Leverage Your Career Center When Choosing A Career

When it comes to choosing a career, everyone can get stuck. It is an especially challenging process for students who are about to graduate from college in the current economy. Indeed, many college seniors feel that they must commit to a single career for the rest of their lives. If you are a college senior, I have good news for you: Most professionals have had 10-14 jobs by age 38.  This means that no matter which career you choose to pursue right now, you will probably be doing something quite different from that in 2-5 years.  Now more than ever, career development is all about reflecting on your experiences, trying things out, and using that knowledge and experience to re-strategise and move towards other opportunities that come up along the way.

Before you graduate, make sure to visit your career center.  Your career center can be of tremendous help in formulating your career goals, exploring options, setting goals, and refine your search strategies to compete and secure opportunities that align with your career goals. By learning these career development skills while in college, you are learning lifelong skills that will help you every time you make a career transition.  When partnering with your career center, remember that you will get as much out of this process as you put in.  The more specific your questions are, the more resources and contacts your career center staff will have for you.

The first step in the career development process is self-assessment. Self-assessment is often ignored by students, but is the foundation of career success and career satisfaction, especially for future socio-eco innovators. The goal of self-assessment is to articulate your values, interests, personality and skills (VIPS):

  • Values – Most career centers offer work values assessments. Feel free to use these but also talk about what is important to you. Do you want to be close to your family? Do you want to work to serve a specific cause or a specific local, global or online community? The more specific you are when articulating your values, the easier it will be for you and your career counselor to find career resources and contacts that align with your values. If you want to pursue a career that enables you to do business better, your career goals will be defined by your values-driven priorities.
  • Interests – We all have multiple interests. I love basketball, but making a living out of basketball is not a viable choice for me right now. To gain clarity about your interests, I would suggest that you list and rank your interests based on a scale of how viable it might be of each of these interests to generate an income. For ideas, click here.  Bring your ranked list to your career center, and gather information about resources and alumni that have build a career around two of your top priority interests. This process will enable you to uncover opportunities you might not know about.
  • Personality – Clarifying your personality-based strengths through assessments (e.g. MBTI, DISC, StrengthFinder) can tremendously help you articulate your strengths and preferences in terms of career paths and work environments.
  • Skills – We all possess many skills, some that we want to use in the future, and some that we would rather not have to use any more. For example, as a brain scientist, I conducted statistical analyses by programming in a language called matlab. Let’s just say that I am happy not to use that skill anymore. You can find lists of transferable skills online, as well as skills assessment at your career center. Contrasting skills you have with skills that you want to use in the future is sure to help you gain valuable insights about careers that maximize the use of your favorite skills.

Choosing a career starts by partnering with your career center to articulate your VIPS. In my next post, we will explore how articulating your VIPS will enable you to explore career options and decide which career you want to pursue in your next career transition.

Image Credit: Christine Laureano.