The difference between a senior in high school considering a major for the first time and a middle school student setting career goals is the process in which they make the decision. If you have not thought much about your future before heading off to college, you will most likely choose a major and career field based on what you are thinking and feeling in the moment. However, if you work through the career exploration and decision-making process early on, you can confidently declare a major and career path consistent with your strengths, talents, and passions.

Assess Interests, Values, & Skills Explore Careers Choose Career Options Compare & Rank Career Options Set Career Goals

The career exploration and decision-making process incorporates five steps: assessing interests, values, and skills, exploring careers, choosing three career options, comparing and ranking career options, and setting career goals. After you have worked through the first four steps, it’s time to set goals. A long-term career goal is the job you hope to pursue. Musician, accountant, social worker, and veterinarian are examples of long-term career goals. Short-term career goals outline the actions needed to reach your long-term goal. Depending on the profession you choose, job qualifications can range anywhere between one to twelve plus years of education and training after high school. The example below illustrates the long-term and short-term goals of a student interested in pursuing a career in engineering.

Long-term Career Goal:


Short-term Career Goals:

  1. Research classes required for an engineer major
  2. Talk with my guidance counselor about middle and high school classes that will provide a strong foundation for college classes
  3. In high school:
    a. excel in classes
    b. participate in school clubs related to my career
    c. pursue leadership roles
    d. volunteer/work for experience
    e. apply to colleges that offer my major
    f. graduate high school
  4. In college:
    a. excel in classes
    b. visit the campus career center and attend career workshops
    c. gain experience interning, volunteering, or working
    d. network with alumni in my field
    e. graduate college
  5. Apply to jobs

Looking back at your top three career choices, what are different ways can you incorporate training and education required for the other two occupations into your short-term goals? Maybe you can take enough classes to double major, or if that seems a little much, consider a major and minor. Some industries, like information technology, offer credible certifications you can pursue over the summer. Using the example above, if the engineering student was also interested in environmental science and web design, she could major in engineering, minor in environmental science, and pursue an industry certification in web design.

Just because you’ve set goals now does not mean you can’t change them in the future. As your interests, values, and skills evolve during high school, it’s important to evaluate and challenge the validity of your goals. And now that you have completed the career exploration and decision-making process, it will be that much easier to modify your goals if needed.

Are you ready to do what it takes to prepare for your career? There’s no better time to start than now! If you have any questions while working through the process or setting career goals, give us a call.