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Career Action Plans: Bringing Your Career into Focus

When I first entered college as a freshman, career development was probably the last thing on my mind. I didn’t have a resume (why do I need one if I’ve only worked at restaurants?), and I didn’t have a clue how  a personal statement should be written. All I knew were a few classes that I needed to take to fulfill core requirements; and I had only a few ideas of what majors I would probably like to try out. While this is a good starting point as a freshman student, it would be wise to begin thinking about post-graduation as soon as possible. I think the whole transition from high school to college paralyzes a lot of students, keeping them from clearly envisioning their end goal and subsequently planning to achieve these ends. The new wealth of freedom and choices that come with the college experience can be quite intimidating. Luckily, students at the Mount have a plethora of career-related resources that can help ease the burden of career planning. Specifically, the Career Center offers a program called the Career Action Plan (CAP) that helps students organize their career planning process.

The CAP offered by the Career Center is broken down into four phases, corresponding to the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes respectively. The freshman phase is the most general, as it is focused on finding the right major for you, as well as marking the beginning of your professional career. During your freshman year, it’s helpful to take a serious assessment of your skills and interests, so you can find the major that best fits you. The Career Center offers access to the Focus career planning online system. Here, you can assess your skills, values and interests and see what majors best relate to your results. As most of you are probably aware, it is required for freshman students to create a resume during their first few days on campus. The Career Center will help you craft it, and then your advisor will review it with you. Beyond this advice, you’ll want to maintain a good GPA, network with your professors and career counselors, and join a club or two that are related to your major or intended career. Think of your freshman year as a time to plant the seed of your professional development, which will only grow with strong roots and continued upkeep.
The sophomore phase is for continued major exploration --and eventual decision. You’ll want to capitalize on the seeds that you sowed in your freshman year. If you haven’t yet, schedule an appointment with a Career Center counselor to discuss growing your professional portfolio. This means having a professional-looking resume, cover letter and personal statement. In the clubs that you have joined, work towards obtaining a leadership position by being active, available and engaged. Now is the time to develop a professional awareness, which means, in part, recognizing what looks good on a resume. Employers want leaders, so don’t miss your chance at obtaining a leadership position on campus. Sophomore year is also a great time to begin thinking about internship opportunities. Nothing beats on-the-job experience, so having an internship under your belt with help you stand out in the job market. Many internships require you to be at least a junior, so scouting out and applying for internships during your sophomore year is a good idea. I recommend attending information sessions and career fairs on campus to network and learn more about your career field. Developing a professional network is key to career success.
The junior phase is the time to tie things together by making some big decisions that will influence your career path. You will need to decide whether you plan on attending graduate school after graduation, or if you are looking to work. If you’re planning on finding a job, then it’s time to do some research about specific careers, and even particular organizations in your field of interest. I think this is also a good time to upload your resume to College Central to make it easier for you to apply for internships and summer jobs. Once you have some ideas on particular career paths/graduate schools, it’s time to discuss your plans with a career counselor. A career counselor will help you come up with a strategy to realize your goals. For graduate schools, this will involve registering and taking entrance exams, and for employment, researching specific organizations and applying for any internships they offer. You’ll want to make sure your business portfolio is updated and professional before applying for schools and internships as well.
Your senior year is when it all comes together. Hopefully, at this point, you’ve given thought to your professional career so that you can begin to apply for jobs and graduate school during the fall semester. Before you do, schedule a mock interview with the Career Center to hone your interpersonal skills. Also, have a finalized resume and cover letter that can be uploaded to College Central and sent to employers. It’s crucial to meet all deadlines and to remember to communicate professionally with employers and graduate school representatives. Other than College Central and career fairs at the Mount (this year’s Fair is on March 16th, from 3-5pm), keep an eye out for regional career fairs as well. This year, there’s one at Gettysburg College on Thursday, March 2nd. Keep in mind that you are a professional, not just a student! During your senior year you will be bearing witness to the blossoming of your professional career. It’s exciting to see everything come to fruition, and if you put in the time, you will reap the rewards of a gratifying, meaningful career.
Until Next Time,