Career Exploration

Find Your Future

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Are you looking for a career direction to point toward? If so, you've found a great starting point.

Informed career decisions benefit from in-depth research to obtain an understanding of day-to-day experiences, types of people you might encounter, labor market outlook, key qualifications, work environment, regional location, starting salary, upward mobility, and more.

Combined with insights gained through self-assessment and major-related investigation, use this page to gather information on occupations, industries, fields, and employers that match your goals.

Lightbulb icon  Interested in careers that relate to your major? Use our Majors and Beyond page to supercharge your search.

Make a Decision

Acknowledging the Role of Decisions

If you have engaged in the career exploration process, you have utilized various tools and techniques to collect insights that will help you make an informed decision about your career direction. It is almost time to move forward and gain experience toward a preferred career path.

At this time, it is helpful to recognize the value that decisions have in your life. Even if it is only a small decision, each decision you make serves a purpose in fueling your life forward. Sometimes, decisions are triggered by events with a sense of urgency, such as a job or internship offer that arises. Other times, decisions transpire through input from others, such as comments from friends and family about choosing a career by a certain point in time. Other times, decisions materialize from "aha!" moments in your own thoughts and feelings.

In any case, decisions are an important part of your career development. You benefit most when you lean into this process, with an understanding that perfect decisions do not exist, are rarely met with complete confidence, and often feel like a "leap of faith" in the moment. Still, trust yourself to make the best decision you can with the information you have available at this time.

This leads to a key question: How can you make an informed decision to move your career forward?


Clarifying What Matters

Take a step back to understand yourself and your options. Reflect on the most important interests, personality, strengths, and values preferences that you learned about in your Self-Assessment, and consider how these match up with what you learned about in your Career Exploration.

Here are a few clarifying questions to consider:

  • What are your career options? If you are still feeling lost or unsure, you may need to gather more information by browsing career resources.
  • What are real-life job descriptions commonly asking for in your careers of interest? Do you feel motivated to pursue most of these qualifications and fulfill the job responsibilities?
  • What have you learned from others? Consider the career conversations that you have had with people and the input they provided.
  • What is the experience like of seeing professionals do their work hands-on? Did it match up with what you had envisioned previously?


Evaluating and Ranking Options

It is unlikely that any career option will ever meet 100% (or even most) of an individual’s preferences, so it can be helpful to compare options to choose the most favorable path forward.

Here are some additional questions to consider as you evaluate options:

  • What are the pros and cons of each option?
  • Are there differences in the amount of time and cost to consider?
  • Which barriers and limitations exist?
  • Which opportunities may emerge?
  • What would you feel most confident in?
  • What would you feel least confident in?

It can help to write this information down on paper or discuss out loud with a trusted person, rather than keeping it stored away mentally. Allow yourself the chance to think critically about your options and process what you have learned.

With an understanding of what each option entails, you may also find it helpful to prioritize your options. In order, rank your first, second, and third career options that you currently prefer the most. Put your best effort into this, as a summary of your findings.


Moving Forward in a World of Change

If you have followed these steps, you have thought about your career direction in an organized and judicious way. You are ready to make a decision and take a new step to begin gaining experience toward your primary career of interest.

With this decision, brainstorm some long- and short-term goals to create a plan of action. SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based) can guide you through this process, as can a simple list of checkpoints to work toward your primary career of interest. Do what works best for you to help you take the next step forward and commit to a plan of action.

Because career development is a lifelong process, it is likely that you will pivot your career direction at multiple points in your life. Utilizing a “growth mindset” for continuous learning, your career path will develop, advance, and change over time. With rapidly changing work environments and new skills needed in the 21st century workforce, an approach to lifelong learning is pertinent for managing potential challenges and opportunities that every career path encounters.

Even after making some initial career decisions and gaining experience, you may discover new skills, interests, or emerging markets that you had not anticipated before. Make a plan to move yourself forward, and give yourself permission to remain open to your changing preferences and environment as your journey continues.

Did You Know?

Modern career paths change direction about a dozen times per professional.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average 20th century worker held 12 different jobs throughout their career. This statistic is expected to increase as changes in technology, innovation, and policy bring significantly more fluid career paths to the 21st century.


Learn More

Ready to keep going? Learn the essentials steps to help you Gain Experience toward your primary career of interest.

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