The Best Way to Explore Career Options

Your career says a lot about who you are and what you want from life. Pursuing a college education is a great way to explore different academic areas, as you find your educational path enroute to achieving your career goals. Finding your "˜best fit' career, begins with you.

Self-awareness. What do you like? What are you good at doing? What do you believe in?  Reflecting on your interests, skills/abilities, and values can provide you with a great starting point in the career exploration process. Psychological tests and assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs or Holland Code Assessment, can also provide you with additional information and insight. Personal needs, such as the need for autonomy, recognition, and sensory stimulation should also be considered when choosing a career.

Exploring Career Options and Making Career Connections.
Choosing a career may seem daunting, but there are many avenues for learning about career options. Books and online resources such as Dictionary of Occupational Titles, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance, and the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) Online, and Career One Stop contain a wealth of information about the realities of the work, growth of the field, salary, and education requirements.

Visiting with your Career Services Office, becoming involved in programs related to career development, taking career courses, interviewing people in different career fields, shadowing people in different career fields, and seeking volunteer and part-time work positions and internships can help you solidify your career choice. Seek out advice from those who have blazed the trail before you by reaching out to your institution's alumni as well as friends and family members. Enhance your social connections by befriending other pre-professionals and professionals in your chosen field, and become a student member of your field's professional organization to gain valuable relationships and insights.

Finding the "˜best fit'. When evaluating your career options it's helpful to consider the following criteria:

  • work conditions (sitting or standing for long periods of time, lifting heavy objects, type of labor required, impact to long term health)
  • career entry (level of education/training or experience needed)
  • career advancement (What does career progression look like?)
  • career mobility (Can the knowledge and skills you've acquired be utilized across careers?)
  • financial benefits (money, health insurance, retirement, bonuses, etc.)
  • impact on personal life (How will your career adapt to fit your personal goals, such as changing family or health needs?)

Awareness of the process. Preparing yourself for your career involves so much more than obtaining academic knowledge. Monitoring your personal skills and positive qualities can help you to track your developing job skills. Consider how your academic skills translate into your future career. Use a career development journal as a way to record significant workplace achievements, challenges you've overcome, problems you've solved, examples of where you've shown leadership, etc. These events can be related to your time as a student in the classroom, your work study job, student organization involvement and more. 

Your career path will be as unique as you are. Embrace the opportunities to learn about yourself, explore career options and make career connections, understand your "˜best fit' criteria, and record your workplace achievements.