Step 1: Self-Assessment is a vital and often overlooked step in planning your various career paths. In order to evaluate the suitability of work options, it is important to know who you are as a person. This involves taking a careful inventory of your current values, interests, skills and personal qualities. A career counselor can help you with this process through counseling, exercises and interest/personality inventories.
Once you have articulated a sense of the satisfaction(s) you would like to derive from your work and the skills you have to offer employers, you can begin your research. This stage involves brainstorming possible options and investigating them thoroughly. You will learn about the descriptions and qualifications for positions, typical entry points and advancement, satisfactions, frustrations, and other important facts in order to determine if there is a good fit.
Step 2: Research - Online resources are available to help you with your preliminary information gathering. The next step will be to speak with as many people as possible that are involved in work that is of interest to you. By interviewing these individuals for information and advice about their work, you will be getting an insider’s perspective about realities of the field and recommended preparation, including graduate study.
Internships and part-time jobs are an excellent way to sample a field of interest. They provide the opportunity to perform some of the job functions, observe others work and evaluate the environment. Some individuals observe professionals in various fields for a shorter period of time than an internship. These Job Shadowing experiences, or externships, can last from one morning to several weeks.
Step 3: Decision-making involves an evaluation of the pros and cons for the options you have been researching. It also involves prioritizing and, for some, risk-taking. Since the landscape of the world-of-work is constantly changing, it may be unrealistic to aim for decisions based on absolute certainty. Adaptability, the ability to manage several options at once, and the ability to maintain a positive attitude when faced with uncertainty may be easy for some while others may find these traits a stretch. Self-awareness, occupational awareness and intuition can all play a part in your decision-making.
Step 4: Search - Once you have identified a work objective, you can begin your job search. Most people will be involved with activities such as networking, identifying prospective employers, writing cover letters and resumes, and interviewing.
Step 5: Acceptance - Finally, you will accept employment. Ideally, it will mark the beginning, or a milestone, in your exciting and varied career. If you are like most Americans, you will change jobs from 8-12 times during your work life. You will continue the process of self-assessment, research and decision-making in order to make effective and fulfilling changes.