Many high school students are understandably more focused on getting into college than finding a job after college. Having at least a few ideas in mind for careers that might interest you is an important part of college planning. Here are five things you can do now – while you’re still in high school – to start thinking about possible careers.
Know yourself. Begin with your current interests, talents, hobbies, strengths, and weaknesses. Chances are they all contain clues about the types of careers that might be a good match for you. Need more ideas? Try the College Board’s Big Future careers website, which offers hundreds of suggested careers based on students’ specific interests. Or, take a career assessment test designed for high school students (such as Princeton Review’s Career Quiz) and see which jobs/careers are suggested for you. My Pathway to College™ also provides students with a career assessment called the Strong Interest Inventory. Ask your counselor about this option.
Do some homework on jobs and careers. There are many types of jobs and careers that most people have never heard of or know little about. How do you discover them? Start by talking to the adults you know about their jobs. How did they get interested in their career? What education and skills are required to perform their jobs? What do they like about their careers? Don’t be shy; adults are usually happy to answer questions. You can also learn about various careers online. Two good starting points are the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the College Board’s BigFuture site mentioned above. If you think you may be interested in a science or technology-related field, the Sloan Career Cornerstone website is also an excellent resource to explore.
Connect the dots between college majors and careers. Although your college major does not always determine what you’ll do for a career, understanding how various majors can connect to careers is part of career planning. As you explore the majors and programs offered at various colleges, take a moment to read through the relevant department’s information on careers for students in that major.
Test the waters through extracurriculars and enrichment programs. Believe it or not, your extracurricular activities during high school allow you to explore potential jobs and careers. Managing finances for a school club, writing for the school newspaper or yearbook, helping to design and build the robotics club’s entry, volunteering for a non-profit, and even being on an athletic team all offer opportunities to try out some of the skills you’ll use in real life careers. Enrichment activities, such as summer programs on college campuses, can also help you learn about various jobs and careers.
Keep career planning in mind when visiting colleges. Every college campus has a Career Center staffed by professionals trained to assist college students with career-related concerns. They help students choose majors and careers, find internships and job opportunities, and gain critical job-hunting skills. When you visit, ask about the services offered by each college’s Career Center. Or better yet, stop in the Center and say hello. While on campus, you may also have chances to talk with professors and students. Use those opportunities to ask faculty about what their departments do to help prepare students for jobs after graduation and ask current students about internships they’ve done, research opportunities, and what their majors and career plans are. If you can’t visit campuses, you can find some of the same information through each college’s website and social media.
Online career planning resources:
College Board Big Future Explore Careers
Princeton Review’s Career Quiz
BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook
Sloan Career Cornerstone
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by The College Advisor, and prepared for our clients and their families.