Chapter 12: Taking Control of Your Future

Figure 12.1

A teacher helping out some students in a study group

Where Are You Now?

Assess your present knowledge and attitudes.

Yes Unsure No
1. I have a good understanding of my career options.
2. I have a good understanding of the work-related skills I will need in my chosen career and a plan to get them.
3. I know where I can get useful information about careers.
4. I have created a transferable skills inventory.
5. I have a written up-to-date résumé.
6. I know how to prepare an effective cover letter.
7. I have both professional and social networks.
8. I have discussed my career objectives with my academic advisor.
9. I am comfortable in interviews.
10. I have chosen my major based on the job market.
11. I have chosen my major based on my personal interests.

Where Do You Want to Go?

Think about how you answered the questions above. Be honest with yourself. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your preparation for your future at this time?

I’m adrift (no idea)

I have a clear direction

and plan to get there

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

In the following list, circle the three most important areas in which you think you can improve:

  • Following my dreams to successful employment
  • Networking for employment
  • Completing informational interviews
  • Completing employment interviews
  • Writing résumés
  • Researching potential employers
  • Writing effective cover letters
  • Researching and choosing a college major
  • Researching potential careers
  • Understanding the financial implications of career choices
  • Defining short-, medium-, and long-term plans for career development
  • Discovering my transferable skills
  • Addressing required work-based skills

Are there other areas in which you can improve your career planning? Write down other things you feel you need to work on.




How to Get There

Here’s what we’ll work on in this chapter:

  • Learning how the employment market has changed over the past ten years and what that means to you
  • Discovering your roles and your dreams
  • Choosing a major
  • Working with your faculty advisor
  • Learning the difference between jobs and careers (there is a difference)
  • Exploring career options
  • Learning what work-based skills and transferable skills you really need
  • Transferring to a four-year college
  • Building your experience base
  • Writing résumés
  • Writing cover letters
  • Completing informational interviews
  • Interviewing for a job
  • Networking for employment
  • Preparing your life-work plan

A Journey Begins…

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.

Yogi Berra

This popular saying attributed to Yogi Berra suggests that we should have a pretty clear picture of where we are headed. And college, for most of us, is the last step toward a fulfilling and exciting career. But the fact is that the employment market and job-seeking techniques have changed significantly over the past ten years and will continue to change; it is not as easy as it once was to map out a clear career path. However, a clear direction can still provide enough flexibility to respond to the changing needs of today’s job market. In fact, building flexibility into your career plans is a requirement for achieving a successful career.

Consider the ways in which the job market has changed—and what it may mean to your planning:

  • You will likely be employed by many organizations in your lifetime. The idea of working for a single employer is no longer the rule but rather the exception. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor found that on average, people hold close to eleven jobs between the ages of eighteen and forty-two. This trend means today’s graduates need to be very flexible in their career plans and that they should make an effort to identify and develop transferable skills in order to navigate the changing employment market.
  • Five years from now, you may be working in a job that doesn’t even exist in the present. As new technology accelerates and national and global priorities (such as going green or national security) take on a new sense of urgency, new needs are identified and new jobs will be created to fill those needs. Think about this: five years ago, a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist was a job in only a handful of Web-centric companies. With the meteoric growth of Google, SEO is now a common role in just about any marketing department—and a job in relatively high demand. In the same way, the aging population has created new opportunities in elder care, the events of 9/11 has created a whole new category of jobs in homeland security, and new discoveries and approaches in science have created fields like biotechnology and nanotechnology. Today’s students and job hunters must become lifetime learners to keep up with new trends.
  • The physical location of a job is no longer as important as it once was. Other than jobs that require you to serve customers in a specific location or region or jobs that require specialized equipment (as in manufacturing facilities), companies increasingly have off-site employees who stay connected via the Internet. This means that students and job hunters should be able to demonstrate the ability to work independently and produce results without consistent, direct personal supervision.
  • The growth of job posting sites online has created a glut of applicants for most posted positions. You have access to millions of job opportunities via the Web, but so do hundreds or thousands of other job seekers. Each employer must cull through hundreds of résumés received for each job posted on the Web. Strategies for standing out in this crowded field become very important.

These factors combine to create a job environment that is different from what most people might expect. The way you prepare for a career needs to be more flexible and more personalized. Technology will play an important role in your career development. Linking your demonstrable skills to the needs of a job will be a key to your success. This chapter will help set you up for this challenging environment.


U.S. Census Bureau, “Table 597. Average Number of Jobs Held From Ages 18 to 42: 1978 to 2006,” U.S. Department of Labor: National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 2007, (accessed July 13, 2010).


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