Career Development for College Students: Don’t Wait Until You Graduate
Choosing a career is a huge concern for most high school seniors and college students. Think about the amount of time you will spend at your job(s) in your lifetime. Most people are at their job approximately 70% of every year. When you are a student, do not underestimate the importance of selecting a career that is a good fit for YOU! But, it takes time, forethought, organization and starting NOW! Don’t wait until you graduate to begin the career thought process. Start NOW…when you are in high school and especially in your freshman year at college.
But it is not that easy. True, there are some people that know exactly what they want to “when they grow up” or are fine with following in the footsteps of their parents or someone they are closest to. Some students know the exact path they want to go on and what they want to major in in college and afterward.
That is not always true for all students. In fact, I hear from many, many families that their son or daughter does not know what they want to do or what they should major in. I have had a few clients that realized they did not want a career in the area that they studied in college and are now looking for career direction. Also, many students don’t know if the career of their choice will be a good fit for them once they start work.
That is why the career development process is extremely important for every student, with or without ADHD or any other learning differences or disabilities. In fact, for those with ADHD, the career development process is even MORE important because of the executive functioning challenges faced, such as: thinking and planning far in advance, FOMO – Fear of Missing Out, time management, organization, and the social skills to reach out for help.
Career development is the creation and implementation of action steps towards a career goal. The career development process is typically a structured step-by-step process used by career coaches, career professionals, and career offices in colleges. It is not just about completing an online questionnaire, developing your resume and applying online. In order to be a very qualified job candidate, you need to have a keen sense of what job you want, what you will be good at and WHY that employer should hire YOU.
Here are 10 steps that you can follow now that will help you begin the career development process:
1. Consider your interests and passions
Many career coaches will have you complete an assessment that will give you some broad ideas of where your interests are and what careers match with those interests. This is only the beginning of the career exploration process and all assessments should be taken as a “starting point” and NOT the “end result”. Knowing your interests, passions, and what industries you are interested in and what type of experience you would like to gain will greatly narrow down your search. I recommend the Strong Interest Inventory. Many schools also offer the MBTI or DISC.
2. Get a job or volunteer regularly
The BEST way to know what you like and don’t like about a job is to do it! Even part-time or volunteer jobs will give you a very real experience of that job or profession. Keep notes (written or computer) on the things you like and don’t like in each position. They will be very valuable in the future. Tip: Ask for a reference after every job or volunteer work assignment. It will be very valuable for your resume.
3. Join a club, team, art group, or society
Joining a club or society will help you gain more knowledge about careers, learn and practice social skills and transferable skills, and see if THIS is the area you want to focus on for your future. Best of all, it looks great on a resume to belong to clubs while in college. Many groups focus on areas that will add to your strengths and abilities, such as: academics, arts, culture or language, community, government, leadership, media, the military, music, performance arts, religion, social activism and special interests.
4. Talk to upperclassmen, teachers and alumni
Teachers, alumni and upperclassmen are great resources and love to help students out. Let them know what your thoughts are and ask them questions about what they do, what path they chose to get there and if they have any advice for you.
5. Attend career fairs or job fairs
Career fairs and job fairs are NOT just for those that need a job. They are a great way to network with companies that typically work in connection with your school. They put you face-to-face with recruiters. It is often a relaxed atmosphere where you can ask questions and learn more about companies and organizations.
6. Read the newspaper
Yes, the old-fashioned newspaper! As you read, notice what you stop at to read and notice what you pass over. Save articles about businesses or careers that seem interesting and save them in a binder or computer file. Don’t just look at the “help wanted” section, but look at commentaries, special news, technology reports and local news.
7. Get organized
Save everything! Save all of your certificates, awards, grades, resumes, cover letters, research and letters of recommendation. I suggest creating a file in Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote or anything else in the cloud (NOT on your hard drive or flash drive). I actually HIGHLY recommend printing it all and having a solid three-ring binder with tabs.
8. Take classes that you have never heard about
Stretch yourself and take classes like public speaking, finance, economics, politics, sociology or anything else that you are somewhat curious about. College is the time to explore all that is available to you. Notice what you like and don’t like. Ask the professor what careers people go into from that major.
9. Participate in in-person networking groups and in LinkedIn groups
One of the best ways to meet people and to learn about what people do is to attend networking groups and events. Be prepared with a business card, your 30-second elevator speech and a way to follow up with the people you meet. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, sign up and start networking, even online. LinkedIn is a great way to meet new people, connect with alumni and follow online professional groups to learn more about the careers that might interest you.
10. Do research online – spend time looking at company websites
Research not only includes the company and its products but the business itself. After you have found the names of some careers and businesses, spend time online learning more. If you see a career, go on www.ONET.org to learn more about that career. Other sites that contain valuable information are Occupational Outlook Handbook or at Career One-Stop.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the process of choosing a career. It is a long-term process. Often when I work with clients it takes 10-12 weeks (once per week sessions) to go through the entire process of finding the perfect career. Remember, you will have this career for a very long time. Take time to find the perfect fit for you! Start now – start in high school, start as a Freshman in college. Do NOT wait until your senior year of college to dive into this process. Use this checklist to get started.
Please keep me posted if you use any of these tips and what your experience was. I love hearing from my followers! Let me know if you are a HS student, college student, parent, educator or college career coach.
I have created a FREE checklist that you can download and use.