Tim Luzader, Director – Purdue University Center for Career Opportunities
As you close out the fall term, be pleased with what you accomplished. You’ve continued to learn more about yourself and about the subject matter that you’ve studied. You are also gaining a greater perspective on what is important to you and how your life impacts your friends, your family and your community. These insights are among the core objectives of the college experience.
So what is next for you? Will you be graduating soon? If further pursuit of studies is not in your plan, what is the next stop in your life journey? Are you intending to enter the world of work?
Whether you’re a college freshman or closing in on your receipt of a degree, planning for your next step is an important undertaking.
Take stock of what makes you tick and who you wish to become. A good place to start is your campus career center. A career counselor can help you think about what you truly consider to be important. Work towards answering these questions: What are your strengths? What you do personally value? What are your work values? What skills do you currently possess? What abilities do you want to gain?
How will this self knowledge translate into the world of work? Is there a need for the strengths and skill sets that you plan to offer perspective employers? As you work towards identifying your life’s passions, consider what role passion will play in your career planning. To what degree will your passion connect to your professional pursuits? Will work be your passion? Can you accomplish synergy in what you want to do with the opportunities that employers can offer you? If not, is entrepreneurship the answer for you? Will your work support your passion versus be your passion? If so, how do you define what will be a satisfying and fulfilling work experience?
As you progress in your self-assessment, you will need information. Your career center will likely offer you an extensive on-line resource library of information relating to job market trends and professional field-specific information. Surveys, inventories and test batteries can also be helpful to you in identifying careers that closely parallel with your interests and skills. However, these instruments have their limits. No assessment test or series of tests will be capable of capturing all there is to know about you. Ultimately, your decision-making will be better informed, but not be made for you.
While reading and research play a critical role in your career planning, so does talking and listening. Find out from your career center who hires students and graduates with experiences and interests that are similar to yours. Then, find out whom you can correspond with to learn more. You may find classmates on campus that engaged in some form of experiential education that can serve as an important knowledge source for you. Does your campus host employer information sessions? What about alumni speakers? Perhaps employer panels are occasionally conducted. If so, this could be a way to connect you with people who can become members of your personal network.
Developing a network of personal career advisors is a solid strategy. Whether they’re current classmates, young alumni of your school, instructors, working professionals, family members or family of friends, they can play an important role in your learning about yourself and the world around you. Communicate with them as often as they deem reasonable. Eventually, their advocacy on your behalf can help you land meaningful career opportunities.
Planning for career success wouldn’t be complete without applying your learning to a real world environment. Experiential education takes on many forms ranging from field-specific practicum and service learning projects to cooperative education and internships. As a college student, it is never too early to begin planning for this activity. In some cases, your advisors and instructors will play a key role in connecting you to these opportunities. In other cases, you’re on your own.
In circumstances where you need to find your own experiential learning opportunities, utilize your campus resources including the career center. They can help you make connections. Also, make wise use of social media – especially LinkedIn. A personal LinkedIn profile can effectively serve as an on-line resume for you. There are features to help you connect to people with whom you have an affinity. It’s also way to expand your personal network.
This article is intended to outline for you the building blocks of career planning success. If you invest time to learn about yourself, translate that knowledge into the world of work, inform your decision-making through research and engagement, and then apply your learning to the work setting, you’ll be well positioned for career success.
You’ve come a long way already to achieve your goals. I wish you the very best in your continued success.