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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Career Decisions

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Career Decision-Making Process


The foundation for career and life planning is self-awareness. For those making a career decision, it is important to learn about self, values, skills, interests, personality preferences, and motivations. Self-assessment is a way to look at your past experiences and your current self. This step is vital to making decisions and setting goals.

Reality Testing

The next step in this process is to brainstorm and do research on career possibilities. The goal for this step is to learn about jobs and careers to determine which career options best match the information gained in step 1. It is essential to do some work in this area to ensure a good fit with career choice.

Setting and achieving goals

In this step, the individual learns to make decisions, set goals, and develop a plan of action. It is important to remember that this process is circular in nature and that most people go through the career-decision making process multiple times in their lives!

For more information and workbook exercises to assist with this process, check out the CDC's "Handbook for Students Choosing or Changing Their Major" online!

How important is major choice?

Choosing a major is an important decision, however, major does not equal career!

A major is simply a statement declaring that the student has slightly more interest in one area than in another. Although there are some occupations that do require specific training, such as nursing, engineering, accounting, etc., there are more careers that do not follow from a specific major.

The majority of students in all colleges and universities change their major at least once; and many change their major several times over the course of their college career.

More than 70% of college students change their major at some point during college!

Studies have shown that within ten years after graduation most people are working in careers that are not directly connected to their undergraduate majors.

In most cases, the fact remains that an undergraduate degree (in something) was a necessity to get them to where they are on their career path.

Selecting a major because it is currently "hot" on the market can be dangerous.

Though it is important to look at the potential for employment, the job market is tough to predict. What is in demand when you are a freshman may not be in demand by the time you graduate!

A college major alone is not enough to help you prepare adequately for a career.

Internships, jobs, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work all contribute to your growth as a well- rounded person, and in developing your skills and abilities. In fact, employers place a very high value on these types of "extra" activities when looking for employees.

Your college major does not train you for a single, specific job. Instead, it seeks to develop your aptitude and abilities so that you can use them in the broadest variety of careers.

That is why it is important to choose a major that allows your individual talents to flourish. Find a major that fits you, rather than trying to fit yourself into a major. Undergraduate education is not so much a determinant of what you want to be, as much as what you are prepared to become.

For more information on majors & careers, visit the following link:

What can I do with a major in ????:


Sources: College is Only the Beginning, edited by John N. Gardner and A Jerome Jewler; What Color is Your Parachute, by Richard Nelson Bolles; What Can I Do With a Major In...? by Lawrence R Malnig; Antelope College Website; Major in Success, by Patrick Combs.

Myths about making a career decision

Myth: There is one right job just for me.

This is an age-old myth. There are numerous occupations for multi-faceted individuals where multi-talents can be applied.

Myth: Everyone starts their careers at age 21 and proceeds in a straight line toward their career goals.

It is rare that this will happen! Sure, some people's career paths lead down the straight and narrow, but most paths result in changes in direction. In fact, the majority of people change jobs a minimum of six or seven times over the course of their lifetime.

Myth: Career planning is an irreversible process.

Simply not so! Career plans are revisited and refined all the time. You can change career directions whenever your talents, needs, or resources dictate or allow you to.

Myth: A four-year college degree guarantees a good paying job.

The truth is, no college degree "guarantees" a stable, good paying job. The key is obtaining skills, education, and training that strengthen opportunities for finding a great-paying job.

Myth: Career testing will tell me exactly what occupation is right for me.

Test results can provide you with additional information that may be helpful as a part of the career planning process. No test, however, can provide infallible predictions. Use tests with caution and critically examine test results in terms of your own experience and knowledge.

Myth: Most people know their major and career goals when they enter college.

Some people may have a major or career in mind when they enter college and may actually stick with these original goals. However, the majority of entering college students changes their minds about majors and careers several times before graduation.

Myth: I should choose an occupation based on my strongest skills.

It is risky to consider only your skills for a career decision because skills are only one of the components of a full self-evaluation; interests and values are equally as important in the decision making process. Just because you are good at something does not mean that you will enjoy doing that activity for a living.


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