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Exploring Your Options
Self-assessment is the building block and foundation of career development.  It is the first step in the process of finding the right job and career.  It is inventorying your interest values and skills and is critical in finding a fulfilling career, but what’s the next step after self-assessment?

In the career exploration stage, the job seeker begins to discover where their interest, values and skills can be put to work.  A report by the Gallup organization found that more than 72% of respondents stated that if they could start over, they would get more information about their career options. You will want to narrow down your choices to 4 tentative options: 1) first choice/ideal career, 2) realistic choice/back-up plan, 3) safety/last choice, and 4) wildcard/unexpected opportunity.  At this point in the process, your only commitment is to learn more about what interests you and the available opportunities out there.  There are essentially 3 ways to discover what you want to do with your life and become more “occupationally literate.”

  1. Reading and Research.  Your local library or bookstore will have a section on careers that will help you identify specific fields, employers and job titles that parallel your information from the self-assessment stage.  Books like, College Majors Handbook by Fogg, Harrington & Harrrington or Career Guide to America’s Top Industries by JIST Works, Inc. are good places to start.  In addition, by selecting resources specializing in a career area of interest you can gain valuable information about trends and occupations.  For example, if you were interested in the area of business and management you might want to read Great Jobs for Business Majors by Lambert. Read Environmental Careers for the 21st Century from the Environmental Careers Organization for exploring your options in that field. I would also suggest doing a keyword search in,, or any other search engine.  For example, a keyword search on “careers in public relations” might yield information not found in books as well a professional associations that can describe the field.
  2. Networking.  What you learn from informational interviews with family, friends, your alumni association, and professionals will either confirm or contract what was discovered by your reading and research.  This way industry insiders can give you the honest scoop about what’s involved in that particular career that might not be contained in books.  You can ask them real and hard questions about the nature of the work, a typical work day, compensation, job security, long range job prospects and the qualifications for breaking in.
  3. Gaining Relevant Experience.  This can be a difficult challenge for those that are already working full-time or have additional commitments.  Students typically complete 2 internships during their senior year in their field of interest which sets them apart from others graduating from college with just a diploma.  However, if doing a 20 hour a week internship is out of the question, considering volunteering fewer hours per week or month.  This will be important in building your resume to help you crack into your field of choice.  The experience is the bridge between where you are now and where you want to be in the long-term.  Without the experience, few employers are willing to take a chance on you.
Both self-assessment and career exploration are time consuming and challenging because getting focused often means confronting your fear, taking risks, and making hard choices.   Exploring your options is more like a marathon than a sprint; pacing yourself is important if you want to reach your goals.  With career exploration you are making an investment and planning for your future.


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