You have made a lot of great progress up to this point, so take a moment and congratulate yourself on a job well done. It has not been easy, but you have been making large strides in your academic and personal growth. At this point in the Returning With Strength curriculum we want to take a moment to look beyond today – meaning you need to start planning for what the future has in store. What will you need to start working on in the short-term to set yourself up for the long-term? In this module we will cover the resources available through the Career Center, so that you know where to turn for support when you are at that stage of planning for Life Beyond the Arch.

Thinking About Next Steps

Throughout your life, you’ve probably heard about getting a good job after you graduate. Everyone might define that differently. Many people say a good job is one where you can make a lot of money, but is that true? And is that true for you?

What Is the Difference Between a Job and a Career?

A universal definition of a job is “work that you do in exchange for money.” It can also be a particular role or title. Going back to our definition of career above, a career is something for which we train, something that we intend to do permanently—which in actuality means long-term and over time, not necessarily for the rest of your life. It is a field or area in which we have achievement. It occurs progressively and usually consecutively. Here is how some current college students have defined “career”:

  • “A career is long-term; you do it until you can’t anymore.”
  • “Something you love . . . a dream job.”
  • “What you plan and strive for while you work.”
  • “When you are more invested in the activities of the job than just getting a paycheck.”

What Should I Be?

Have you ever heard statements like these?

  • “You are so good at math . . . you should be an accountant.”
  • “Your best grades have always been in art, but it isn’t really practical to become an artist.”
  • “You like kids so much! You should be a teacher!”

Many people tend to first think of careers based on images they see in society or the media. Prestigious and high-visibility occupations are what many young people aspire to when they are young. How many of you first wanted to be a doctor, firefighter, entertainer, professional athlete, or teacher? As we grow up and get to know the world better, we are exposed to a greater universe of jobs. However, young people in middle and high school also tend to look at careers based on the subjects they are good at (or not good at) in school. These self-perceptions and interests can last long into adulthood. But education and the work world can be extremely different environments with different purposes and expectations. The realities of jobs and careers we choose are vastly more complex than the courses we like or don’t and whether we perform well in them in high school. Though we may have some images for “what we are” and “who we should be,” there are also many different options, and the choices can be overwhelming. How do we ensure that we make career decisions that are productive for us?

Infographic of "next steps"

You can use the Career Planning Cycle to consider and reconsider your approach and progress in choosing and moving toward a career. (Credit: Based on work by Lisa August.)

The Career Planning Cycle helps us apply some concrete steps to figuring out where we might fit into the work world. If you follow the steps, you will learn about who you truly are, and can be, as a working professional. You will discover important knowledge about the work world. You will gain more information to help you make solid career decisions. You will get experience that will increase your qualifications. You will be more prepared to reach your professional goals. And the good news is that colleges and universities are set up nicely to help you utilize this process.

This material is from College Success – an Openly Licensed textbook on how to succeed in college. Chapter 12.

Life After UGA

It’s time to think about the upcoming transition from college to a career. There are many new expectations, experiences, and changes to anticipate throughout your transition. Taking the time to reflect on what you want your post-grad life to look like is not only beneficial to the transition, but it can be crucial to your success. The Life After UGA
guide will help you identify ways to navigate the transition from college life to the working world.

Planning for Graduation

Students usually pursue a college degree with some additional end goal in mind, whether that goal is further study as a graduate student or entry into a desired career. As you develop a plan for your undergraduate studies, you can also plan pursuits outside of the classroom to prepare for these future goals. To begin planning for life after graduation, consider the experiences that would best complement your coursework. If you are not required to participate in fieldwork or internships, perhaps you could plan a summer internship to help you gain workplace experience and learn more about what you do and do not want to do. It is also valuable to gain leadership experience through participation in student clubs and organizations. So what could that look like for you?

The UGA Career Center can assist with you with making your future plans and incorporating experiences into your academic plan that will prepare you to enter your career. These services are often accessible both to current students as well as to graduates, providing assistance with résumé writing and job searches. The  Student Alumni Council  can help you connect with other current and former students of all ages so that they can begin to build and strengthen their professional networks, leading to further job opportunities. And don’t discount the role of your professors in helping you build your network as well! In addition to providing valuable letters of recommendation for both graduate school and job applications, professors often have well-established professional networks and may be willing to help connect dedicated students with additional opportunities. You can plan these experiences to be distributed across your academic semesters and during the summer.

This material is adapted from College Success – an Openly Licensed textbook on how to succeed in college. Chapter 4.

Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0

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