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Five Career Planning Ideas for High School Students

Many high school students are understandably more focused on getting into college than they are on finding a job after college. Yet, having at least a few ideas in mind for careers that might interest you is an important part of college planning. Here are five things you can do now – while you’re still in high school – to start thinking about possible careers.

Know thyself.

Begin with your current interests, talents, hobbies, and personal strengths and weaknesses. Chances are they all contain clues about the types of careers that might be a good match for you. Need more ideas? Try the College Board’s Big Future Careers website, which offers hundreds of suggest-ed careers based on specific student interests. Or, take a career assessment test designed for high school students (such as Princeton Review’s Career Quiz) and see which jobs/careers are suggested for you.

Do some homework on jobs and careers.

There are many types of jobs and careers that most people have never heard of or know little about. How do you discover them? Start by talking to the adults you know about their jobs. How did they get interested in their career? What education and skills are required to per-form their jobs? What do they like about their careers? Don’t be shy; adults are usually happy to answer questions. You can also learn about various careers online. Two good starting points are the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the College Board’s Big Future site. If you think you may be interested in a science or technology related field, the Sloan Career Cornerstone website is also an excellent resource to explore.

Connect the dots between college majors and careers.

Although your college major does not always determine what you’ll end up doing for a career, understanding how various majors can connect to careers is part of career planning. As you explore the majors and programs offered at various colleges, take a moment to read through the relevant department’s information on careers for students in that major. Another good resource is the University of Tennessee’s What Can I Do With This Major site, which explains the typical career paths for over 70 different college majors.

Test the waters through extracurriculars and enrichment programs. Believe it or not, your extracurricular activities during high school allow you to explore potential jobs and careers. Managing finances for a school club, writing for the school newspaper or yearbook, helping to design and build the robotics club’s entry, volunteering for a non-profit, and even being on an athletic team, all offer opportunities to try out some of the skills you’ll use in real life careers. Enrichment activities, such as summer pro-grams on college campuses, can also help you learn about various jobs and careers.

Keep career planning in mind when visiting colleges.

Every college campus has a Career Center, staffed by professionals who are trained to assist college students with career-related concerns. They help students choose majors and careers, find internship and job opportunities, and gain important job-hunting skills. Make a point to ask about the services offered by each college’s Career Center when you visit colleges. Or better yet, stop in to the Center and say hello. While on campus, you will also have opportunities to talk with professors and students. Use those occasions to ask faculty about what their departments do to help prepare students for jobs after graduation, and ask current students about internships they’ve done, research opportunities, and what their majors and career plans are. If you can’t visit campuses, you can find some of the same information through each college’s website and social media. Planning will help you to find fulfillment in your choice of career.

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