When I Grow Up I Want to Be...

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When I Grow Up I Want to Be...

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How many times have you been asked: What do you want to be when you grow up? What are your plans after high school? Will you go to college or trade school? Or, if you are in college, what are you going to do with your degree?

How can you know what career is right for you—the type of career that makes you excited about going to work Monday morning instead of dreading it? Where do you start to find the answers?

A career is more than a job. According to Webster's Dictionary, a career is defined as "one's progress through life or in one's work; a profession or occupation which one trains for and pursues as a lifework," while a job is "a position of employment; situation; work." During your lifetime, you may have many jobs within your career.

You are unique. You have your own special set of talents and abilities. Choosing a career is part of giving yourself permission to be who you are. That's easier said than done, however.

Think of choosing a career like choosing an outfit—it needs to fit your body type and be flattering to you. What looks good on one person may not look good on someone else. Just because an article of clothing or a career is popular doesn't mean that it's right for you.

How can you identify your interests, values, abilities and all the things that make you you? Through career planning! Career planning is an ongoing process. Regardless of your age, it's important to assess where you are if you are to meet your goals and turn your dreams into reality. Your career will be a major part of your life. So the career decisions you make are very important.

Planning for a career doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and patience to ultimately determine a career path that suits you. But the journey is remarkable. What you learn about yourself will help you in all areas of your life, not just in finding a rewarding career.

Steps to career planning

There are steps that will help you make the most of your career planning. They do not necessarily have to be done in a certain order. What is important is that you are thorough in completing each step.

• Self-exploration. What are your talents? Consider your strengths. What skills have you developed through your classes, activities, volunteer experience and part-time or summer jobs? It's important to know yourself, your interests, your values and what you enjoy doing in your free time. A realistic understanding of your talents and abilities will help you apply them in the world of work.

• Career exploration. Where do you get information about what careers are available? Through television, movies, books? Most people have limited knowledge about what kinds of careers exist. Every year new careers are created due to the increase in technology.

Become curious about what people do for a living. Consult teachers, school counselors, professors, career counselors and other professionals about your career options. Your friends and relatives are also an excellent resource. For firsthand information, meet with and interview people who work in careers that interest you.

Once you've chosen a field, you can determine your educational options. Certain professions require a college degree. This might mean a bachelor's degree or even an advanced degree, while others require only an associate's degree from a community college or a specialized degree from a technical school.

• Gaining valuable experience. Summertime (when school is out for many young people) is a great time to explore different career options. Another way is to shadow a professional. Shadowing is spending a day or two with someone in a work setting. This gives you firsthand knowledge about a career. Volunteering allows you to increase your knowledge of both yourself and careers available. If you are in college, internships are a great way to learn more about specific industries and prepare yourself for the world of work.

• Setting career goals. After you have assessed yourself and explored career options, your next step is to set career goals. Defining your goals will help you take the necessary steps to be successful.

Keep in mind that you can have many career goals during your lifetime. You can change your goals at any time and continue to set new goals that motivate you to keep learning and striving for satisfaction.

When you begin something as new and different as a new career, it's not uncommon to run into roadblocks. Don't be discouraged. Take a look at your plan and make adjustments if necessary. If you find that one of your plans is not working out for you, try a different strategy. There are many different paths you can take to achieve the same goal. Remember, the world of work changes quickly and so can you. The beauty of career planning is that you can go back to it at any time during your life, review the steps and set new career goals.

As you proceed, it's a good idea to seek the guidance of a career counselor to help you through the planning process. A career counselor is an objective individual who can administer assessment instruments, help you explore your interests, personality, values and abilities. He or she can assist you in setting goals and refer you to other valuable resources.

Do what you love

You will spend a lot of time at work, so picking a career that allows you to do what you love is important. If you have a passion for your work, you'll never have to dread Monday morning rolling around. You'll be excited to go to work!

The next time someone asks you what your career plans are, I hope you can confidently say that you are planning your career and that you are excited about your future! VT