a camp counselor and as a substitute paraprofessional at his elementary school working with children with special needs. When he brought this back to the Fleishman Center to discuss, it seemed like going into education could be more than just a back-up plan, and something that he could actually pursue.
“I’ve always been around kids, learning and teaching,” said Jackson. “On top of that, the Fleishman Center gave me the confidence to say ‘Hey, this is something I’m passionate about and want to do’”.
Heading into his junior year, armed with clarity and a new arsenal of tools, Jackson hit the ground running.
Over the summer, Jackson joined Mentor Match, a program promoted by the Fleishman Center to link students with BU alumni in their field of interest. Jackson reached out to some people in the NYC Department of Education and connected with a teacher from the Bronx who graduated from Binghamton. He offered advice for what to do in the next few years, and how to save time and money when considering grad school. Jackson has also used Mentor Match to connect with an alumna currently at Harvard working on her doctorate in educational leadership.
“It made me feel less overwhelmed to see people in a field and specific position I want to be in, to see what’s possible,” Jackson recalled. “And these were Binghamton University alumni, so seeing that they started in the same place I’m in is cool.”
As Jackson moves forward, he reminds himself of what every student here should remember: You don’t have to know exactly what to do. You’re here to have an experience unique to you, to take your time exploring who you are and what you want to do. Comparing your path to someone else’s will only distract you from that.
“I’m here to get an education,” Jackson said. “I’m here to have an experience over these four years, despite the difficulties of Covid-19 and being a transfer student. Taking in all the experiences I’ve had here has allowed me to be confident in my ability, because sometimes we forget, sometimes we get overwhelmed.”
Jordan relayed a similar message to students feeling lost in the confusing and sometimes paralyzing process of figuring out where you want to go in life.
“I think it’s important not just to enjoy the destination — I want you to enjoy the journey. Are we just supposed to wait four years and finally be happy? No! It’s worthwhile to see that destination to guide your choices, and be excited about that, but then to reflect on all the milestones you do to get there.”
by Erin Zipman