Finding Your Career Path
As a college student, everything may seem to be passing you by in a whirlwind. Before you know it, you are about to graduate and start off your career. Facing career uncertainty can be daunting. This is why developing a plan now, before you’re about to be off on your own, can give you job safety and the satisfaction of knowing you’re in the right role. But how do you know what the right role is for you?
Finding the right role takes self-awareness and knowledge of what interests and motivates you. It is also important to consider what skills you have to offer that could be valuable in the workforce. What do you enjoy doing? After all, a career is a commitment that will lead you through the rest of your life, so you might as well pick something that makes you happy. Look at your hobbies and other activities, and try doing some research on the possible careers that involve similar characteristics.
Develop Your Career Path with These 4 Steps:
1. Gain experience
Most companies value experience just as much, if not more than, higher education. This shows that you have been in the field and excelled at what you did. There are many ways in which you can show that you gained valuable experience.
- Organizations: Join organizations in college that are focused towards your degree or furthering your resume. Employers respect organizations that instill leadership skills and go beyond your education to teach you about the industry you are interested in. Holding a leadership position shows your initiative for growth and making an impact.
- Volunteering: Do not be afraid to put yourself out there and volunteer on projects, whether at your university or in a job position. This shows initiative and that you have a passion for what you are doing enough that you would give up your time.
- Internships/Co-ops: Take advantage of your summers by applying for internships or cooperative opportunities that relate to the industry you are interested in. These are of much more value than simple, unrelated part-time jobs. They provide hands-on education to start off your entry-level career. Take this time to gain an advantage over others. Harvard Business Reviews states that 39% of employers say they are facing hiring shortages because of a lack of experience from applicants. Gain that experience so that you are in the spotlight for employers.
2. Use Your Resources
Your university is there to help prepare you for your future, so take advantage of it! Reach out to your professors. Professors are usually in the position that they are in because they enjoy teaching others. They are usually more open than you think to help you inside and outside of the classroom. Professors have wisdom from working their own way up to the position they are in. They can give worthwhile advice, solid connections to employers, and even recommendation letters. Try to find one that is knowledgeable in the area that your career path is headed towards.
Visit your college career center. Universities have career centers that are specifically for helping students with career-related activities such as job searches, resume and cover letter building, and figuring out what path is best for you. When writing your resume, make sure it not only highlights your best professional self but also contains content that will stand out to ATS. ATS, or applicant tracking systems, scan digital resumes and sort through which should move on to the next stage based on the format and keywords that the company is looking for. Use buzz words and language from the job descriptions to make sure your resume lands in the interview pile. Career centers can provide assistance in steps such as this and much more. Talk to your career center and see what information they can provide.
Take advantage of networking opportunities. Whether networking in person or online, According to the Jobvite national survey, 77% of recruiters rely on LinkedIn for hiring, making it the most used method of recruitment by companies today
3. Take Initiative
Work on further developing your skills. Look at the skills you already possess and ask yourself how you can use that to make yourself stand out. Whether you are good at writing or have a knack for computer coding, these are all valuable and can all be presented to a potential employer as more reasons to hire you. Luckily, you aren’t limited to your current skills. Skills can always be gained and improved upon. So take the initiative to do so!
Start making work habits. The habits you form now, you will carry with you into the future. Be diligent and punctual with your assignments and activities. Any study or school habits will form the basis of your work routine. Make it a habit to learn all that you can from your coworkers and superiors. Learning the why and how will give you a better overall understanding of the business. Make yourself indispensable.
4. Action Plan
Develop an action plan so that you can keep yourself on track with your career path. Map out where you are now and where you would like to be, and then the steps that you can take to get you to your end goal. One way to stay accountable is to use a framework called SMART goals.
SMART goals outline specific and time-bound goals on which you can take action. Creating a clear roadmap provides guidelines for how you want to allocate your time and resources towards reaching a goal.
Specific – State your goals and what you want to accomplish clearly
Measurable – Include criteria upon which you can measure your progress
Attainable – Make sure your goals are achievable
Relevant – Your goals should align with your specific values and objectives
Time-bound – Set a realistic timeframe to commit to
When it comes time to apply for the career you want, be confident in what you can bring to the table, and strive for a position that motivates you. Apply for as many positions as possible. There is strength in numbers, so applying for as many viable positions as you can will give you the best chance of landing some interviews. Be sure to combine all of your experience, skills, and impressive qualities to build a resume that shows all that you have to offer when the time comes to impress an employer.
Don’t be Scared to Make the Wrong Decision
Don’t be scared to make the wrong decision regarding your major or career path. Some of the most successful people have switched up careers throughout their lives. The average person changes careers 5-7 times during their entire employee lifecycle. Wherever you are, there is always room to pivot onto something new using your newly gained experience. Any experience is useful experience that can be adapted to new environments.
Understand Your Strengths
Planning ahead for a major life decision like a career can be intimidating. However, taking things step by step with goal setting and taking advantage of the resources around you will create attainable goals. The first step is simply finding out what interests you. Using information such as our careertyping report canhelp you figure this out. It tells you what 9 career areas most motivate you. Using positive psychology, careertyping ensures you understand the strengths that you uniquely bring to the workforce. This can not only help you choose a career path, but also develop an action plan that will take you from school to real-life experience. Kickstart your career path and optimize your interview process by finding out what career opportunities your personality is fit for.
About the Author | Ashley Bannwart
Ashley is a native Houstonian and proud Aggie. She graduated Texas A&M with a Bachelors in Management Consulting and a minor in International Business. She works with both the Independent Consultant team, as well as the Marketing team at Birkman. Ashley has a passion for the arts and learning new things from everyone she meets. When she isn’t traveling back to College Station, Ashley is exploring cities all over the world, especially after living in France for 6 months. She continues to build upon her experience as she tackles new projects for the Birkman team with her immense creativity and determination.