College and career planning: Start off by identifying strengths and areas of interest

There is plenty to consider when declaring a college major or choosing a career path. Deciding between what seems like endless alternatives can feel like an overwhelming task, and many young adults are not sure how to go about making such impactful decisions. Often, students are influenced by the opinions of others throughout their college and career planning. Most take classes recommended by their academic advisors, and many emerging adults receive help from their families when making tough decisions. But without self-exploration, students may end up declaring a college major before they have taken the steps to fully examine their options.

Emerging adults who are considering college or a career training program will often ponder questions like:

  • What kind of job will I be able to get with my degree?
  • How hard will it be to get a job in my field?
  • How much money will I make?
  • What kind of benefits will I receive?
  • Will I be able to move up in my chosen profession?
  • Will I be happy with my college and career decisions?

However, instead of zeroing in on the possible end results of a particular career path or rushing to make a firm decision, emerging adults should be encouraged to explore the significance of their abilities and desires as they prepare for the future.  If you are an emerging adult selecting a college, choosing a major, or determining a career direction, begin envisioning your future by taking a self-inventory of your personal strengths and interests.

See your strengths and discover your interests

Think about your strengths as what you are good at doing and what comes naturally to you. Consider your interests in subjects or activities you find to be important, feel passionate about, or are curious to learn more. Start your inventory of strengths and interests by asking yourself questions like:

  • What do you do well (if unsure, ask a friend or family member)?
  • When reading newspapers, magazines, surfing the internet, or watching TV, what issues or topics are you drawn to?
  • What activities do you get excited about?
  • What do you like to do that makes you feel confident and comfortable?
  • Which classes were your favorites?
  • Have you ever participated in an activity where you lost track of time? What was it?
  • Are there subjects or issues that you find most fascinating?

Additional outlets for planning

Not all emerging adults can easily define their strengths and interests. Even if they identify their abilities and preferences, it may not be simple to go about building a career that supports them. If this is the case, emerging adults might consider other alternatives. Some emerging adults who have recently graduated high school might benefit from delaying college entrance and instead take a constructive gap year. Spending time abroad or gaining experience through employment could expand ideas and generate a deeper understanding of self.

And, regardless of where the emerging adult is in the process – fresh out of high school or fully immersed in college – taking part in a program designed to promote self-exploration, like offered at the Career Development Center at Yellowbrick, can provide vital information about unlocking personal strengths and interests.

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