1. What is the difference between a job and a career?
It's important to understand the difference between a job and a career. A job helps you make a living, probably pay the bills and is almost always short term. On the other hand, a career path is based on your skills and interests and is typically long term.
2. What are my skills?
The second step in looking for a career is to ask yourself, 'What am I good at?' There are many available online assessments that can help you discover your skills and match them to possible careers. Although many charge a fee, the U.S. Department of Labor offers a free Skills Profiler on its CareerOneStop website. In addition, many states have employment development departments that offer career guidance resources.
3. What do I like to do?
Now that you have an idea of what you're good at, it's time to figure out what you might actually enjoy. Take some time to reflect on past work or school experiences - which ones did you like, and which ones were less enjoyable? In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online website offers an Interest Profiler. This tool can help you find out what your interests are and how they fit into the job market.
4. What is my major?
You may be looking for the right school, or maybe you're already in college but still forging your academic path. In either case, career goals are often important when considering a major. Websites like College Board and I Have a Plan Iowa can help you explore majors and careers. They can also help you find a college that best meets your goals. Contacting your high school's guidance counselor or your college's career services office may also be helpful.
5. What path should I take?
After you've discovered your skills, interests and major, you might be asking yourself, 'Now what?' The next step is learning how to make your dream career a reality. A career guidance counselor at your college can help you identify internships, entry-level jobs and other opportunities you can use to gain essential career skills. In addition, your school's career services office may connect you with career workshops, internships, job-shadowing opportunities and more.
Many websites also offer free career mapping resources. For example, LinkedIn offers an effective Career Explorer tool that helps students and recent graduates map the paths taken by professionals in many different careers. The Career Explorer also features job statistics, relevant employers with job openings and a service that matches you with other people on LinkedIn who can help you network.
6. What is most important in this process?
It's important to remember that looking for a career is not an easy task, but it can be very rewarding when done effectively. Never give up, and do what needs to be done in order to make your dream career a reality.
For more tips, check out expert advice from Career Counselor Patrick Chidsey at the University of Washington.