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4 Steps College Students Should Take in The Career Planning Process

by | Feb 17, 2021 | Productivity

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Choosing your career path is possibly the most important decision of your life. Therefore, it is important to take career planning seriously.

This process will help you understand your short-term and long-term goals with your career. 

A college student can go through the steps alone, with a counselor, or a mixture of both. Academic advisors and career counselors are widely available and are experts.

To choose the best career for you utilizing career planning, follow the four steps of self-assessment, research, identification, and action. 

1. Self-Assessment

Close up of a pen writing on paper, planning out something.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Self-assessments are great for college students who are clueless about where to start with their career options. During this self-assessment, we are going to come up with 10 career choices by utilizing helpful tools. 


  • Career Key has a 10-minute assessment that will help you understand what your options are in potential careers. They focus on three main areas; fit, focus, and forward. They also feature several different career resources for career planning.
  • Work Preference Inventory is a test that has you choose one option over another in what you enjoy doing. This will give you your preferred work style. 
  • CareerOneStop offers three different assessments- interest assessments, skills assessments, and work values. It will help you with options and confirm the careers that are right for you. The assessment also can help you understand where you can get more training or experience, identify your skills that you would bring to that career, and help you with writing resumes and cover letters that are good for those careers. 

The disclaimer on this step is that these assessments are still only assessments. They are great for understanding yourself better, but these options are not your only options for a career. Do not let them limit you and your career goals. 

At the end of this step, have 10 career choices narrowed down. 

2. Research

A desktop with many items to research a plan with.
Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

With those 10 career choices that you found while self-assessing, narrow it down to 5 that interest you the most by researching. This is a time for career exploration, but you want to narrow down the ideas. 

For research, you want to start small and escalate to more hands-on research.

  • Internet research (a good place to start is LinkedIn and Scholars)
  • Informational Interviews
  • An externship, which is job shadowing a position for as short as a few hours, up to a few weeks.
  • Volunteering
  • College courses – then these will hopefully transition into choosing a college major.
  • Finding a mentor
  • Internship
  • Part-time job

While getting this research, consider possible job options, their job descriptions, qualifications, entry-level positions, the growth in those positions, and in the industry as a whole.

This step typically when you are making the decision about your major. When choosing a major, consider if you will need to go further and pursue a Master’s, or Ph.D. Some career options may require those higher-level degrees. 

Even when you chose your major, there still are a multitude of different career paths to go down. For example, if you choose to pursue a journalism degree, you still can get a career as a news anchor, copywriter, or author, to name a few careers. 

While you will be narrowing things down, keep other options in mind because you want alternative options.

3. Identification

A birds eye view of a desktop while someone is planning with many notes.
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

This is when it is time for decision-making. After completing the interviews, volunteering, or internship along with coursework in the field, you have a good idea of which career path is the right one for you. If anything, you know now what is not for you. 

When choosing a career path, it is first and foremost important to set concrete goals for yourself. 

Hopefully, this identification comes early in college and can allow for networking to develop with professors and fellow students, and can allow for extracurriculars around the chosen career path. 

4. Action

Someone jumping over a small area of water.
Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash

This step, action, is the time for the job search. After doing the research, you have a good idea on what your action plan should be.

This is your time to have career development. Being a college student and securing the first job is just the first step. But, by following this process, you will understand where those advancement opportunities are.  

While this blog is about college students, career planning is not just for college graduates. The process can be complex and someone can go through this process many times.

If you are on the research step of your career plan, use Scholars as your resource! There is a multitude of blogsvideos, and podcasts covering a wide variety of topics such as information on specific majorsinternshipsinterview, and resume advice.

About Scholars

Scholars helps companies build engaging candidate experiences at scale. Create personalized journeys for all of your candidates from application through onboarding.

About Scholars

Internships and early-career jobs are unlike any others. They are often accepted months, if not years, in advance of the start date leaving plenty of time for candidates to change their minds and decide to work elsewhere, costing your team time and money.

There are two ways that have been proven to decrease renege rates for any company: keeping candidates engaged by sharing personalized information and helping them make connections with their future teammates. Companies use Scholars to accomplish both of these at scale.