Chapter 15: Planning for Your Career

Chapter 15: Planning for Your Career

Overview

Learning Framework: Effective Strategies for College Success

Chapter 15: Planning for Your Career

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Differentiate between “job” and “career”
  • Describe the stages of career development and identify the stage you’re currently in
  • Explain the five-step process for choosing a career
  • List key strategies for selecting a college major
  • Identify the relationship between college majors and career paths (both why they matter and why they don’t)
  • Identify specific skills and transferable skills that will be valuable for your career path and how to acquire them

Planning for Your Career

Planning for Your Career

The Department of Labor defines 840 occupations in its Standard Occupation Classification system—and new occupations are being created at an ever-faster rate. Just ten years ago, would anyone have imagined the job of a social media marketing specialist? How about the concept of a competitive chef? As new careers develop and old careers morph into almost unrecognizable versions of their original, it’s okay if you aren’t able to pinpoint exactly what occupation or career will be your life passion. However, it is important to define as best you can what field you will want to develop your career in because that will help dictate your major and your course selections.

The process of career exploration can be a lot of fun, as it allows you to discover a world of possibilities. Even those students who have a pretty clear idea of what they want to do should go through this process because they will discover new options as backups and occasionally a new direction even more attractive than their original choice. 

In this section, we explore strategies that can help you chart your professional path and also attain ample reward. We begin by comparing and contrasting jobs and careers. We then look at how to match up your personal characteristics with a specific field or fields. We conclude by detailing a process for actually choosing your career. Throughout, you will find resources for learning more about this vast topic of planning for employment.

Job vs. Career

What is the difference between a job and a career? Do you plan to use college to help you seek one or the other? A job: yes, it’s something you would like to have, especially if you want to pay your bills. A job lets you enjoy a minimal level of financial security. A job requires you to show up and do what is required of you; in exchange, you get paid. A career involves holding a series of jobs, but it is more a means of achieving personal fulfillment. In a career, your jobs follow a sequence that leads to increasing mastery, professional development, and personal and financial satisfaction. A career requires planning, knowledge, and skills. If it is to be a fulfilling career, it requires that you bring into play your full set of analytical, critical, and creative thinking skills to make informed decisions that will affect your life in both the short term and the long term.

There is no right or wrong answer because motivations for being in college are so varied and different for each student. But you can take maximum advantage of your time in college if you develop a clear plan for what you want to accomplish. The table below shows some differences between a job and a career.

 JOBCAREER
DefinitionsA job refers to the work a person performs for a living. It can also refer to a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation. A person can begin a job by becoming an employee, by volunteering, by starting a business, or becoming a parent.A career is an occupation (or series of jobs) that you undertake for a significant period of time in your life—perhaps five or ten years, or more. A career typically provides you with opportunities to advance your skills and positions.
RequirementsA job you accept with an employer does not necessarily require special education or training. Sometimes you can get needed learning “on the job.”A career usually requires special learning—perhaps a certification or a specific degree.
Risk-TakingA job may be considered a safe and stable means to get income. But jobs can also quickly change; security can come and go.A career can also have risks. In today’s world, employees need to continually learn new skills and adapt to changes in order to stay employed. Starting your own business can have risks. Many people thrive on risk-taking, though, and may achieve higher gains. It all depends on your definition of success.
DurationThe duration of a job may range from an hour (in the case of odd jobs, for example,) to a lifetime. Generally, a “job” is shorter-term.A career is typically a long-term pursuit.
IncomeJobs that are not career-oriented may not pay as well as career-oriented positions. Jobs often pay an hourly wage.Career-oriented jobs generally offer an annual salary versus a wage. Career-oriented jobs may also offer appealing benefits, like health insurance and retirement.
Satisfaction and contributing to societyMany jobs are important to society, but some may not bring high levels of personal satisfaction.Careers allow you to invest time and energy in honing your crafts and experiencing personal satisfaction. Career pursuits may include making contributions to society.

In the following video, author, speaker, and entrepreneur Shinjini Das discusses the distinction between a job and a career and explains her advice for planning for your career.

Job vs. Career at General Assembly | Shinjini Das

Whether you pursue individual jobs or an extended career or both, your time with your employers will always comprise your individual journey. May your journey be as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible!

Stages of Career Development

See if you can remember a time in your childhood when you noticed somebody doing professional work. Maybe a nurse or doctor, dressed in a lab coat, was listening to your heartbeat. Maybe a worker at a construction site, decked in a hard hat, was operating noisy machinery. Maybe a cashier at the checkout line in a grocery store was busily scanning barcodes. Each day in your young life you could have seen a hundred people doing various jobs. Surely some of the experiences drew your interest and appealed to your imagination.

If you can recall any such times, those are moments from the beginning stage of your career development. What exactly is career development? It’s a lifelong process in which we become aware of, interested in, knowledgeable about, and skilled in a career. It’s a key part of human development as our identity forms and our life unfolds.

There are five main stages of career development. Each stage correlates with attitudes, behaviors, and relationships we all tend to have at that point and age. As we progress through each stage and reach the milestones identified, we prepare to move on to the next one. Which stage of career development do you feel you are in currently? Think about each stage. What challenges are you facing now? Where are you headed?

#STAGEDESCRIPTION
1GROWINGThis is a time in the early years (4–13 years old) when you begin to have a sense of the future. You begin to realize that your participation in the world is related to being able to do certain tasks and accomplish certain goals.
2EXPLORINGThis period begins when you are a teenager, and it extends into your mid-twenties. In this stage, you find that you have specific interests and aptitudes. You are aware of your inclinations to perform and learn about some subjects more than others. You may try out jobs in your community or at your school. You may begin to explore a specific career. At this stage, you have some detailed “data points” about careers, which will guide you in certain directions.
3ESTABLISHINGThis period covers your mid-twenties through mid-forties. By now you are selecting or entering a field you consider suitable, and you are exploring job opportunities that will be stable. You are also looking for upward growth, so you may be thinking about an advanced degree. 
4MAINTAININGThis stage is typical for people in their mid-forties to mid-sixties. You may be in an upward pattern of learning new skills and staying engaged. But you might also be merely “coasting and cruising” or even feeling stagnant. You may be taking stock of what you’ve accomplished and where you still want to go.
5REINVENTINGIn your mid-sixties, you are likely transitioning into retirement. But retirement in our technologically advanced world can be just the beginning of a new career or pursuit—a time when you can reinvent yourself. There are many new interests to pursue, including teaching others what you’ve learned, volunteering, starting online businesses, consulting, etc.

Keep in mind that your career-development path is personal to you, and you may not fit neatly into the categories described above. Perhaps your socioeconomic background changes how you fit into the schema. Perhaps your physical and mental abilities affect how you define the idea of a “career.” And for everyone, too, there are factors of chance that can’t be predicted or anticipated. You are unique, and your career path can only be developed by you.

The Five-Step Process for Choosing Your Career

As your thoughts about your career expand, keep in mind that over the course of your life, you will probably spend a lot of time at work—thousands of hours, in fact. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average workday is about 8.7 hours long, and this means that if you work 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, for 35 years, you will spend a total of 76,125 hours of your life at work. These numbers should convince you that it’s pretty important to enjoy your career!

If you do pursue a career, you’ll find yourself making many decisions about it: Is this the right job for me? Am I feeling fulfilled and challenged? Does this job enable me to have the lifestyle I desire? It’s important to consider these questions now, whether you’re just graduating from high school or college, or you’re returning to school after working for a while.

Choosing a career—any career—is a unique process for everyone, and for many people the task is daunting. There are so many different occupations to choose from. How do you navigate this complex world of work?

Powerpoint Slide: "Think about THIS!" At left, a divided image labeled "Pursuing Your Career" shows a drawing of a young woman in a graduation gown and an older woman seated in a classroom. Bullets on the right read, Is this the right job for me?, Am I feeling fulfilled and challenged?, and Does this job enable me to have the lifestyle I want?

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office has identified a five-step decision process that will make your career path a little easier to find. Below are the steps:

  1. Get to know yourself
  2. Get to know your field
  3. Prioritize your “deal makers” and rule out your “deal breakers”
  4. Make a preliminary career decision and create a plan of action
  5. Go out and achieve your career goal

Step 1: Get to Know Yourself

PowerPoint Slide: Numbers 1-5 appear in orange circles at the top, "1" being highlighted; title on top right is "5 Step Decision Process." Text at top reads Get to know yourself and the things you're truly passionate about. Three images at the bottom: left is a drawing of a young woman studying, labeled Gather Information. Middle is a man in a thinking posture, labeled Weigh Your Skills. Right is a woman seated, wearing glasses, labeled Assess Personality.

Get to know yourself and the things you’re truly passionate about.

  • Gather information about your career-related interests and values
  • Think about what skills and abilities come naturally to you and which ones you want to develop
  • Consider your personality type and how you want it to play out in your role at work

While you are encouraged to explore your personality, interests, and passions, you may still feel overwhelmed by the possibilities. The following video discusses how “finding your passion” can be much more complicated than it sounds, and it introduces ways to explore related opportunities and gradually focus your interests and efforts.

You may wish to review the assessments and inventories from Chapter 3 on values and Chapter 8 on multiple intelligences. These can help you align career interests with personal qualities, traits, life values, skills, activities, and ambitions. Ultimately, your knowledge of yourself is the root of all good decision-making and will guide you in productive directions.

Stop Trying to "Find Your Passion" - College Info Geek

The RIASEC Model

You can also take assessments specifically designed to help you find your best career matches.  A popular assessment is based on the work by John L. Holland and is referred to as the Holland Code or Holland Occupational Themes (RIASEC). In this model, there are six personality types, using the abbreviation RIASEC: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional.  You can take an assessment to determine your primary personality types at the O*Net Interest Profiler by the U.S. the Department of Labor. You can also take FOCUS-2,  ACC’s online career and education planning system for helping you choose a major, build your career goals, and learn job information.

According to Manish Hatwalne at MyZenPath, Career Interests Inventory shows six major classifications based on occupational interests, which form the acronym RIASEC. They are explained below.

  1. Realistic (R) – They are doers, hands-on people who prefer to work with objects, machines, tools, plants, or animals, or to be outdoors. They are concrete, practical, and realistic.
  2. Investigative (I) – They are thinkers, they observe, analyze, learn, assess, and find solutions. They are abstract thinkers, who explore different ideas.
  3. Artistic (A) – They are creators, they innovate, imagine, express, and prefer to work in an environment that nurtures their creative abilities.
  4. Social (S) – They are helpers, they often work with other people to inform, teach, inspire, or cure them. They are interactive individuals who manage, lead, or help people.
  5. Enterprising (E) – They are persuaders,  they also work with other people to lead, influence, or manage them.
  6. Conventional (C) – They are organizers, they like to work with data, structure, and details. They are conformists who carry out tasks methodically.

The diagram below shows the six RIASEC types pictorially.

Holland Codes – RIASEC (PC: Pintrest) )

These six types broadly categorize occupational interests based on who you are, your abilities, and what you like to do. In real life, however, one is often a combination of 2 or 3 of these basic six types called primary interests. The remaining interests are called secondary interests. A career around one’s primary interests is more fulfilling. The initial letters of the primary interests, such as RA, IAR, SAE are called Holland Code and indicate your dominant interests. For example, a person with Holland Code SAI would be SocialArtistic, and Investigative and might enjoy helping professions such as counselor/psychologist or they could be teachers of arts or some kind of therapist. It is not about pigeonholing people but more about finding patterns in interests and figuring out a good match for their combinations. Holland codes are indicative and NOT predictive. If you answer its questionnaire earnestly, the results are immensely insightful and can be used for college admissions, choosing a major/branch, and career counseling at any stage of your career. 

The National Career Development Association (NCDA) provides a variety of links to Career Self-Assessments if you are interested in exploring them. 

ACC also offers a variety of Career Services, for help with all stages of the career process. Follow the link for an overview of the services available, as well as a list of upcoming workshops, career fairs, and a link to the ACC Job Board.

Step 2: Get to Know Your Field

PowerPoint Slide: Numbers 1-5 appear in orange circles at the top, “2” being highlighted; title on top right is "5 Step Decision Process." Text at top reads Get to know your field / What level of education? A drawing of people seated in a classroom is below, and five circles at right read Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Professional, and Doctorate.

You’ll want to investigate the career paths available to you. One of the handiest starting points and “filters” is to decide the level of education you want to attain before starting your first or your next job. Do you want to earn an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctorate or professional degree? This is a key factor in narrowing down your search to career paths that will be a good fit for your goals and expectations.

Holland studied people who were successful and happy in many occupations and matched their occupations to their occupational type, creating a description of the types of occupations that are best suited to each personality type. Just as many individuals are more than one personality type, many jobs show a strong correlation to more than one occupational type.

Ideal EnvironmentsSample Occupations 
Realistic
  • Structured
  • Clear lines of authority
  • Work with things and tools
  • Casual dress
  • Focus on tangible results or well-thought-out goals
  • Contractor
  • Emergency medical technician (EMT)
  • Mechanic
  • Military career
  • Packaging engineer
Investigative
  • Nonstructured
  • Research-oriented
  • Intellectual
  • Work with ideas and data
  • Pharmacist
  • Lab technician
  • Nanotechnologist
  • Geologist
  • College professor
Artistic
  • Nonstructured
  • Creative
  • Rewards unconventional and aesthetic approaches
  • Creation of products and ideas
  • Advertising career
  • Architect
  • Animator
  • Musician
  • Journalist
Social
  • Collaborative
  • Collegial
  • Work with people and on people-related problems/issues
  • Work as a team or community
  • Teacher
  • Geriatric counselor
  • Correctional officer
  • Coach
  • Nurse
Enterprising
  • Typical business environment
  • Results-oriented
  • Driven
  • Work with people and data
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Power focused
  • Sales manager
  • Banker
  • Lawyer
  • Business owner
  • Restaurant manager
Conventional
  • Orderly
  • Clear rules and policies
  • Consistent processes
  • Work with systems to manipulate and organize data
  • Control and handling of money
  • Auditor
  • Insurance underwriter
  • Bank teller
  • Office manager
  • Database manager

You can use ACC's FOCUS2 to research careers that are interesting to you. FOCUS2 provides a plethora of useful information about specific careers including the required and desired skills, educational requirements, common majors, projected growth of the occupation, and average starting and lifetime salary. You can also use the Department of Labor’s O*Net to get a deeper understanding of specific occupations. For each occupation, O*Net lists the type of work, the work environment, the skills and education required, and the job outlook for that occupation. This is a truly rich resource that you should get to know.

The National Career Development Association (NCDA) also provides several options to research general occupations and specific fields and industries, including The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They also provide information on employment trends and information for specific populations. 

Step 3: Prioritize Your Deal Makers

PowerPoint Slide: Numbers 1-5 appear in orange circles at the top, “3” being highlighted; title on top right is "5 Step Decision Process." Text at top reads Prioritize your “dealmakers” and rule out your “deal breakers.” A circle bottom left reads “Decide what you WANT,” with “what role?” just below. To the right are four simple drawings in a grid: OUTSIDE or OFFICE [image of beach], BIG or SMALL [image of bar chart with rising arrow], COUNTRY or CITY [image of path between house and city skyline], and PUBLIC or PRIVATE [image of figure wearing hat and nametag next to figure wearing a tie].

You may now have a list of careers you want to explore. But, there are other factors you will need to take into consideration as well. It is important to use your creative thinking skills to identify your personal "deal-makers" and "deal-breakers." Educational requirements and job responsibilities aren’t the only criteria that you will want to consider. Consider some of the following factors as you explore your career options:

  • Do you want to work outside or in an office?
  • Do you want to be physically active or do you prefer a desk job?
  • Do you want to live in a city or have access to a city?
  • How long of a commute is too long?
  • Does this career require you to relocate? Travel often?
  • Is the location of this career somewhere you would like to live long-term? Is it somewhere your (future) family would like to live?
  • What is the cost of living in the area? 
  • Does this career provide you with the level of social interaction you desire?
  • Does this career allow you for the level of decision-making or independence you desire?
  • How much time must you invest before you actually start making money in this career?
  • Does this career provide financial incentives such as bonuses or performance-based increases?
  • Does the career require ongoing education and professional certifications? What time and cost is required?
  • Will this career provide you with the kind of income you need in the short term and the security you'll want in the longer term? 
  • Does this career provide stable and affordable benefits such as health insurance for your family?
  • How will this career affect your personal and family life? 
  • What are the opportunities for growth?
  • Does this career align with your personal values (Chapter 3)?
  • Will this career still be challenging and engaging in 5 years, 10 years, etc?

Step 4: Make a Preliminary Career Decision

PowerPoint Slide: Numbers 1-5 appear in orange circles at the top, “4” being highlighted; title on top right is "5 Step Decision Process." Text at top reads Make a preliminary career decision and create a plan of action. Two website logos and addresses are in the middle: California Career Cafe, www.cacareercafe.com, and Career Zone California, www.cacareerzone.com. On the right is a drawing of a woman, titled “Use counselors.” The bottom shares a quote: “Find a career that you love and you will never work another day in your life” - Barbara Sher.

It may seem odd to be thinking about life after school if you are just getting started. But you will soon be making decisions about your future, and regardless of the direction you may choose, there is a lot you can do while still in college. You will need to focus your studies by choosing a major, covered in the next section. You should find opportunities to explore the careers that interest you. You can ensure that you are building the right kind of experience on which to base a successful career. These steps will make your dreams come to life and make them achievable.

Keep in mind that deciding on and pursuing a career is an ongoing process. The more you learn about yourself and the career options that best suit you, the more you will need to fine-tune your career plan. Don’t be afraid to consider new ideas, but don’t make changes without careful consideration. Career planning is exciting: learning about yourself and about career opportunities, and considering the factors that can affect your decision, should be a core part of your thoughts while in college.

Now that you have an idea of who you are and where you might find a satisfying career, how do you start taking action to get there? Some people talk to family, friends, or instructors in their chosen disciplines. Others have mentors in their lives with whom to discuss this decision. ACC has career services, academic advising, and transfer services that can help you with both career decision-making and the educational planning process. But be advised: you’ll get the most from these sessions if you have done some work on your own. 

Step 5: Go out and Achieve Your Career Goal

PowerPoint Slide: Numbers 1-5 appear in orange circles at the top, “5” being highlighted; title on top right is "5 Step Decision Process." Text at top reads Go out and achieve your career goal! A drawing shows a man wearing a backpack at the bottom of a set of steps, with the phrases written on each riser. From bottom to top, they read: preliminary plan, comprehensive plan, internships, part time work, volunteer work, GOAL!

Now it’s time to take concrete steps toward achieving your educational and career goals. You can start by working with your Area of Study Advisor to create a comprehensive educational plan that maps out the degree you are currently working toward. There are detailed Program Maps for all ACC degrees and certificates that outline all required coursework and a suggested timeline. Your desired career may require you to transfer to a four-year university. Consult with Transfer Services or meet with a Transfer Specialist to ensure you are on the right track to transfer and understand the deadlines and requirements. 

You may also want to look for volunteer opportunities, internships, or part-time employment that help you test and confirm your preliminary career choice.  Relevant experience is not only important as a job qualification; it can also provide you with a means to explore or test out occupational options and build a contact list that will be valuable when networking for your career.

Volunteering is especially good for students looking to work in social and artistic occupations, but students looking for work in other occupation types should not shy away from this option. You can master many transferable skills through volunteering! Certainly, it is easy to understand that if you want to be in an artistic field, volunteering at a museum or performance center can provide you with relevant experience. But what if you want to work in an engineering field? Volunteering for an organization promoting green energy would be helpful. Looking for a career in homeland security? Do volunteer work with the Red Cross or the Coast Guard Auxiliary. With a little brainstorming and an understanding of your career field, you should be able to come up with relevant volunteer experiences for just about any career.

Internships focus on gaining practical experience related to a course or program of study. Interns work for an organization or company for a reduced wage or stipend or volunteer in exchange for practical experience. A successful internship program should create a win-win situation: the intern should add value to the company’s efforts, and the company should provide a structured program in which the student can learn or practice work-related skills. Internships are typically held during summers or school vacation periods, though on occasion they can be scheduled for a set block of time each week during the course of a regular school term.

Once you secure an internship (usually through a normal job application process aided by a faculty member or the career guidance or placement office), it is important to have a written agreement with the employer in which the following is stated:

  1. The learning objective for the internship
  2. The time commitment you will invest (including work hours)
  3. The work the company expects you to do
  4. The work your supervisor will do for the college and for the student (internship progress reports, evaluations, etc.)

This written agreement may seem like overkill, but it is critical to ensure that the internship experience doesn’t degrade into unsatisfying tasks such as photocopying and filing.

Remember that a key objective of your internship is to develop relationships you can use for mentoring and networking during your career. Befriend people, ask questions, go the extra mile in terms of what is expected of you, and generally participate in the enterprise. The extra effort will pay dividends in the future.

Part-time employment may be an option if your study schedule provides enough free time. If so, be sure to investigate opportunities in your field of study. Ask your instructors and the career guidance or placement office to help you generate job leads, even if they are not specifically in the area you want to be working in. It is valuable and relevant to hold a job designing Web sites for an advertising agency, for example, if your specific job objective is to produce event marketing. The understanding of how an advertising agency works and the contacts you make will make the experience worthwhile.

If you are lucky enough to have a job in your field of study already and are using your college experience to enhance your career opportunities, be sure to link what you are learning to what you do on the job—and what you do on the job to what you are learning. Ask your supervisor and employer about ideas you have picked up in class, and ask your instructors about the practices you apply at work. This cross-linking will make you a much stronger candidate for future opportunities and a much better student in the short term.

Your work experiences and life circumstances will undoubtedly change throughout the course of your professional life, so you may need to go back and reassess where you are on this path in the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty. This number is projected to grow. A prediction from Forrester Research is that today’s youngest workers will hold twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime. But no matter if you feel like you were born knowing what you want to do professionally, or you feel totally unsure about what the future holds for you, remember that with careful consideration, resolve, and strategic thought, you can find a career that feels rewarding.

ACC Career Services offers ACC CareerLink as a resource to connect students with internships and employment. They also offer a variety of Career Events during the year, such as job fairs and opportunities for networking. 

College Major Exploration

Your major is the discipline you commit to as an undergraduate student. It’s an area you specialize in, such as accounting, chemistry, nursing, digital arts, welding, or dance. Within each major is a host of core courses and electives. When you successfully complete the required courses in your major, you qualify for a degree.

Your major is important because it’s a defining and organizing feature of your college journey. Ultimately, your major should provide you with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and/or behaviors you need to fulfill your college and career goals. In this section, we look at how to select your major and how your college major may correlate with a career. Does your major matter to your career? What happens if you change your major? Does changing your major mean you must change your career? Read on to find out!

How to Select Your College Major

Selecting your major is one of the most exciting tasks (and, to some students, perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking tasks) you are asked to perform in college. So many decisions are tied to it. But if you have good guidance, patience, and enthusiasm, the process is easier. ACC's Career Services offers a variety of support and resources as you plan your major and career path. Here are some ideas as you explore different majors. 

  1. Seek inspiration
  2. Consider everything
  3. Identify talents and interests
  4. Explore available resources
  5. In-depth career exploration

It’s also important to talk about financial considerations in choosing a major.

  • Any major you choose will likely benefit you because college graduates earn roughly $1 million more than high school graduates, on average, over an entire career.

  • STEM jobs, though—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—can lead to the thirty highest paying jobs. So if you major in any of these areas, you may be more likely to earn a higher salary.
  • Even though humanities and social sciences students may earn less money right after college, they may earn more by the time they reach their peak salary than students who had STEM majors.
  • Students who major in the humanities and social science are also more likely to get advanced degrees, which increases annual salary by nearly $20,000 at peak salary.

The best guidance on choosing a major and connecting it with a career may be to get good academic and career advice and select a major that reflects your greatest interests. If you don’t like law or medicine but you major in it because of a certain salary expectation, you may later find yourself in an unrelated job that brings you greater satisfaction—even if the salary is lower. If this is the case, will it make more sense, looking back, to spend your time and tuition dollars studying a subject you especially enjoy?

Resources

Success doesn’t come to you . . . you go to it. —Dr. Marva Collins, civil rights activist and educator

This quote really sets the stage for the journey you’re on. Your journey may be a straight line that connects the dots between today and your future, or it may resemble a twisted road with curves, bumps, hurdles, and alternate routes.

To help you navigate your pathway to career success, take advantage of all the resources available to you. Your college, your community, and the wider body of higher education institutions and organizations have many tools to help you with career development. Be sure to take advantage of the following resources:

  • College course catalog: Course catalogs are typically rich with information that can spark ideas and inspiration for your major and your career.
  • Faculty and academic advisors at your college: Many college professors are also practitioners in their fields and can share insights with you about related professions.
  • Fellow students: Many of your classmates, especially those who share your major, may have had experiences that can inform and enlighten you—for instance, an internship with an employer or a job interview with someone who could be contacted for more information.
  • Students who have graduated: Most colleges and universities have active alumni programs with networking resources that can help you make important decisions.
  • Your family and social communities: Contact friends and family members who can weigh in with their thoughts and experience.
  • Career Services: Professionals in career centers have a wealth of information to share with you—they’re also very good at listening and can act as a sounding board for you to try out your ideas. They offer career and job fairs, resume reviews, interview help, and a variety of career workshops. 
  • Transfer Services: Career and Transfer Specialists are available to help you determine the best path to complete your associate degree, transfer successfully and meet your career goals. They can help you select the right courses that transfer and satisfy your ACC and university degree requirements. They can also help with your university transfer application or researching transfer destinations.

Many organizations have free materials that can provide guidance in selecting a college major, such as the ones in the table, below:

 

WEBSITE

DESCRIPTION

1

List of College Majors (MyMajors)

A list of more than 1,800 college majors—major pages include descriptions, courses, careers, salary, related majors, and colleges offering majors.

2

Take the College Major Profile Quiz (ThoughtCo,)

This quiz is designed to help you think about college majors, personality traits, and how they may fit within different areas of study.

3

Choosing a College Major Worksheet (LiveCareer)

A six-step process to finding a college major.

4

CareerFinder (RoadTripNation/The College Board)

You may already have a CollegeBoard account from high school if you took the PSAT, SAT, APs, or SAT Subject Tests. Use your account or create one to use the extensive Career Finder resource. 

Preparing For Your Career

If you lived and worked in colonial times in the United States, what skills would you need to be gainfully employed? And how different would your skills and aptitudes be then, compared to today? Many industries that developed during the 1600–1700s, such as healthcare, publishing, manufacturing, construction, finance, and farming, are still with us today. And the original professional abilities, aptitudes, and values required in those industries are often some of the same ones employers seek today. For example, in the healthcare field then, just like today, employers looked for professionals with scientific acumen, active listening skills, a service orientation, oral comprehension abilities, and teamwork skills.

Why is it that with the passage of time and all the changes in the work world, some skills remain unchanged (or little changed)? The answer might lie in the fact there are two main types of skills that employers look for: hard skills and soft skills.

  • Hard skills are concrete or objective abilities that you learn and perhaps have mastered. They are skills you can easily quantify, like using a computer, speaking a foreign language, or operating a machine. You might earn a certificate, a college degree, or other credentials that attest to your hard-skill competencies. Obviously, because of changes in technology, the hard skills required by industries today are vastly different from those required centuries ago.
  • Soft skills, on the other hand, are subjective skills that have changed very little over time. Such skills might pertain to the way you relate to people, or the way you think, or the ways in which you behave—for example, listening attentively, working well in groups, and speaking clearly. Soft skills are sometimes also called transferable skills because you can easily transfer them from job to job or profession to profession without much training. Indeed, if you had a time machine, you could probably transfer your soft skills from one time period to another!

What Employers Want in an Employee

Employers want individuals who have the necessary hard and soft skills to do the job well and adapt to changes in the workplace. Soft skills may be especially in demand today because employers are generally equipped to train new employees in a hard skill—by training them to use new computer software, for instance—but it’s much more difficult to teach an employee a soft skill such as developing rapport with coworkers or knowing how to manage conflict. An employer may prefer to hire an inexperienced worker who can pay close attention to details than an experienced worker who may cause problems on a work team. In this section, we look at ways of identifying and building particular hard and soft skills that will be necessary for your career path. We also explain how to use your time and resources wisely to acquire critical skills for your career goals.

Specific Skills Necessary for Your Career Path

A skill is something you can do, say, or think. It’s what an employer expects you to bring to the workplace to improve the overall operations of the organization. The table below lists some resources to help you determine which concrete skills are needed for all kinds of professions. You can even discover where you might gain some of the skills and which courses you might take.

Spend some time reviewing each resource. You will find many interesting and exciting options. When you’re finished, you may decide that there are so many interesting professions in the world that it’s difficult to choose just one. This is a good problem to have!

 RESOURCEDESCRIPTION
1Career Aptitude Test (Rasmussen College)This test helps you match your skills to a particular career that’s right for you. Use a sliding scale to indicate your level of skill in the following skill areas: artistic, interpersonal, communication, managerial, mathematics, mechanical, and science. Press the Update Results button and receive a customized list customized of career suggestions tailored to you, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can filter by salary, expected growth, and education.
2Skills Profiler (Career OneStop from the U.S. Department of Labor)Use the Skills Profiler to create a list of your skills and match your skills to job types that use those skills. Plan to spend about 20 minutes completing your profile. You can start with a job type to find the skills you need for a current or future job. Or if you are not sure what kind of job is right for you, start by rating your own skills to find a job type match. When your skills profile is complete, you can print it or save it.
3O*Net OnLineThis U.S. government website helps job seekers answer two of their toughest questions: “What jobs can I get with my skills and training?” and “What skills and training do I need to get this job?” Browse groups of similar occupations to explore careers. Choose from industry, the field of work, science area, and more. Focus on occupations that use a specific tool or software. Explore occupations that need your skills. Connect to a wealth of O*NET data. Enter a code or title from another classification to find the related O*NET-SOC occupation.

Transferable Skills for Any Career Path

Transferable (soft) skills may be used in multiple professions. They include, but are by no means limited to, skills listed below:

Dependable and punctual (showing up on time, ready to work, not being a liability)Self-motivatedEnthusiasticCommitted
Adaptable (willing to change and take on new challenges)Problem-solvingA team playerPositive attitude
Essential work skills (following instructions, possessing critical thinking skills, knowing limits)Communication skillsCustomer serviceWilling to learn (lifelong learner)
Able to accept constructive criticismHonest and ethicalSafety-consciousStrong in time management

Complete Section #2: ACTIVITY: Transferable Skills Inventory

These skills are transferable because they are positive attributes that are invaluable in practically any kind of work. They also do not require much training from an employer—you have them already and take them with you wherever you go. Soft skills are a big part of your “total me” package. Take the time to identify the soft skills that show you off the best, and identify the ones that prospective employers are looking for. By comparing both sets, you can more directly gear your job search to your strongest professional qualities. The following video further explores what soft skills are and why they are essential to the modern workplace, regardless of your specific career:

What Are Soft Skills?

 

Acquiring Necessary Skills for Your Career Goals

“Lifelong learning” is a buzz phrase in the twentieth-first century because we are awash in new technology and information all the time, and those who know how to learn continuously are in the best position to keep up and take advantage of these changes. Think of all the information resources around you: colleges and universities, libraries, the Internet, videos, games, books, films, etc. 

With these resources at your disposal, how can you best position yourself for lifelong learning and a strong, viable career? Which hard and soft skills are most important? What are employers really looking for? The following list was inspired by the remarks of Mark Atwood, director of open-source engagement at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. It contains excellent practical advice.

  • Learn how to write clearly. After you’ve written something, have people edit it. Then rewrite it, taking into account the feedback you received. Write all the time.
  • Learn how to speak. Speak clearly on the phone and at a table. For public speaking, try Toastmasters. “Meet and speak. Speak and write.”
  • Be reachable. Publish your email so that people can contact you. Don’t worry about spam.
  • Learn about computers and computing, even if you aren’t gearing for a career in information technology.
  • Learn something entirely new every six to twelve months.
  • Build relationships within your community. Use tools like Meetup.com and search for clubs at local schools, libraries, and centers. Then, seek out remote people around the country and world. Learn about them and their projects first by searching the Internet.
  • Attend conferences and events. This is a great way to network with people and meet them face-to-face.
  • Find a project and get involved. Start reading questions and answers, then start answering questions.
  • Collaborate with people all over the world.
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile and social media profiles up-to-date. Be findable.
  • Keep learning. Skills will often beat smarts. Be sure to schedule time for learning and having fun!

Get Involved

After you’ve networked with enough people and built up your reputation, your peers can connect you with job openings that may be a good fit for your skills. The video below, from Stephen F. Austin State University, provides great insight into how being involved while in college can help you develop these critical skills and into determining what level of involvement may be right for you.

Why Involvement in College Matters

As you can see, being deeply involved with at least one organization while in college creates the perfect opportunity to hone some soft skills.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A job is the work you do for a living, while a career is an occupation that requires specialized professional knowledge and skills and typically provides an opportunity for advancement.
  • Follow a systematic process of career development to assess your progress toward your goals, but know that you may need to reevaluate and change course along the way.
  • Use a systematic approach to narrow down your career interests and to select a major.
  • For your career path, you will need both career-specific hard skills and soft skills that are transferable because they are desirable in any field. Use your college career to help develop both.
  • Take advantage of available resources and get involved in college organizations or activities to acquire the necessary skills, both in and out of class, for your career goals.

At the end of this chapter, you will find Supplemental Material in Sections 3-6. These sections contain additional material on Networking, Creating a Resume, Writing a Cover Letter, and Interviewing. 

 

ACTIVITY: TRANSFERABLE SKILLS INVENTORY

In the list of forty transferable skills that follow, underline five skills you believe you have mastered and then describe specific ways in which you have used each skill successfully. Then circle five skills you think are important to your career that you have not mastered yet. Describe specific steps you plan to take to master those skills.

Active listening

Decision making

Negotiating

Researching

Active learning

Editing

Observing

Selling

Analyzing

Evaluating

Organizing

Speaking a second language

Budgeting

Forecasting

Perceiving Feelings

Supervising

Coaching

Goal setting

Persuading

Teaching

Communicating

Handling a crisis

Planning

Teamwork

Consulting

Handling details

Problem-solving

Time management

Creative thinking

Manipulating numbers

Public speaking

Training

Critical thinking

Mentoring

Reading

Visualizing

Customer service

Motivating

Reporting

Writing

 

Skills I have mastered                                    

Examples of how I used them                                    

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

 

Skills I still need to master                            

How I will master them                                                

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

 

 

Supplemental Material: Networking

A man and a woman shake hands and smile at each other.In the context of career development, networking is the process by which people build relationships with one another for the purpose of helping one another achieve professional goals. When you “network,” you exchange information. You may share:

  • business cards, résumés, cover letters, job-seeking strategies, leads about open jobs, information about companies and organizations, and information about a specific field.
  • information about meet-up groups, conferences, special events, technology tools, and social media.
  • information on job “headhunters,” career counselors, career centers, career coaches, an alumni association, family members, friends, acquaintances, and vendors.

Networking can occur anywhere and at any time. In fact, your network expands with each new relationship you establish. And the networking strategies you can employ are nearly limitless. With imagination and ingenuity, your networking can be highly successful.

Strategies for Networking

We live in a social world, so it stands to reason that finding a new job and advancing your career entails building relationships with people in your field. Truly, the most effective way to find a new job is to network, network, and network some more. Once you acknowledge the value of networking, the challenge is figuring out how to do it. What is your first step? Whom do you contact? What do you say? How long will it take? Where do you concentrate efforts? How do you know if your investments will pay off?

For every question you may ask, a range of strategies can be used. Begin exploring your possibilities by viewing the following energizing video, Networking Tips for College Students and Young People, by Hank Blank. He recommends the following modern and no-nonsense strategies:

  1. Hope is not a plan. You need a plan of action to achieve your networking goals.
  2. Keenly focus your activities on getting a job. Use all tools available to you.
  3. You need business cards. No ifs, ands, or buts.
  4. Register your own domain name. Find your favorite geek to build you a landing page. Keep building your site for the rest of your life.
  5. Attend networking events. Most of them offer student rates.
  6. Master Linkedin because that is what human resource departments use. See the LinkedIn for Students Web site to get started.
  7. Think of your colleagues and family friends as databases. Leverage their knowledge and their willingness to help you.
  8. Create the world you want to live in in the future by forming it today through your networking activity. These are the times to live in a world of “this is how I can help.”
Hank Blank - Networking Tips for College Students and Young People

International Student Series: Finding Work Using Your Networks

If you are an international student, or perhaps if English is not your native language, this video may especially appeal to you. It focuses on the importance of networking when looking for jobs and keeping an open mind. Simply talking to people can help you move from casual work to full-time employment.

International Student Series: Finding work using your networks

. . . And More Strategies

Strategies at College

  • Get to know your professors: Communicating with instructors is a valuable way to learn about a career and also get letters of reference if and when needed for a job. Professors can also give you leads on job openings, internships, and research possibilities. Most instructors will readily share information and insights with you.
  • Check with your college’s alumni office: You may find that some alumni are affiliated with your field of interest and can give you the “inside scoop.”
  • Check with classmates: Classmates may or may not share your major, but any of them may have leads that could help you. You could be just one conversation away from a good lead.

Strategies at Work

  • Join professional organizations: You can meet many influential people at local and national meetings and events of professional and volunteer organizations. Learn about these organizations. See if they have membership discounts for students or student chapters. Once you are a member, you may have access to membership lists, which can give you prospective access to many new people to network with.

  • Volunteer: Volunteering is an excellent way to meet new people who can help you develop your career, even if the organization you are volunteering with is not in your field. Just by working alongside others and working toward common goals, you build relationships that may later serve you in unforeseen and helpful ways.
  • Get an internship: Many organizations offer internship positions to college students. Some of these positions are paid, but often they are not. Paid or not, you gain experience relevant to your career, and you potentially make many new contacts. Check CollegeRecruiter.com for key resources.
  • Get a part-time job: Working full-time may be your ultimate goal, but you may want to fill in some cracks by working part-time. Invariably you will meet people who can feasibly help with your networking goals. And you can gain good experience, which can be noted on your résumé.
  • Join a job club: Your career interests may be shared by many others who have organized a club, which can be online or in person. If you don’t find an existing club, consider starting one.
  • Attend networking events: There are innumerable professional networking events taking place around the world and also online. Find them listed in magazines, community calendars, newspapers, journals, and at the Web sites of companies, organizations, and associations.
  • Conduct informational interviews: You may initiate contact with people in your chosen field who can tell you about their experiences of entering the field and thriving in it. Many Web sites have guidance on how to plan and conduct these interviews.

 

  • Participate in online social media: An explosion of career opportunities awaits you with social media, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and many more. You will find an extensive list of suggested sites at CareerOneStop. Keep your communication ultra-professional at these sites. Peruse magazine articles, and if you find one that’s relevant to your field and it contains names of professionals, you can reach out to them to learn more and get job leads.
  • Ask family members and friends, coworkers, and acquaintances for referrals: Do they know others who might help you? You can start with the question “Who else should I be talking to?”

The bottom line with developing professional networks is to cull information from as many sources as possible and use that information in creative ways to advance your career opportunities.

Supplemental Material: Creating Your Resume

Creating Your Résumé

A résumé is a “selfie” for business purposes. It is a written picture of who you are—it’s a marketing tool, a selling tool, and a promotion of you as an ideal candidate for any job you may be interested in. The word résumé comes from the French word résumé, which means “a summary.” Leonardo da Vinci is credited with writing one of the first known résumés, although it was more of a letter that outlined his credentials for a potential employer, Ludovico Sforza. The résumé got da Vinci the job, though, and Sforza became a longtime patron of da Vinci and later commissioned him to paint The Last Supper

Résumés and cover letters work together to represent you in the brightest light to prospective employers. With a well-composed résumé and cover letter, you stand out—which may get you an interview and then a good shot at landing a job. In this section, we discuss résumés and cover letters as key components of your career development toolkit. We explore some of the many ways you can design and develop them for the greatest impact in your job search.

Your Résumé: Purpose and Contents

Your résumé is an inventory of your education, work experience, job-related skills, accomplishments, volunteer history, internships, residencies, and more. It’s a professional autobiography in outline form to give the person who reads it a quick, general idea of who you are and how well you might contribute to their workplace. As a college student or recent graduate, though, you may be unsure about what to put in your résumé, especially if you don’t have much employment history. Still, employers don’t expect recent grads to have significant work experience. It’s all in how you present yourself.

Elements of Your Successful Résumé

Perhaps the hardest part of writing a résumé is figuring out what format to use to organize and present your information in the most effective way. There is no one correct format, but most follow one of the four formats below. Which format appeals to you the most?

  1. Reverse chronological: A reverse chronological résumé (sometimes also simply called a chronological résumé) lists your job experiences in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent job and working backward toward your first job. It includes start/end dates and a brief description of the duties you performed for each job, as well as details of your formal education. This may be the most common and perhaps the most conservative format. It is most suitable for demonstrating a solid work history and growth and development in your skills. It may not suit you if you are light on skills in the area you are applying to, if you’ve changed employers frequently, or if you are looking for your first job. Reverse Chronological Résumé Examples
  2. Functional: A functional résumé is organized around your talents, skills, and abilities (more so than work duties and job titles, as with the reverse chronological résumé). It emphasizes specific professional capabilities, like what you have done or what you can do. Specific dates may be included but are not as important. So if you are a new graduate entering your field with little or no actual work experience, the functional résumé may be a good format for you. It can also be useful when you are seeking work in a field that differs from what you have done in the past, or if you have had an unconventional career path. Functional Résumé Examples
  3. Hybrid: The hybrid, or combination, résumé is a format reflecting both the functional and chronological approaches. It highlights relevant skills, but it still provides information about your work experience. You may list your job skills as most prominent and then follow with a chronological (or reverse chronological) list of employers. This format is most effective when your specific skills and job experience need to be emphasized. Hybrid Résumé Examples
  4. Video, infographic, or Website: These formats may be most suitable for people in multimedia and creative careers. Certainly, with the expansive use of technology today, a job seeker might at least try to create a media-enhanced résumé. But the paper-based, traditional résumé is by far the most commonly used—in fact, some human resource departments may not permit submission of any format other than paper-based. Video Resume ExamplesInfographic Résumé ExamplesWebsite Résumé Examples

Contents and Structure

For many people, the process of writing a résumé is daunting. After all, you are taking a lot of information and condensing it into a very concise form that needs to be both eye-catching and easy to read. Don’t be scared off, though! Developing a good résumé can be fun, rewarding, and easier than you think if you follow a few basic guidelines. Watch this video for tips for writing a resume and making your resume stand out:

Resume Hacks - How to Make a Resume Stand Out

Contents and Components To Include

    1. Your contact information: name, address, phone number, professional email address
    2. A summary of your skills: 5–10 skills you have gained in your field; you can list hard skills as well as soft skills
    3. Work experience: include the title of the position, employer’s name, location, employment dates (beginning, ending)
    4. Volunteer experience
    5. Education and training: formal and informal experiences matter; include academic degrees, professional development, certificates, internships, etc.
    6. References statement (optional): “References available upon request” is a standard phrase used on résumés, although it is often implied
    7. Other sections: may include a job objective, a brief profile, a branding statement, a summary statement, additional accomplishments, and any other related experiences

Caution

Although you can benefit from giving yours a stamp of individuality, you will do well to steer clear of personal details that might elicit a negative response. It is advisable to omit any confidential information or details that could make you vulnerable to discrimination. Here are some tips on what not to include:

  • Do not mention your age, gender, height, or weight.
  • Do not include your social security number.
  • Do not mention religious beliefs or political affiliations, unless they are relevant to the position.
  • Do not include a photograph of yourself or a physical description.
  • Do not mention health issues.
  • Do not use first-person references. (I, me).
  • Do not include wage/salary expectations.
  • Do not use abbreviations.

Top Ten Tips for a Successful Résumé

  1. Limit it to 1–2 pages long on letter-size paper.
  2. Make it visually appealing.
  3. Use action verbs and phrases.
  4. Proofread carefully to eliminate any spelling, grammar, punctuation, and typographical errors.
  5. Be positive and reflect only the truth.
  6. Keep refining and reworking your résumé; it’s an ongoing project.

Remember that your résumé is your professional profile. It will hold you in the most professional and positive light, and it’s designed to be a quick and easy way for a prospective employer to evaluate what you might bring to a job. When written and formatted attractively, creatively, and legibly, your résumé is what will get your foot in the door. You can be proud of your accomplishments, even if they don’t seem numerous.

Résumé Writing Resources

WEBSITEDESCRIPTION
The Online Resume Builder (from My Perfect resume)An easy to use online résumé builder: choose your résumé design from the library of professional designs, insert pre-written examples, then download and print your new résumé.
Résumé Builder (from Live Career)This site offers examples, templates, tips, videos, and services for résumés, cover letters, interviews, and jobs.
Résumé Samples for College Students and Graduates (from About Careers)This site offers a plethora of sample résumés and templates for college students and graduates. Listings are by type of student and by type of job.
JobSearch Minute Videos (from College Grad)This site offers multiple to-the-point one-minute videos on topics such as print résumés, video résumés, cover letters, interviewing, tough interview questions, references, job fairs, and Internet job searching.
42 Résumé Dos and Don’ts Every Job Seeker Should Know (from the muse)A comprehensive list of résumé dos and don’ts, which includes traditional rules as well as new rules to polish your résumé.
How to Write a Resume: A Step-By-Step Guide [+30 Examples] (from Uptowork)This site describes common résumé tips and offers advice for landing a job.

 

Supplemental Material: Writing Your Cover Letter

Writing Your Cover Letter

Several stacks of cover letters on a table.

Cover letters matter. When you have to go through a pile of them, they are probably more important than the résumé itself. —woodleywonderworks

A cover letter is a letter of introduction, usually 3–4 paragraphs in length, that you attach to your résumé. It’s a way of introducing yourself to a potential employer and explaining why you are interested in and suited for a position. Employers may look for individualized and thoughtfully written cover letters as an initial method of screening out applicants who may lack necessary basic skills, or who may not be sufficiently interested in the position. With each résumé you send out, always include a cover letter specifically addressing your purposes.

Characteristics of an Effective Cover Letter

Cover letters should accomplish the following:

  • Get the attention of the prospective employer
  • Set you apart from any possible competition
  • Identify the position you are interested in
  • Specify how you learned about the position or company
  • Present highlights of your skills and accomplishments
  • Reflect your genuine interest
  • Please the eye and ear

The following video features Aimee Bateman, founder of Careercake.com, who explains how you can create an incredible cover letter. You can download a transcript of the video here.

5 Steps to an Incredible Cover Letter

Cover Letter Resources

WEBSITEDESCRIPTION
Student Cover Letter Samples (from About Careers)This site contains sample student/recent graduate cover letters as well as templates, writing tips, formats, and examples by type of applicant.
How to Write Cover Letters (from CollegeGrad)This site contains resources about the reality of cover letters, using a cover letter, the worst use of the cover letter, the testimonial technique, and a cover letter checklist.
Cover Letters (from the Yale Office of Career Strategy)This site includes specifications for the cover letter framework (introductory paragraph, middle paragraph, concluding paragraph), as well as format and style.

Supplemental Material: Interviewing

Interviewing

If your résumé and cover letter have served their purposes well, you will be invited to participate in an interview with the company or organization you’re interested in. Congratulations! It’s an exciting time, and your prospects for employment are very strong if you put in the time to be well prepared. In this section, we look at how to get ready for an interview, what types of interviews you might need to engage in, and what kinds of questions you might be asked.

Preparing Effectively for a Job Interview

  • Review the Job Description: When you prepare for an interview, your first step will be to carefully read and reread the job posting or job description. This will help you develop a clearer idea of how you meet the skills and attributes the company seeks.
  • Research the Company or Organization: Researching the company will give you a wider view of what the company is looking for and how well you might fit in. Your prospective employer may ask you what you know about the company. Being prepared to answer this question shows that you took time and effort to prepare for the interview and that you have a genuine interest in the organization. It shows good care and good planning—soft skills you will surely need on the job.
  • Practice Answering Common Questions: Most interviewees find that practicing the interview in advance with a family member, friend, or colleague eases possible nerves during the actual interview. It also creates greater confidence when you walk through the interview door. In the “Interview Questions” section below, you’ll learn more about specific questions you will likely be asked and corresponding strategies for answering them.
  • Plan to Dress Appropriately: Interviewees are generally most properly dressed for an interview in business attire, with the goal of looking highly professional in the eyes of the interviewer.
  • Come Prepared: Plan to bring your résumé, cover letter, and a list of references to the interview. You may also want to bring a portfolio of representative work. Leave behind coffee, chewing gum, and any other items that could be distractions.
  • Be Confident: Above all, interviewees should be confident and “courageous.” By doing so you make a strong first impression. As the saying goes, “There is never a second chance to make a first impression.”

Job Interview Types and Techniques

Every interview you participate in will be unique: The people you meet with, the interview setting, and the questions you’ll be asked will all be different from interview to interview. So how can you plan to “nail the interview” no matter what comes up?

A good strategy for planning is to anticipate the type of interview you may find yourself in. There are common formats for job interviews, described in detail below. By knowing a bit more about each type and being aware of techniques that work for each, you can plan to be on your game no matter what form your interview takes.

Screening Interviews

Screening interviews might best be characterized as “weeding-out” interviews. They ordinarily take place over the phone or in another low-stakes environment in which the interviewer has maximum control over the amount of time the interview takes. Screening interviews are generally short because they glean only basic information about you. If you are scheduled to participate in a screening interview, you might safely assume that you have some competition for the job and that the company is using this strategy to whittle down the applicant pool. With this kind of interview, your goal is to win a face-to-face interview. For this first shot, prepare well and challenge yourself to shine. Try to stand out from the competition and be sure to follow up with a thank-you note.

Phone or Web Conference Interviews

If you are geographically separated from your prospective employer, you may be invited to participate in a phone or online interview instead of meeting face-to-face. Technology, of course, is a good way to bridge distances. The fact that you’re not there in person doesn’t make it any less important to be fully prepared. In fact, you may wish to be all the more “on your toes” to compensate for the distance barrier. Make sure your equipment (phone, computer, Internet connection, etc.) is fully charged and works. If you’re at home for the interview, make sure the environment is quiet and distraction-free.  If the meeting is online, make sure your video background is pleasing and neutral, like a wall hanging or even a white wall.

One-on-One Interviews

The majority of job interviews are conducted in this format—just you and a single interviewer, likely the manager you would report to and work with. The one-on-one format gives you both a chance to see how well you connect and how well your talents, skills, and personalities mesh. You can expect to be asked questions like “Why would you be good for this job?” and “Tell me about yourself.” Many interviewees prefer the one-on-one format because it allows them to spend in-depth time with the interviewer. Rapport can be built. As always, be very courteous and professional. Bring a portfolio of your best work.

Panel Interviews

An efficient format for meeting a candidate is a panel interview, in which perhaps four to five coworkers meet at the same time with a single interviewee. The coworkers comprise the “search committee” or “search panel,” which may consist of different company representatives such as human resources, management, and staff. One advantage of this format for the committee is that meeting together gives them a common experience to reflect on afterward. In a panel interview, listen carefully to questions from each panelist, and try to connect fully with each questioner. Be sure to write down names and titles, so you can send individual thank-you notes after the interview.

Serial Interviews

Serial interviews are a combination of one-on-one meetings with a group of interviewers, typically conducted as a series of meetings staggered throughout the day. Ordinarily, this type of interview is for higher-level jobs, when it’s important to meet at length with major stakeholders. If your interview process is designed this way, you will need to be ultra-prepared, as you will be answering many in-depth questions. Stay alert.

Lunch Interviews

In some higher-level positions, candidates are taken to lunch or dinner, especially if this is a second, or “call back” interview. If this is you, count yourself lucky and be on your best behavior, because even if the lunch meeting is unstructured and informal, it’s still an official interview. Do not order an alcoholic beverage, and use your best table manners. You are not expected to pay or even to offer to pay. But, as always, you must send a thank-you note.

Group Interviews

Group interviews are comprised of several interviewees and perhaps only one or two interviewers who may make a presentation to the assembled group. This format allows an organization to quickly prescreen candidates. It also gives candidates a chance to quickly learn about the company. As with all interview formats, you are being observed. How do you behave with your group? Do you assume a leadership role? Are you quiet but attentive? What kind of personality is the company looking for? A group interview may reveal this.

For a summary of the interview formats we’ve just covered (and a few additional ones), take a look at the following video, Job Interview Guide—10 Different Types of Interviews in Today’s Modern World.

Job Interview Guide - 10 Different Types of Interviews in Today's Modern World

Interview Questions

For most job candidates, the burning question is “What will I be asked?” There’s no way to anticipate every single question that may arise during an interview. It’s possible that, no matter how well prepared you are, you may get a question you just didn’t expect. But that’s okay. Do as much preparation as you can—which will build your confidence—and trust that the answers will come.

To help you reach that point of sureness and confidence, take time to review common interview questions. Think about your answers. Make notes, if that helps. And then conduct a practice interview with a friend, family member, or colleague. Speak your answers out loud. Below is a list of resources that contain common interview questions and good explanations/answers you might want to adopt.

 WEBSITEDESCRIPTION
1100 top job interview questions—be prepared for the interview (from Monster.com)This site provides a comprehensive set of interview questions you might expect to be asked, categorized as basic interview questions, behavioral questions, salary questions, career development questions, and other kinds. Some of the listed questions provide comprehensive answers, too.
2Interview Questions and Answers (from BigInterview)This site provides text and video answers to the following questions: Tell me about yourself, describe your current position, why are you looking for a new job, what are your strengths, what is your greatest weakness, why do you want to work here, where do you see yourself in five years, why should we hire you, and do you have any questions for me?
3Ten Tough Interview Questions and Ten Great Answers (from CollegeGrad)This site explores some of the most difficult questions you will face in job interviews. The more open-ended the question, the greater the variation among answers. Once you have become practiced in your interviewing skills, you will find that you can use almost any question as a launching pad for a particular topic or compelling story.

Why Should We Hire You

From the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business Career Management Office, here is a video featuring representatives from recruiting companies offering advice for answering the question “Why should we hire you?” As you watch, make mental notes about how you would answer the question in an interview for a job you really want.

"Why Should We Hire You?" How to Answer this Interview Question

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