As a college student, you probably have to answer questions about your career plans all the time. If you are like many of our 20,000 students, you might not know exactly what you want to do, and you might be a little nervous about it. How exactly do you decide what you want to be when you grow up?

When I worked as a career counselor, I learned a few things that can help.

#1. Know Yourself

Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Creative or logical? Are you comfortable with change or do you prefer stability? Be honest with yourself, and don’t try to be someone you are not. Learn more about your personality, interest areas, and strengths by taking a career assessment and scheduling an appointment with a career counselor at your school.

#2. Talk to People

Start talking to people you know about their jobs, and ask them for ideas about other people to talk to. I find out every day about amazing jobs I did not even know existed. Remarkably, if you approach people right, almost everyone will take some time to tell you about their career.

#3. Do some Research

Once you have a few ideas, go to the library or get online to find out what the job outlook is like, what kind of income you can expect to make, and what kind of education or training you will need. Look for internships or volunteer work. Career counselors at your school can help with these things too.

#4. Explore

Think you might be interested in working as a sign language interpreter or early childhood educator? Take a class! Don’t be afraid to change your mind either. Even if you are halfway through a program, it’s better to switch paths midstream than to continue down a road that will leave you professionally frustrated and personally unfulfilled. Talk to an academic advisor to make sure you’re on the right path.

#5. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

You may be working toward a short certificate program today like pharmacy technician or nursing assistant, but don’t rule out the next steps in those careers. You just might have what it takes to be a pharmacist or nurse!

Having a clear career goal in mind will help you be successful, regardless of your chosen field of study. Research shows us that students with a focus are more likely to pass their classes and graduate or transfer.

What do you think? What have you found to be helpful when choosing a career?

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