“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
From as far back as you can remember, someone has asked you this question. Your first answer might have been “teacher,” “athlete,” “astronaut,” or even “mother.” As we get older, our knowledge of career options should grow, but the career decision-making process is still the same:
Your interests are your personal preferences – for example, how do you spend your free time, what subjects do you enjoy, where are your favorite places to visit, and with whom? Understanding interest areas can help us think about the types of work-related activities we might find enjoyable.
You probably are better at, and enjoy doing, certain activities more than others. For instance, maybe you take detailed, accurate notes. Perhaps you are a naturally good listener. You might have experience working with computers. By understanding which skills you excel at, or identifying skills you would like to have, you can find a career that emphasizes these.
Your values stem from your experiences with your relationships, your community, and your personal beliefs. Some value areas may include: helping others, personal independence, opportunities for achievement and recognition, maintaining or building personal relationships, community involvement, and financial security.
Identifying your interests, skills, and values is step one. To make the most informed career decision, you need to rank each of these areas in order of importance. For instance, your interests and skills may lead you to consider careers in technology, but your family relationships require you to find a job close to home. You can then focus your exploration on tech careers that have a bright hiring forecast in your local area.
Career advisors are available to help you navigate the career decision-making process. Visit AdvisorTrac on MyAUM to schedule an appointment, or stop by the Career Development Center in Taylor Center Room 323.
There is no such thing as a career soulmate. No job in any career field is going to be a perfect match for your interests, skills, values, and priorities. The goal should be to find career satisfaction – feeling content in your daily work while also having the opportunity to pursue self-interests, engage in meaningful relationships, and contribute to your community. It is important to consider a variety of careers that share common characteristics, all of which you might find satisfying, rather than trying to focus entirely on the “one”.
Some majors, such as nursing or accounting will lead to specific career choices, albeit within varying environments and industries. Other majors – such as sociology, English, psychology and others – prepare you for a variety of careers by helping you build transferable skills valued by many employers. Consider Josh Sawyer, lead video game designer for such hits as the Fallout and Pillars of Eternity game series’. His degree? A Bachelor of Arts in History. Choosing a major should include considering your interests, your career or advanced-schooling requirements, and the knowledge and skills gained through the major.
Many people have a major or career in mind when they enter college. However, according to the National Association of Education Statistics, about 30% of all college students change their major at least once in the first three years. Over 10% change their major more than once. Other students may stay with their original major, but delay choosing a specific career until they are exposed to different subjects – for instance a biology major who decides to become an Epidemiologist after taking Microbiology. The process of making an informed major or career decision requires careful consideration of all factors, and the flexibility to explore other options when those factors change.
For some students, making an initial career decision is paralyzing because they believe it will be with them for life. However, it is perfectly normal to change careers – most people will follow at least two different career tracks in their lifetime. A person’s interests and priorities will change as they move through their career, as will the job market. Many occupations that exist now will be obsolete in the future, and others do not even exist yet! Career planning is a lifelong process, and with each career opportunity, a person should go through the process of self-assessment and exploration to make an informed decision.
Many students compare a college degree to the Golden Ticket of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory fame – just having the degree will guarantee a job in their career field of choice upon graduation. Students soon learn, often too late, that the choice is not theirs to make. Even graduates in high-demand fields, such as computers, engineering or medicine are required to demonstrate their career readiness and value to the organization before gaining employment. Completing academic coursework is not enough – students must also engage in experiential learning opportunities, such as internships, leadership programs, study abroad assignments, service learning, and research projects to gain accomplishments that demonstrate career readiness to employer organizations and graduate schools. Getting involved in campus organizations is also important – this is a great way to gain critical competencies needed for career success, such as communication, teamwork skills, and problem solving.
Taylor Center 101
7400 East Drive Montgomery, AL 36117
8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday