Plan It Out
Learn About Yourself
Deciding on a major or career path is a process that takes time. In order to make decisions that fit you, it is important to understand yourself and the possibilities that fit well with your unique skills and abilities, interests, and values. Below are a few ways to begin the process:
- Take a career assessment. Learn about your interests, values, abilities, etc., and how they connect with majors and careers. In addition, My Next Move and the O*NET Skills Search are questionnaires that allow you to see how your interests and skills can fit with particular jobs.
- Reflect on your achievements in school and/or work. What have you done? What have you enjoyed?
- Examine what you do in your free time. Are these things important to you in a future career?
- Talk with a friend or family member. What do they have to say about your strengths and skills?
Another important step is to learn about your values, since many of our decisions are motivated by our values. If your career or major are not in alignment with your values, you may have a difficult time finding job satisfaction. Check out the "Values Worksheet" to consider which of your values you find most important.
Decision Making Strategies
Next, you may want to reflect on your decision-making process. Whether you realize it or not, over the years you have developed a personal decision-making system that you use when you are presented with a decision situation. Depending on the circumstance, you might employ various strategies to find a solution. At times, you may depend on others for advice. You may also go with your instincts and rely on intuition for your decision. While there is a time and place for various strategies, it is best to consider a Planful Decision Making process to make a big decision like deciding on your major or career path.
Planful Decision Making
When you take into account your knowledge about yourself and about the environment, as well as consider the costs and benefits, you can make a planful decision. It is a slower method of decision making, but it allows you time to focus on details and gives you an opportunity to anticipate possible problems that may be faced. Planful Decision Making can be arranged in six steps:
1. Define the Goal or Objective
- Define the problem. Can you change part of the problem into a definite goal?
- What do you accomplish by what date?
- Can you state your objective clearly?
2. Self-Assessment and Evaluate Alternatives
- What are your alternatives or options?
- Are your choices consistent with your important values?
- Can you summarize your important values in writing?
- What is a reasonable amount of time in which to accomplish your alternatives?
3. Explore and Gather Information
- What do you know about your alternatives?
- What more do you need to know about your alternatives?
- What sources will help you to gather more information about your alternatives?
- What sources will help you discover further alternatives?
4. Assess Outcomes or Consequences
- What is the probability of the success of each alternative?
- Are your highest values a part of each alternative?
- Can you eliminate the least desirable alternative first?
- When you consider the best possible alternative, how much do you want it?
- What are you willing to give up in order to get what you want?
5. Establish and Commit to a Plan of Action
- Weighing everything you know now about your decision, what is your plan of action?
- What dates will you start and complete your plan of action?
- Does your plan of action specify the steps necessary to achieve its objective?
- Does your plan of action specify the conditions necessary to achieve its objective?
6. Reevaluate and Refine the Goal
- Determine if the plan of action still meets the objective.
- Evaluate goals and objectives and redefine.
- Begin the process again if the objective has changed.
The Decision Cycle
Through the Planful Decision Making Strategy, you can successfully go through each step to make a confident, well-thought-out decision.
Once you know more about yourself and your decision making styles, it is beneficial to begin learning more about your majors and careers of interest. Resources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook or O*NET have career information, giving job descriptions, salary details, and projected growth for an occupation. The website What Can I Do With a Major In has information for majors at K-State. You can also visit Explore Careers and Decide on a Major to continue discovering your options.
Professionals in your field of interest will also have useful information. You could arrange an interview with them to get a detailed understanding of what their job is all about. You can ask what they enjoy most, what is the most challenging, etc. After the interview, take time to reflect upon what you learned. Ask yourself whether the job is what you expected or if it sounds like a good fit for you.
You may also want to consider how your family's careers have influenced your decision about majors or careers. Some people will create a career genogram to see what their family's careers have been over time. Maybe being a teacher has always been in your family, or maybe your family has always hinted that a certain job isn't a good idea. Try to understand their thoughts about these careers, and then examine what your thoughts are on these careers and why. What messages about work have you heard from your family? What are some patterns of careers in your family? How does your family play a role in your career decision-making process?
If you have several jobs in mind, it might be difficult to decide which one is more appealing. Consider which characteristics of the jobs are most important to you and use those to narrow down your decision. Check out the "Career Decision Making Worksheet" to sort out the important characteristics of the jobs.
Internships - Take a Test Drive
Now that you have an idea of what you want to do, why not take it for a test drive? Many companies offer internships, which give you a chance to try out the new career and see what it's like. The Career Center can help you find an internship that is right for you.
If you're ready to start applying for internships or jobs, the Career Center can also help you with your resume and cover letter. You can set up an appointment for a mock interview, so you know what to expect in a real job interview.