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Career Planning Process

For most of us, career development is a lifelong process of learning and exploration as we try to find our niche in the “world of work”. Career development can be broken down into several phases or stages. Each individual varies in their progress through this process for many reasons; some advance rapidly through each phase, while others progress more slowly. Individuals may repeat all or parts of the career development process at various points throughout their lives as values, interests, abilities and life circumstances change.

Based on leading career development theories, we nave created The Career Planning Process to help explain each phase of the career development process and provide examples of actions to take and resources to use as you progress along on your journey.

Phase I: Discover (Self-Assessment)

Self-assessment involves gathering information about yourself to help you make career planning decisions. You should become an “expert on you” by identifying your core values, interests, talents, character traits, and lifestyle preferences; all of these components will uniquely shape the career choices you will make.

Examples of “Discover” Activities and Resources
  • Make a career counseling appointment with a staff member.
  • Complete an assessment on one of these free website:
    • O*Net Interest Profiler – gives insight into your interests and related occupations.
    • Truity – provides free online personality and interest assessments.
  • Enroll in CO-OP 119: Career Observation, a May Term course which will introduce you to career planning basics and help you explore occupations through job shadowing experiences.
  • Get involved in volunteer projects and student clubs/organizations to identify interests and connect with your peers.

Phase II:  Explore (Academic/Career Options)

Once you’ve done some self-assessment and come up with a general idea of some possible majors and careers that might be a good fit for you, you’ll want to explore your options in more depth. By conducting targeted research about the majors and occupations you’re considering, you’ll gather valuable information about each option, helping you narrow your career planning focus and make informed decisions about your next steps.

Examples of “Explore” Activities and Resources
  • Make a career counseling appointment with a staff member and attend career-related events.
  • Conduct informational interviews and job shadowing experiences with others working in your fields of interest.
  • Utilize the resources and talk to faculty, current students, and alumni from the majors/minors you are exploring to learn more about each program’s curriculum and related career opportunities.
  • Enroll in CO-OP 119: Career Observation, a May Term course which will introduce you to career planning basics and help you explore occupations through job shadowing experiences.
  • Seek out and participate in part-time jobs, volunteer opportunities, and/or student organizations related to the fields you are exploring.

Phase III:  Prepare (Gain Experience)

Once you have narrowed your academic and career direction through the exploration process, you should begin to prepare for future success in the field(s) you’ve targeted. Whether you plan to continue on to graduate/professional school or pursue a professional position after graduation, the best way to confirm your career decisions and move confidently into the future is to gain practical experience related to your career goals.

Examples of “Prepare” Activities and Resources

Phase IV:  Initiate (Job/Graduate School Searches)

The average job search currently takes about 6-8 months from initiation to, “you’re hired!,” so you’ll want to begin your search process early – ideally late in your junior or early in your senior year. Similarly, if you plan to attend graduate or professional school after graduation, you’ll want to begin your application process early as well because it can be equally lengthy. Before diving in, take the time to identify key strategies you want to implement and set a timeline for your job/graduate school search to make the process more efficient and successful.

Examples of “Initiate” Activities and Resources
  • Make job search or graduate school appointments with a staff member  to learn about search strategies and prepare application materials (resumes, cover letters, personal statements, etc.).
  • Connect with employers and graduate school representatives at events throughout the year.
  • Use Handshake to search for jobs in your field of interest.
  • Narrow your search target by identifying the top 5-10 employers or graduate programs you want to apply to and conduct in-depth research on each one, identifying points of interest, application requirements, and important deadlines.
  • Never job search alone: get the word out to your network of family, friends, faculty, classmates, coworkers, etc. that you are searching for an entry-level position in __________ and would appreciate any help or referrals they can provide.