As graduation draws closer, every student worries or thinks about the career path they will choose after school. Many of them worry about the type of job they will be able to get with their certificate. In a century where people barely use the knowledge gotten from school to make ends meet, it is quite difficult for some people to decide on a career path. As a result of this, many graduates come out of school confused on how to navigate through life and end up using the first few years after college to find their feet.
Students should be given the privilege to explore career opportunities while they are still in school but before we look into Career Exploration and how to go about it, let us look at some elements that are very important when talking about Career Exploration.
Now, most people tend to use the word “job” and “career” in place of each other. Unfortunately, the two words cannot be used this way because they do not mean the same thing.
Difference Between Job And Career
A job is an occupation that you have at a particular period. For example, you are an English teacher teaching year six students. At this point, you have a job as an English teacher.
A career is when you work for a long time in a single job. For example, if you have a job as an English teacher teaching year six students English and you remain in this occupation for up to twenty or thirty years gathering more knowledge and being a better teacher, you can say you have a career as an English teacher.
Knowing the difference between a job and a career is important because it will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and give you an idea of what you can handle and it will also help you identify what to do to reach your goals.
There are two types of career goals.
To understand Career Exploration, take the right steps to choose the right career and have an idea of the things you need to do to reach the heights of your career, one needs to know the two types of career goals.
What Are Career Goals?
Career Goals are targets that are related to your professional life that you are determined to achieve.
The two types of Career Goals are:
- The Short-Term Career Goal and
- The Long-Term Career Goal.
The Short-Term Career Goals
Short-term Career Goals are goals that can be accomplished in a very short period. Some examples of short-term career goals are getting a degree or learning a new skill.
The Long-Term Career Goals
Long-term Career Goals are goals that take a long time to it to be achieved. They are like a map you have made for yourself to follow and achieve all your goals. An example of a long-term career goal is getting promoted to a senior position in your place of work. To achieve your long-term goals, a lot of planning, preparation and strategising is needed.
Now, let’s look at Career Exploration.
Career Exploration is the second stage of Career Planning. It is learning about different occupations and deciding if they are fit for you based on your skills, interest, values, experience and education. Ideally, Career Exploration is done after you must have chosen a career path through a series of self-assessments. If the career you have chosen doesn’t fit you, it is easy for you to switch to another career before advancing in the field.
The purpose of career exploration is to improve the knowledge of college students and individuals on the diverse career options and encourage them to develop and work towards their short or long-term goals over the years.
How Do You Explore Your Career
Knowing where to start in your journey to career exploration might be quite overwhelming for you but with the steps, you will have a better understanding of how to go about it.
Step One: Start With The Simple Things
Assuming you have a list of ten careers that you are contemplating, before spending time on thorough research, you can do some basic fact-finding to help you narrow down your options. Get the basic information about these occupations. Some of the information you should look out for is the job description (consider if it tallies with your values, skills, interests, experiences and education), labour market information and training requirements. After knowing these things about all the occupations, you will realise that some of them would no longer appeal to you.
Step Two: Do A Thorough Research
Narrowing down your career choices might have been quite emotional and difficult for you because you had to let go of some of the careers you wanted but after you must have ticked off some career choices, it is now time for you to do some in-depth research. This will help you know what it feels like to work in the field before you start working in the field. You can do this by
- Networking: Ask around to see if there is anyone that works in the field(s) you are interested in. Meet and connect with people that are currently in the field(s) or used to be in the field(s) that you desire.
- Ask questions: After networking, you can proceed to ask your connections a series of questions that you must have written out or prepared based on your research. Do not be frightened to ask the person for his or her help
- Look for a mentor: Ask your connections if they are willing to put you through some things till you are able to stand on your own. Make sure that the person you are asking for assistance is someone who is willing to pay attention to you and help you grow.
- Go for an internship: This is a short-term career goal. An internship will help you get experience in the chosen field and help you decide if the field you chose is best for you. Some internship programmes pay their interns. The payment of interns depends on the field for example, the medical field (although it is mandatory for every medical student). The payment should not be your concern. Your major concern should be what made you apply for the internship programme and that is to learn and have more knowledge about your chosen career.
- You can decide to do some other things that you feel might help you like doing a survey or sharing questionnaires for people to answer. All these are part of doing thorough research. Your main aim should be to get information that will be beneficial to your cause.
Step Three: Identify Your Values
Knowing your value, when you are job hunting is very important. Ask yourself a series of questions like “Do I want to help people and do things that will be of benefit to those around me?”, “Do I want to relocate and live in this particular area?”, “How much do they pay?”. These are the type of questions you should be asking yourself based on your values. This will help you know if you can survive in a particular career or not. While looking for jobs, knowing your values will help you strike out any job offer that doesn’t meet your standards. This way you can avoid working in an environment that is not fit for you, will make you uncomfortable and deny you the opportunity of being your true self and showing your full potential.
Step Four: Identify Your Skills
Ask yourself what skills you have that will be a great chance at survival in your chosen career. Identifying your skills is very important when you want to know your next step in achieving career success. When you are writing your resume, there’s a space where you would be asked to write down your skills. If you do not identify your skills, you won’t be able to write down anything and you won’t have a complete resume to submit when you are looking for a job.
Step Five: Identify Your Interests
Just like what was said in the introductory paragraph, most people end up switching to a career path that is different from what they studied in college. One reason responsible for this is a change in people’s interests. Your interest can change over time so for you to be able to identify your interests, ask yourself if you are still interested in the occupation you did your research on while you were still in college or if you want to move from one field of work to another. After identifying your interests, think of organisations and industries that you have an interest in and look at the available job type and see if any of them match your values, skills and interest.
Step Six: Equip Yourself With The Right Knowledge
Regardless of what you want to achieve in your career, this could be a long-term career goal or a short-term career goal, you should never stop learning. Learning never ends so it is important that before and after your job hunt, you take it upon yourself to constantly equip yourself with the knowledge and skills that will make you relevant in your field for a long time.
Step Seven: Look For Jobs
Now that you have been able to identify your job expectations and have learnt (and still learning) the proper skills and have gathered the proper knowledge to help you do well in your career path, you can now begin to submit your resume and apply for jobs or you use your network connections to help you get your desired occupation.
Career Exploration is a topic that should be taught in colleges either as a subject or as a topic under a subject. This is because it will equip the students with the right knowledge they need to live and survive.
College life is very different from life after college. Teaching career exploration in colleges will help direct students’ minds on what they want, give them the right focus and help them prepare short-term and long-term career goals before they come out of college. Doing this will give them a strong stand and will help reduce the level of confusion and anxiety that comes with finding the right path.
Also, if you are through with college but didn’t get any guidance while you were exploring career options, it is never too late to get back on track. All you have to do is believe in yourself, identify what you want, set goals and begin to work towards them. Do not be afraid to make mistakes and ask for help when you get confused. You are bound to get overwhelmed at some point but do not let it get to you.
Now that you know what career exploration is all about and how it affects your career success, it is now time for you to employ the knowledge you have received.