What are the main tasks in the career planning process?

Successful career planning involves five major tasks:

  1. To learn about self. Students need to identify their interests, personality characteristics, skills, values, internal influences, and external influences.
  2. To learn about options. Students need to learn about occupations, educational requirements, job performance requirements, job outlook, application processes, job openings, and networking.
  3. To be prepared for action. Students need to write resumes and cover letters, practice their interviewing skills, etc.
  4. To take action by participating in internships, obtaining employment, and seeking additional education.
  5. Decision-making is the heart of the career planning process. Students need to learn how to identify the decisions to be made, gather information, weigh the evidence, choose among alternatives, take action, and review their decisions.

What skills and characteristics do employers look for?

Employers across a wide array of fields look for the following qualities, but not limited, when hiring new employees: communication skills, honesty, integrity, teamwork skills, motivation, initiative, work ethic, analytical skills, flexibility, adaptability, computer skills, organizational skills, attention to detail, leadership skills, self-confidence, friendly personality, tactfulness, politeness, GPA 3.0+, creativity, entrepreneurial skills, and sense of humor (! moderate).

What are the risks or benefits of majoring in an “obscure” or “impractical” field?

The most important criteria in determining a choice of major should be the student’s interest in and ability to do well in the field. Generally, if students are interested and engaged in a subject, they will perform better and have a more rewarding experience at the NU and workplace. When students are excited about their studies, they communicate that enthusiasm to their professors (resulting in lifelong relationships and substantive recommendations), graduate schools (resulting in more abundant educational opportunities), and employers (resulting in a wider choice of job options during and after university). Often majors that seem “impractical” are highly attractive to a wide range of employers and graduate schools. Suffering through a “practical” major in which a student has no interest or ability to succeed makes the university experience and job search process much less rewarding and successful. A vibrant, strong record of achievement in an “impractical” specialization serves students far better than a lackluster record in a “practical” subject. Students can fill in the “practical” gaps through elective courses.

How can I best assist my child with his/her career development?

Researchers have studied the relationship between various family factors and career development for over 50 years. The most recent studies indicate that parents who want to enhance the career development of university students should try to do the following:

  • Provide emotional support and communicate warmth
  • Express confidence in students’ abilities and offer encouragement
  • Allow students to have and express their own opinions and desires
  • Support students as they make their own decisions
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries by not being too controlling or too detached

Source: Whiston, S.C., & Keller, B.K. (2004). The influences of the family of origin on career development: A review and analysis. The Counseling Psychologist, 32, 493-568.