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Steps, Planning and Timelines

Career & Major Decision-Making Tools

Selecting your major and career are big decisions, and are often the cornerstone of why many you are in college. These decisions involve much deliberation, reflection, thorough planning, and sometimes, change. Career Center advisors know how difficult this can be and are here to assist, listen and help facilitate the process to help you find the right path.  

We won’t tell you what you should do or which major you should be in; this is a decision you will ultimately make. However, Career Center advisors can help you gather information and walk you through the process of making an informed decision about your education and major (or combination of majors and minors), and a career plan that will make you feel more confident. 

Here are the steps we recommend that will help you in your decision making:

  • Step 1: Self-Understanding and Awareness

    Discover and identify your areas of interests, abilities, and work values

    FOCUS and  Idaho CIS are great tools for helping to identify your interests and abilities. There are also many other personality, interest and values assessments available on this website (hyperlink to new Assessments sub-content page). 

    Understand and assess your strengths and limitations
    • How do you demonstrate and utilize your strengths?
    • How have you (or are you) working on addressing and/or overcoming limitations?

    Research and explore the Career Center Career Planning Timetable.
  • Step 2: Research, Exploration and Goal Setting

    Investigate opportunities & possibilities

    Connect or re-connect and learn from those you know (or want to know).  This is a great way to collect information on careers, job expectations, and future opportunities; and to see if these are a good match for you.

    Research career options

    FOCUS, Occupational Outlook and Idaho CIS are great to learn more about different careers, geographic locations, future hiring demand, qualifications, education requirements, and salaries. 

    Informational Interviews

    Candid Career provides informational interview videos with hundreds of different careers. Talk to a Career Center advisor on how to set up an informational interview. 

    Plan and set short-term career goals

    • Identify ways to develop your skills and gain experience (internships, volunteer work, leadership activities, service-learning classes, international experiences, study abroad, research or shadowing).
    • Develop a plan and timeline for obtaining needed skills and experiences.


    Experiential education and gaining experience

    Participate in experiential learning activities such as undergraduate research, service-learning, internships, part-time jobs, clubs and organizations, volunteering and leadership activities.  (Links to VCC, Volunteer Center, Leadership Center, Research)

  • Step 3: Refine your Focus

    Evaluate and modify goals

    Observe and reflect:  
    • What did you learn through those experiences? 
    • How did this experience compare with your expectations? 
    • Do you see yourself working in this company/industry?  
    • Are there skills that you want or need to develop?  

    Refinement of goals:

    • What did you like most/least about your experience?  
    • How do these likes/dislikes affect your long-term goals?  
    • What types of careers would fit best with your strengths and limitations? 

    Develop a plan of action to achieve your goals

    Identify long-term career goals: 
    • What is your purpose?  How to you see yourself making a contribution through the work you do? 
    • What is your “dream job” or shortlist of dream jobs? 
    • What do you see yourself doing ten years after graduation? 

    Identify short-term career options that align with your long-term goals: 
    Example: If I want to be a writer for National Geographic magazine, I could… 
    • Get any position at National Geographic to get my foot in the door;
    • Get a writing position with similar magazines that may be smaller and less known; or,
    • Attend graduate school to gain more knowledge and experience.

  • Step 4: Take Action

    Sign up for a 1-credit Career & Major Exploration class to further explore your options

    Learn about networking and interviewing strategies

    • Begin networking to learn more about available opportunities and future contacts.
    • Attend Career Center events like job and graduate school fairs, employer. information sessions and on-campus interviewing, and networking nights.
    • Update your presence on social media networking sites like LinkedIn. 
    • Set goals for yourself (i.e. submit five applications/initial contacts per week). 
    • Set up and conduct a mock interview in the Career Center. 

    Carry out a plan of action

    • Maintain organized job application records and communications with employers.
    • Get your resume and cover letter reviewed by a Career Center advisor. 
    • Identify references who know your academic or work ethic, and ask them if you may use them as a reference (remember to also send them a copy of your resume).
University of Idaho Career Center – Career Planning Timeline for Students Decisions about your major and options don’t have to be made alone. Career Center advisors are available to help you throughout your decision-making process.

For specific questions about what classes to take or charting your course path, don’t forget to check in with your academic advisor and take advantage of the online and in-person resources offered by the Academic Advising Office,TLC Room 231.