How to Choose a Career

Most people today have more than one career. You may end up with three or four careers made up of ten or more jobs. None of the choices you make now are forever or irrevocable, but they are important. So how do you decide on a direction?

Take a look at yourself. What do you enjoy doing, what are you good at? Hobbies, activities and coursework can all give you insight into the skills you would enjoy using on the job. Also consider style. Are you a laidback sort of person, or buttoned-up? Office-oriented or outdoorsy? Different work environments appeal to different people. And consider your values. Check “Career Links” on the website for resources to help you with this process, or visit Careers & Calling where we have testing services for interests and more.

Investigate what people like you like to do. You can read books and articles about jobs for people who love children, or the outdoors, etc. Career Services has some to lend, as will your library. Talk with faculty or other people who share your interests, and ask for their suggestions. Search on the internet. Testing can also be useful at this stage.

A favorite technique is to read 6 issues of Liberal Arts Jobs (available in Walton 202). Write down (or bookmark) any jobs that appeal to you for any reason at all. After you’ve finished gathering your “data”, analyze it for trends. Do you most often choose financial jobs, or jobs working with kids, or jobs in zoos? People tend to focus either on what they like to do or where to do it. Either is a good starting point. Try to find 20 jobs that you would love, even if you can’t do them right now. You should have a good idea, and a lot of leads for later, when you finish this exercise.

Research the top runners. When you have a number of options, do some research. There may be something you’d love to do, but which takes 8 years of schooling, and something else you would enjoy which takes 4. If you like school but don’t love it, perhaps the latter is the wiser choice. Find out the qualifications, the potential salary and important information like that. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is online and a good source of information.

Do Information Interviews. Talk to people who work in the field in which you are interested. Make sure the job and environment is really as you imagined. There is a handout in the “How To” section of our website.

Make a Choice! This is sometimes the hard part, but you need a goal if you’re going to get moving.

Get ready. Most careers will require specific education and experience. If you don’t already have what you need, make a plan to get it. Internships, summer jobs and volunteer work all count.

Job Search. When you have all the qualifications you need for the career you’ve chosen, it’s time to do a job search. That’s another handout!

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