Tips for Career Exploration Success: What I Learned from my Own Exploration
As corny as it sounds, career exploration is a JOURNEY. You have to pack the right tools for the journey, you might get lost, you might need help to navigate, you might not like the destination but on the flip side, the journey might be amazing. In order to get to that amazing place, you have to invest time in the journey and that means spending time exploring careers so that when you are ready to find a graduate program or apply for a job, you’ve done the work to feel confident about your career choices.
There are a few things that you can do to help on your journey, but let’s be honest…sometimes the journey looks like a beautiful well defined path. And sometimes, it looks a little more complicated. It’s still beautiful, but where do I go? What do I decide? How do I know it’s the right decision?
Here are my 3 tips to help in your exploration regardless of which path you might stumble upon!
Invest in Exploration
Identifying career choices that match your interests, strengths and passions is important and therefore, you have to invest time in figuring out how all of those things align together. When I started college, I thought I knew 100% exactly what I wanted to do for a career. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be a teacher and all of my experience up to that point had been working towards that goal. I never considered anything else, I never looked into anything else, and so when I went into my junior year of college and experienced doubt in my career choices, I felt panicked. I had invested time in volunteering, working in classrooms, my coursework was very tailored towards teaching all with the goal of becoming a teacher. I was losing confidence in my career decision and wasn’t sure what to do.
I started getting involved on campus and trying different things to see what I liked. I became an RA, I started going on Alternative Break trips, I took different classes and used my resources on campus. I decided to go to the career center where they gave me the tools to learn how to explore effectively so that when I was ready to make a career decision I had the resources and the knowledge of myself to be confident in that decision. Experience and reflection are the most important aspects of exploration, and college is the perfect place to try new classes, intern, volunteer, invest time in trying something new, you never know what you might gravitate towards.
Not Liking an Experience May Still be Beneficial
Experience can help you determine what you like and what you don’t like in different careers. One summer, I interned at a nonprofit organization in their public relations department, I had always been on the direct support side of community work but this time I was on the back end. It was new, but I wanted to give it a try so I knew if I wanted to invest more time in that path. I learned pretty quickly that I didn’t like public relations because of the amount of writing I was doing and I was also working independently quite a bit. Even though it was not my favorite internship experience, I found clarity in the type of work environment and skills that I wanted to use. I figured out that I loved working with people and prefer environments where I am working collaboratively versus independently. The information that I discovered about myself helped to verify what I didn’t like and helped to solidify what I wanted to invest more time in. Nobody wants to have a bad internship experience, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities to learn and self reflect to inform our steps moving forward.
Invest time in reflecting each time you have an experience so that you are in tune with your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. This time and reflection helps to make meaning and brings confidence to your career decisions.
Channel Those Transferable Skills
As some of you might have guessed by now, I’m not a teacher, well at least not in the way I thought I would be when I first started college. I was able to take the culmination of my exploration, interests and skill sets to identify a career that brings me joy and I find myself being confident in. Transferable skills are not connected to a specific industry they can ‘transfers’ from industry to industry and hold their relevance. Having a mindset that seeks experiences that provide opportunities to gain transferable skills can be an excellent way to explore in a meaningful way.
When looking for different ways to gain experience, think about what skills you want to gain and plan around that. The skills you gain from each experience lay the foundation for your resume, cover letter and interviews, transferable skills are key!
College is about experiencing and trying new things…that is career exploration. The path isn’t always straight and the journey isn’t always easy but experiencing is the most important part and utilizing resources like the Fleishman Center can help to create a plan to explore in a meaningful way.
Join us! We’re here to help!