PLANNING YOUR CAREER
Career planning is a process that occurs over the course of one’s lifetime. People grow, develop, and change throughout their lives. In fact, your career will probably change several times within your lifetime. Determining the career that is right for you requires a lot of self-reflection. It may help you to know that the decisions you make now need not determine the entire course of your life. Although career planning may at times seem puzzling, if you take it step by step, the pieces will eventually fall into place and you will be on the road to career discovery.
The totality of your experiences in and out of the classroom will shape who you are now and what passions you will pursue in your future. While employment, financial security, and career mobility are extremely important, we encourage you to pursue a career that will also bring a great deal of personal satisfaction. Irrespective of economic and social pressures, striving to achieve balance and following your "bliss"however you define thatare worthy guiding principles. More concretely, be flexible and willing to learn and remain open to possibilities. And do not ever give up. Remember that the arc of one's career development is seldom a straight line, and it is truly one that is a life-long process. The Wasserman Center is here to support you in that process.
THE CAREER AND LIFE PLANNING PROCESS
- Career Exploration
- Decision Making
- Job Search Implementation
- Begin Career
- Reassess Your Goals
BEGIN WITH SELF-ASSESSMENT
Self-assessment is the essential first step to finding a satisfying career. Research has shown that the people most satisfied with their careers are those individuals who are working in jobs that closely match their interests, skills, values, and goals.
If you really want to discover what your interests are, think about how you
spend your time. We tend to be drawn to the settings, activities, and people
that allow us to express our interests. Keep in mind that your areas of interest
may not necessarily coincide with your skills and abilities. For example, a
person may enjoy and be interested in painting, but may not possess great artistic
ability. Ideally, if you are interested in something, chances are that you will
become skilled at it, because you enjoy doing it.
Interests can be measured and evaluated for related career areas by taking an interest inventory. Interest inventories are administered by career counselors to help you define your likes and dislikes, and see how they relate to a variety of occupations. Some inventories can compare your interest patterns with those of individuals happily working in different jobs. However, the interest inventory is not a test that will tell you what you should be, nor will it measure your abilities. The interest inventory administered at The Wasserman Center for Career Development is the Strong Interest Inventory. In addition, the office administers the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality style inventory.
This exercise will help you to begin focusing on career paths based on your
preferences for certain activities, environments, and people. Career interests
are generally described by six overall occupational themes. Review the themes
and put an * next to the three themes that best describe you. Next, put these
descriptions in order, from the one that represents you the best to the one
that represents you the least. For example, if you are extremely similar to
Artistic, very similar to Social, and somewhat similar to Enterprising types,
your 3-letter code is ASE. Please note that every individual is a complex
combination of the six themes.
Realistic: The realistic type tends to be mechanically and physically inclined, preferring to work on tasks and problems that are clear and concrete rather than ambiguous and abstract. They tend not to prefer sociallyoriented activities. The realistic environment is characterized by an interest in action, often involving the manipulation of tools, objects, or equipment.
Investigative: The investigative type tends to be a problem
solver, and likes to work independently, often in a scientific area. These individuals
are likely to describe themselves as analytical, precise, and curious. They
tend to dislike group work and repetitive tasks. They prefer to work with ideas
and things rather than people. Their work environment is characterized by tasks
that involve observation and research.
Artistic: Artistic types are idea creators who prefer to work creatively and imaginatively. They are often original and expressive in writing, the visual arts, or speech. They do not enjoy highly systematized or structured tasks.
Social: The social types are seen as people helpers. They prefer to work with others to teach, train, or help solve problems. They tend to dislike working alone, and are not fond of working with machines. Their work environment is characterized by tasks involving communication with others, often in a therapeutic or educational setting.
Enterprising: The enterprising types are characterized by a high verbal ability to direct, motivate, and persuade others. They are people influencers and like to manage and lead. They like to deal with others to attain organizational goals, status, or wealth.
Conventional: The conventional type often prefers to work with numbers and data following a structured plan. They are detail-oriented, practical, and efficient workers. They tend not to like ambiguous work situations with unstructured activities.
What three-letter code best reflects your interests?
To determine which occupations match your 3-letter code, consult the Dictionary of Holland Occupational Codes found in The Career Resource Center at Career Development.
You can research the occupations you would like to further explore in the Occupational Outlook Handbook online at www.bls.gov/search/ooh.asp?ct=OOH.
What do you do best? What are your accomplishments? These are questions that you will most likely be asked when you are interviewed for a job. Looking at skills and accomplishments can be quite gratifying; however, it may take some time and careful thought to uncover your skills.
Skills are often divided into three different categories: Functional, Job Specific, and Self Management.
Functional Skills are transferable from one field to another, as well as from one environment to another. These skills can be applied in a variety of settings. Organizing, communicating, problem solving, and conducting research are all examples of functional skills.
Job-Specific Skills enable a person to perform a task that is required for a specific job. Accounting, fluency in a foreign language, computer programming, and counseling are all examples of job-specific skills.
Self-Management Skills are personality traits or qualities that enable you to adapt to, and succeed in, different work environments. These can include patience, flexibility, dependability, enthusiasm, as well as an ability to work within a team and to manage time effectively.
You can often discover what your skills are by looking at the experiences that have given you the most satisfaction and greatest feeling of accomplishment. Think back on the accomplishments in your life so far. These successes may have occurred through a variety of experiences, do not restrict yourself to job-related accomplishments.
Reflect on these experiences for a moment and write down your responses to the following questions:
1. What three accomplishments are you most proud of? For example, being elected president of a sorority, editing the school paper, earning a scholarship, acting in a play.
2. What skills were involved in each of these activities? Try to classify them as functional, job-specific, or self-management skills.
3. Of the skills used in those experiences, which did you enjoy using the most, and the least? What does this say about the kind of tasks you enjoy the most?
Your values are those aspects of work which you believe to be the most important and often the most rewarding. Therefore, looking at your values will help you identify those job characteristics that are most important to you. For example, do you prefer to work alone or on a team? Do you want to earn a great deal of money? Is helping others of primary importance for you? These are just some of the questions you will need to ask yourself. You will most likely find your career genuinely rewarding if it is consistent with your work-related values.
The following exercise is designed to help you identify some of your most important work-related values. Of the following factors that give people satisfaction on the job, rate their importance to you on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the most important and 10 being the least important.
Factors: diversity in workplace, work alone, money, social status, variety, leisure time, job security, low stress, job advancement, work for social change, creativity, health, benefits, supportive co-workers, travel, professional prestige.
- What are your top five job-related values?
- Which of these would you be willing to do without?
- What does this tell you about the kind of work you want to do?
- What about your fantasy job...Try to dream a little about an ideal occupation. The sky is the limit.
– What would you be doing?
– Where would you be working?
– What do you like most about this job?
- Now back to reality for a moment. What aspects of this fantasy job may actually be possible?
FROM SELF-ASSESSMENT TO CAREER EXPLORATION
How does one begin to identify a possible career to pursue when there are thousands of occupations to choose from? Know thyself: It is crucial to learn about your interests,skills, and values. Knowing yourself helps to identify options that are best suited for you.
When beginning your career search, first identify a broad field for exploration, then research specific options within that field. For example, if marketing is an area in which you have a general interest, then you might want to explore market research, direct marketing, and product development. Try to keep your options open.
- Identify two broad career fields you would like to explore further (e.g., healthcare and business).
- Next, list three specific career options within each field (e.g., healthcare - occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech pathology; businessí¬marketing, financial analysis, and auditing).
- Think about why your chosen fields and options are interesting to you.
There are a number of ways in which you can generate a list of occupational alternatives. Consider the ways in which your interests, major(s), and skills relate to the world of work. Career interest and personality inventories may be helpful in pinpointing occupations worthy of further exploration (an appointment with a Career Development counselor can help you decide on the appropriateness of these inventories). Also try to determine how your academic training is preparing you for life after college. What you enjoy studying often provides a good clue as to what you would enjoy doing professionally. Finally, you need to thoroughly assess your skills, determine which ones you enjoy using most, and figure out what occupations require those skills.
You can gather information about careers by: READING occupational, biographical, and professional literature; TALKING with and OBSERVING people in their work environments; and EXPERIENCING work by way of part-time or full-time jobs, internships, or volunteering. The Wasserman Center's Mentor Network helps students explore careers by linking them with professionals in a variety of fields.
Reading: Reading about careers is one of the quickest ways to learn about occupations. There are many resources available which provide both general field summaries and highly detailed position descriptions. For those who prefer a computer screen to a book, various web sites and search engines exist on the Internet to assist users with their career/job research. Visit The Career Resource Center at The Center to start your exploration.
Find at least three sources in the library describing each career option. Then, for each field, fill out an index card with the following information:
- Academic training that is most appropriate
- Skills that may be required to enter this field
- Personality traits/characteristics that are valued by employers in this field
- Typical entry-level positions and salaries
- The ways in which one finds out about job openings
- Opportunities for professional development and advancement within this field
- Employment outlook for the field
Talking: Informational interviewing is another way of gathering information about the world of work. It enables you to acquire additional information about a field, industry,or particular type of work that you will not find in a book. Getting a personal and realistic view of the career you are exploring will help you make a sound decision. Itis a good idea to talk with as many people as you can to ascertain the most complete picture. Ask friends, relatives,teachers, career counselors, and professional association members for suggestions of who to contact.
Speak with people who are working in your field of interest and arrange to meet them at their place of employment.You might want to inquire about the following: typical responsibilities of workers in this occupation, what an average day entails, the work environment, some major frustrations and rewards in this line of work, and the level of supervision or training received.
Practice informational interviewing with a friend or colleague. The following is a list of sample questions you might ask:
- What are some steps one could take to arrive at a position similar to yours?
- Can you describe some of your typical job functions?
- What are some problems that arise in your work and how do you handle them?
- Where do you see the industry going in the next five to ten years?
- What do you like most about your job? What do you dislike about your job?
- Can you describe some of the rewards associated with this position?
- What kinds of classes, experience, and/or extracurricular activities would help me to gain relevant skills and knowledge?
Conduct informational interviews with at least three professionals in your areas of interest. Through informational interviewing, you may be able to obtain more details about the nature of the work, lifestyle, and future considerations for the occupation you are considering.
Observing: Job shadowing is an excellent way to test your career goals by seeing "a day in the life" of a particular field or position. Spend a few hours, a day, or several days on site, literally "shadowing" a specific professional or group of professionals within an organization.
Experiencing: Some people learn best by doing. Experience can provide invaluable information about careers and insights about yourself that books and informational interviewing cannot. Being able to observe the actual work environment and interaction between co-workers can provide valuable clues as to whether or not a particular career is for you. Career-related experiences can be acquired through internships, part-time or temporary jobs,volunteering, and extracurricular activities. Working as an intern, part-time employee, or volunteer will substantially increase your hiring potential for future career opportunities.Employers value career-related experience asmuch as academic achievement.
- Internships "If I don't have experience, how can I get
a good job?" One solution is finding a position as an intern. An internship
is a career-related position designed to attract students who seek work experience
while attending college. It offers students an opportunity to gain valuable
skills and explore different careers. Employers hire interns because they
want highly motivated, career-minded individuals who want to learn about a
particular skill, profession, or organization. It also allows students to
contribute greatly to the goals and objectives of the organization. Internships
are offered throughout the school year and during the summer. There are, however,
peak times during the year when employer recruitment is very active. Begin
your search a semester or two in advance. The best opportunities are offered
months before the internship start date.
The compensation for internships can range from getting a stipend to earning school credit or a competitive hourly or weekly pay. It is important to note that internships for credit require approval from the appropriate New York University academic department before beginning the internship.
- Part-Time Jobs Part-time employment is another option
that can provide you with career-related experience. When reviewing part-time
jobs, pay particular attention to the job description and see how it relates
to your career interests. One advantage of part-time jobs is that they all
offer an hourly wage (although some internships actually pay more). If you
are thorough in conducting a search for part-time employment, you will have
success in finding an opportunity that has tremendous learning potential as
well as compensation.
- Volunteer Positions Consider community service as a career
builder. Working as a volunteer can be a rewarding experience in many ways.
You will not only develop communication and interpersonal skills, but you
will also have a chance to learn about different management techniques, as
well as how projects and programs are put together. Volunteering may also
help you decide which career path to follow. Many volunteer positions do not
require any prior experience, and generally afford a great deal of flexibility.
Whether you work as an intern, part-time employee, or volunteer, each experience will increase your chances for employment after graduation.
CLARIFYING YOUR GOALS
Before making any career decision, it helps to think about your future goals. These might be closely related to the values you identified previously (see Planning Your Career).
For example, if you value the opportunity to have responsibility and authority over others at your job, a related goal might be to reach the position of department manager within four years.
Knowing what you want to do down the road, and where you want to do it, is important information to consider when you arrive at the point of making a career decision. Goal setting can help guide you as you map out your career plans.
Be as realistic as possible. If you want a career in politics, winning a seat in Congress by the age of 25 may be rather unlikely. Working in a congressional office, however, may be a solid first step toward a political career. As you write your goals, check their consistency with the realities of the marketplace and the knowledge you have of yourself.
One way to clarify goals is to outline them according to a timeframe. In this case, we have used one-, three-, and five-year intervals; however, choose whatever time interval is most relevant for you. See if you can answer the following questions:
In one year:
- Where would you like to be living?
- Do you see yourself living alone or with one or more people?
- What kind of lifestyle would you like to be leading? (Think of material comforts you would enjoy, hobbies to pursue, travel interests, and other personal interests.)
- What personal accomplishments would you like to achieve?
- What professional accomplishments would you like to achieve?
- What other goals would you like to achieve?
Now repeat the questions for the three- and five-year intervals. Are your goals consistent with what your career options can provide? For example, if you hope to be traveling a great deal within three years, will your expected salary support you and cover travel expenses as well?
DECIDING ON AN OCCUPATION
Eventually, you will need to decide on which occupation to pursue. A career decision involves commitment of your time, effort, and, if you are planning on continuing your education, money. There is not a right or wrong choice. The right occupational choice is the one that is best for you. Decisions involve risk, but if you have a clear idea of the type of work you want and of what type of work environment and responsibilities you prefer, you can minimize the chances of being disappointed later.
Try these decision-making steps:
- Go back and review your interests, values, and skills. Revise your self-assessment if necessary.
- Review your occupational options. You should be able to describe the responsibilities, work setting, salary, and advancement opportunities for each option. Based on your self-assessment, is there an occupation that seems to fit you best?
- Review your future goals. Are they consistent with your self-assessment results? Are they realistic?
- Now, try to find the most compatible match. Does one occupation stand out among the others? Ask yourself, "Which occupation seems to best satisfy my interests and values? Which one will give me the greatest chance to utilize the skills I have or desire to develop? Which will provide me the greatest opportunity to reach my goals?"
One way decision making can be aided is by listing the pros and cons for each occupation. Do you feel confident you have enough information to accurately list the pros and cons? If not, you might have to conduct some additional career exploration.
After you have made your lists, step back and look them over. Which occupation has the most pros? The most cons? Is there one that seems to be a best bet?
If you are still undecided, consider the following:
- Making a career choice is a major step and you may need some more time to think it over. Do you absolutely need to decide right now?
- Finding an internship or volunteer position to get an inside perspective may help you through the decisionmaking process.
- A discussion with a trusted friend, experienced relative, or a mentor with an objective point of view might help.
- People can change their minds and their careers. A career decision made now does not lock you into a particular occupation for the rest of your life.
APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL
DECIDING WHETHER GRADUATE SCHOOL IS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOU
Going to graduate school is a commitment on many levels: financial, academic, social, and emotional. Comparatively, graduate study is more demanding, intense, and focused academically, usually less social, and often more expensive than undergraduate study. It is important to spend time thinking about why you want to go, what you want to gain, if it will help you in your career, and if you are ready. There are many reasons people choose to go to graduate school, but, in general, they fall into two categories:
- Intellectual Curiosity - you may have an interest in doing advanced work in a specific field that fascinates you.
- Professional Development - you may want to work in a profession that requires a particular degree (for example: psychology, law, business, medicine, etc.); or you may want to advance your position in your current career.
In either case, you may want to ask yourself: Do I want to go to graduate school, or do I want a different type of work experience to develop myself professionally or intellectually? The answer will depend on the field you are entering. Keep in mind that some graduate schools, for example, MBA programs, encourage getting work experience first. Others, like Clinical Psychology doctoral programs, give preference to students who do not necessarily have post-college work experience (i.e., they are coming directly from undergraduate school).
In making your decision, talk to as many people as you need to gain as much information as you can about the field and the types of degrees that are offered.
WHICH SCHOOL AND PROGRAM?
In deciding which school to attend, there are numerous factors to consider, including:
- Academic - reputation of program and faculty, research interests of faculty, curriculum and courses offered, educational resources.
- Social - student life, number of students, urban/rural campus, geographic location.
- Selection Criteria - GPA, test scores (e.g., LSAT, GRE, etc.), coursework, experience, admissions interview.
- Financial - Tuition/living expenses, financial aid/assistantships, loans.
Research schools' websites. Contact/visit the schools: talk to professors and current students in the program of interest. Ask you current professors about their knowledge of different schools' programs. Read various guides and rankings found in numerous books, magazines, and websites. Attend a graduate or professional school fair.
THE APPLICATION PROCESS - START EARLY!
Ideally, you should start researching, taking tests, and preparing materials a year before you want to start your program. Be aware of your application deadlines.
- Examinations - find out the test deadline; make sure that you have enough time to study and prepare.
- Letters of Recommendation - schools will most likely prefer references from professors (at least 2) and a third could be from an employer/supervisor. Consider setting up a credential file.
- Essays - make sure to answer the questions specifically asked; have them proofread for grammar and content.
- Transcripts - Contact the Registrar’s office for instructions on how to send your official transcripts..
Graduate Students - Another Perspective
THE ACADEMY AND BEYOND
The NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development offers many services specifically for graduate students, as well as a dedicated suite (the Kaplan Graduate Student & Alumni Center). As you pursue your graduate degree, it is important to utilize these resources. Keep in mind that your advanced, specialized degree greatly contributes to, but does not determine, your future career path. Your pursuit of knowledge on the graduate level opens many more doors than it closes. Though the academic path has traditionally led to a career in research and/or teaching, today's graduates of Master's and Ph.D. programs are increasingly following a non-academic road. Congratulations on choosing an academic field of study that interests and intrigues you, and welcome to a world of career options and possibilities.
As you continue your studies, you may begin to wonder, "What can I do with my degree?" The answer: Much more than you may realize. The possibilities depend on numerous factors, including your skills, experience, interests, and imagination. Think of your advanced degree as a marketable asset. If you find yourself perplexed as to where to begin your career development outside the academy, there are some important steps to take now.
It is important to first explore your knowledge of what occupations and work environments exist outside the academic world. Start by examining work areas that seem interesting to you. Talk to friends, family, and acquaintances who work in different settings. Are you intrigued by the fast pace of the corporate environment? Do you enjoy helping and making the world a better place through non-profit or policy work? Are you passionate about the arts? Is research within your field your main focus? Begin to think about the place you would like to be and the people with whom you would like to work.
It is important to realize that, in addition to greater knowledge, your academic experience has helped you to garner or hone a wealth of skills (analytical and/or technical) that make you a competitive candidate for jobs both inside and outside the academy. It is your responsibility to assess and market those skills to potential employers, who should see the ambition, talent, and maturity implicit in the pursuit of an advanced degree. The following lists some skills coveted by employers. Consider which ones you identify with and can back up with examples.
What Employers Want?
What are the most important attributes of new employees?
- Problem-solving skills
- Learn new things quickly
- Analyze and interpret data
- Teamwork skills
- Verbal skills
- Innovative thinking
- Written-communication skills
- Job-specific computer skills
Source: Information Week, June 11, 2001
The first, and often most difficult, step in the process of looking for work is to envision the full range of possibilities available for someone with your background and training. You may have heard of someone who is a technical writer, consultant, or senior analyst, but what do they actually do? What is it like to work in their corner of the "real world"? What kind of training or experience is expected or required? Career preparation involves research and practical application. Through examination of resources, both online and at Career Development, you will begin to solidify how your degree and skills can translate into an occupation. Essential to any student's search for career direction is practical experience. Through volunteer, research, and internship experience, you will gain valuable insight, enhance your resume, and increase your ability to secure employment upon graduation. Be sure to meet with a career counselor to find out how to locate these opportunities.
MARKETING YOUR DEGREE
Marketing your degree largely depends on how you see your own education. Are you on a single track toward a specialized career, or, instead, are you gaining a broad set of skills that will qualify you for a variety of careers? It is your own outlook on your degree that may determine your future career path. Many graduate students feel that their degree is too focused, or perhaps too academic, and therefore not marketable to a broad range of potential employers. However, you bring a unique perspective to potential employers. It is important for you to understand that the academic path you have chosen enhances your ability to find work outside academia. Now that you have assessed the skills you bring to the table and have identified your career plans, begin to summarize your selling points. Be sure to clearly identify how the skills you gained from your academic coursework can be practically applied to the world of work. And you will undoubtedly be a cut above the competition.