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Career First Step: Know Yourself

Career planning starts where your skills and interests meet

By this time in your life, you probably know your academic strong suit. Maybe it's math, science, or a language. You also might have an intuitive sense of what piques your interest. Perhaps it's playing an instrument or writing computer code. The trick then is to find a career that combines your talents and interests and pays your way. Here's the idea: If you're passionate about what you do, do it well, and have realistic career expectations (will this job pay enough for me to live on?), you're more likely to prosper, meaning support yourself and your family as you'd like.

To help you explore your abilities and interests, consider the following suggestions:

  • Conduct a personal interest inventory. Like figuring things out? Enjoy debating an issue or playing a sport? You can find out more about your interests and even rank them by their importance to you by completing an interest inventory. Many are available online, including one from CareerOneStop.
  • Assess your skills. You might already have an idea about what you do well. A skills assessment can help you zero in on these talents and focus on other less-recognized abilities. An online assessment can give you feedback about your skills, including how to turn them into careers. CareerOneStop offers a great example.
  • Talk to professionals. Take a page from someone who has gone before. Have a conversation with someone working in a field you find interesting. You might find a mentor in the process.
  • Volunteer. Get a sense of how people turn their interests and skills into careers: Volunteer at a local school or hospital or at a charity event. You get some experience plus you find out if you want to pursue a career in a given area.
  • Chat with peers. Your friends and peers can offer examples of other interests and skills. They might also have gone some way toward realizing their own ambitions by doing odd jobs and volunteer work. Compare notes and ask questions to learn about their journey.
  • Find your role model. It sounds a bit clichéd but who you look up to can serve as an inspiration to exploring a field and realizing your own career dreams.
  • Try your hand at odd jobs. Summer jobs offer experience but also some insight into what you might want to do for a long-term career.
  • Watch career videos. Trying searching for a career and you might find an occupation that appeals to interests you didn't know you had. Browse AIE's online library of career videos.


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