So, what do you want to be when you grow up? aka, The importance of career development in college planning

Lucky us! IN College Planning Advisor Alecea Howell shares her thoughts about the importance of career development in the college planning process. Interested in working with amazing Alecea, or one of our other incredible advisors on your own career plan? Get in touch, we’d love to help!


Have you ever searched the internet for “the first steps in the college planning process” and seen the dreaded, “Select Your School List?” I know, I’ve seen it too. I also know that planning for college can be overwhelming (trust me, I’ve been there), and that there are a ton of places where you can start.

So, what should the first steps be?

Truthfully? Career and academic development. Without these, it’s hard to pick a major, let alone a college. And, honestly, picking the “best” college is all about knowing your best self (whatever that means). Don’t worry, I’ll explain it a little later.

So, you may be asking, what even is career and academic development?

Let’s start off with talking about it in the broad scheme of things. Career development can be equated to all of the other “first steps” you take before making a huge investment. For example, before buying a house, you may have a realtor show you several options – you look at things that are affordable and meet your specific criteria. Before you buy a car, you would want to test drive it so you could see how it feels. College is no different. I mean, you invest your time, energy, and money, so why wouldn’t we want to take the time to look at all factors with careful consideration, just like all of those other investments?

Down to its core, career development is honestly a two-fold process that’s all about self-exploration in relation to the professional world. It’s really about knowing who you are; understanding your personality traits, passions and interests, your skill sets, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. Only once you’ve started developing this sense of self, you can identify specific career paths that best align with who you are and what you want in the world.

Now, this brings us to the fun part! Exposure.

It’s really about diving deep into what all of these potential careers are and what they mean for you. Ask yourself, what do I like about this career and why do I like it? How will my skills transfer to this job? What are my weaknesses, and how could they influence my career path? Basically just a lot of research!

And I promise, this is way more fun than it sounds…

Seriously, up until this point you’ve probably had some things floating around your head as far as potential careers go. You’ve known you’re going to college, but have had no idea what for, and even if you did, you’ve never really had a cohesive explanation for why (if you do though, that’s great, because I promise I didn’t at 16). But, I get it. Thinking about your future- this world of unknown with careers and majors and colleges- can be extremely overwhelming at times.

But, we want you to try and think about it a little differently.

With a little research, and some further self-exploration, you can begin to find some career paths that are, believe it or not, exciting! Rather than having a string of words on a page that have never really made much sense before, you can now start to develop a concept of what these careers are and really begin to understand their potential.

Therefore taking some of that “overwhelming unknown” out of the equation.

You can read the words “Biomedical Engineering” and no longer have a puzzled look on your face. You can feel confident when describing what Supply Chain Management is while rambling on about all of the ways it’s different from Operations Management. When someone approaches you and asks you the dreaded question,“what do you want to do when you grow up?” you can feel the anxiety leave your body because now you can say “I really like the idea of being a Medical Laboratory Scientist.” And, if you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic, you can even add a “here’s why”.

I mean, I’m getting excited for you just thinking about it. But honestly, there is no better feeling than reaching a point of self-actualization; knowing who you are, and understanding your potential. The whole process is just so empowering. Then, pairing that with a career that you love? Truly priceless.

Sorry, I’m getting a little ahead of myself (it’s that excitement, getting the best of me). Let’s get back to what career development is. Like I was saying before, research is an important piece, but it’s not the only one. In reality, there is only so much you can retain and try to visualize without actually experiencing it or at least seeing it first hand. A big part of career development is having the ability to shadow someone whose career interests you. Taking a walk in someone else’s shoes you may one day want to fill is an invaluable experience, especially when it comes to making a decision about your major.

Even being able to get details about the education they pursued, how long it took them, and if they are happy where they are, can give you relevant insight and advice. All in all, seeing a professional in action, on top of researching careers, can really provide you with a well-rounded answer to the question: “Is this something I really want to do?”

So, before I talk about why career development is important, let’s talk about things you should consider while you’re doing it, which is what I’ll be talking about in part 2 of this 3 part series.

To be continued…

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