When choosing your career path, it is important to assess who you are and what you want from your career. Once you have a few careers in mind, you need to research your alternatives to answer any questions you have about the field. Next, you must explore the educational paths required and what you are willing to achieve. Finally, you should be prepared to make a decision and set your goals. Setting goals and a plan of action is an essential key to successful career planning.
Step 1 — Self Assessment
Start your career exploration journey by answering the question "who am I?" Taking some personality and interest assessments will give you a starting place to discover who you are and what you could enjoy as a career.
Step 2 — Career Research
It is best to research a career of interest as much as possible before entering the field. The internet is a great place to begin your research. Once you’ve read online about your careers of interest, you should try to talk to people who are currently working in the field for more information by conducting an "informational interview."
When you begin to research a career choice, you need to consider several factors: (1) a description of the occupation; (2) education, training, or experience needed; (3) salary, wage, and compensation; (4) working conditions; (5) location of employment; (6) personality styles of people working in the field; (7) employment trends and advancement issues ; (8) the possibility for personal satisfaction; (9) the advantages and disadvantages for you; (10) the perceptions of people working in the field about what they do; and (11) related occupations.
Career Research Resources
Step 3 — Education Planning
An important step in exploring careers is to research the educational requirements of your career options. Start by discovering the minimum education required. If higher education is required and you are willing to continue your education, you will need to locate what colleges or educational institutions offer your program of study.
If you already have a college degree and are seeking a career change, you might research your college major to uncover what other jobs your education prepared you for.
What education and training you currently have or are willing to obtain will play a large role in finding the best career choice for you.
Education Planning Resources
Step 4 — Decision Making & Goal Setting
After you’ve assessed yourself, researched a variety of careers, and explored educational requirements, do you have enough information to make a decision? Good decision making models state that you must:
- Define your goal
- Know your alternatives
- Gather information
- Consider the consequences (both probable and desirable)
- Determine your plan of action or the steps needed to achieve your goals
Goal setting is extremely important in deciding how you plan to pursue your career choice. Long-term goals usually take 3-5 years to achieve. However, short-term goals take 1-2 years to complete. Setting clear goals makes obtaining your career choice easier. The clearer you are about the steps (or objectives) the more likely you will achieve your goals.
Many use the “SMART” methodology in setting goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time framed.
- Specific. The goal should identify a specific action or event that will take place.
- Measurable. The goal and its benefits should be quantifiable.
- Achievable. The goal should be attainable given available resources.
- Realistic. The goal should require you to stretch some, but allow the likelihood of success.
- Timely. The goal should state the time period in which it will be accomplished.
Goal Setting Resources
Step 5 — Career Counseling
If you are unable to choose your career path after completing steps 1-4, you might consider individual career counseling or taking our Career Exploration course. Both of these options offer you a professional counselor who can help guide you into making a choice and developing an action plan.
Career Counseling Resources