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Emerging Career

Action Plan for Students

Some students wait until senior year to begin planning their careers. This approach may work for a few, but for most students waiting until graduation creates stress and unnecessary difficulty.

Beginning career exploration during your First Year gives you the flexibility to adapt your plans if your goals change. Starting early can affirm your choices by allowing you ample time to take advantage of real-world experiences during your college years.

This suggested action plan can help guide you to the right ‘career fit’.

First Year

  • Develop ‘self-awareness’ about your strengths, needs and goals.
  • Identify your most important interests, abilities and values.
  • Become aware of the career options for your major.
  • Find out about student employment and how you can earn money.

Sophomore Year

  • Learn career research skills.
  • Investigate jobs that interest you and the personal/professional skills needed for success.
  • Use part-time/freelance jobs to confirm interest in your field.
  • Seek out volunteer or community service opportunities.

Junior Year

  • Begin learning job search strategies and skills.
  • Conduct informational interviews and arrange ‘job shadowing’ appointments with professionals in your field.
  • Prepare for your internship.
  • Start networking! Consider joining a professional association as a student member.

Senior Year

  • Choose an objective for a first job.
  • Hone your job search skills.
  • Prepare for the Senior Show.
  • Develop a job search plan and perfect your professional marketing materials, including your resume and portfolio.

The First Five Years Out

Have clarity about who you are, what you want and how to be authentic to your goals, values and purpose.

Ask Yourself These Related Questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish in the next chapter of my life?
  • What are some of the things I’d like to achieve, both personally and professionally.
  • What’s important to me now?
  • Who else is affected by my decision about what’s next?
  • What does success mean to me?
  • What factors are important for me to have in my next situation?
  • Who can sit on my “Board of Advisors”? (Name five people to go to for professional and personal advice during your transition.)
  • How risk-adverse am I?

Make a Plan and Have it Work for You

A concrete action plan is essential to purposefully move your career development along. Identifying back-up plans with multiple streams of revenue is also smart.

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • What are my short-term goals?
  • What are my mid-range goals?
  • What are my long-term goals?

Then ask:

  • What changes do I need to make in order to move in the direction of my goals?
  • What obstacles are getting in the way of me achieving my goals?
  • What has prevented me from making positive changes in the past?
  • Where do I see myself in six months, one year, three years if I do make changes; if I don’t make changes?

Goal Setting: People sometimes stumble and get overwhelmed in the process of setting goals. There are a few truths to goal setting that, if adhered to, can improve your chances for success:

  • 1. Be Specific - describe your career goals in specific terms such as the job title you want, the amount of money you want to earn, where you are willing to re-locate, etc.
  • 2. Measure It - track your efforts and chart your progress to keep your attention on your goals.
  • 3. Impose Deadlines - these can be weekly, monthly and yearly. Once written on your calendar, goals become harder to ignore.
  • 4. Be Realistic - dream big but be honest about what you can do to achieve your goals. Adjust your plans accordingly.
  • 5. Align Your Values - make sure your goals are consistent with what you believe is important and true for you.
  • 6. Take Action - you are the only one who can make it happen.

Adapted from the article, "Recession Proof Career: Adding Value to Coaching Students, Alumni, and Employees," by Sherrie Gong Taguchi and Karen O. Dowd, published in NACE Journal, Vol. 64, Number 2, Winter 2004.