Four Phase Career Development

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What is career development?

Deciding on a career is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. Careers, like all of life, change and evolve with time. Career decision making is a continual process and a learnable skill. These phases should be thought of as simultaneous to each other, rather than sequential. They are designed to be used independently or with the help of your career advisor.


Career exploration is an ongoing process of learning about, and developing, personal preferences as well as gaining a deeper understanding of the career possibilities existing and evolving in the world around us. 

In the Explore phase you will identify and reflect on your interests, values, skills and overall identity to achieve robust self-awareness. At the same time you will access and increasingly develop knowledge about specific career possibilities.

The goal of the exploration phase is to make timely decisions about your career path, including majors and minors, by combining and comparing an understanding of yourself with the options available to you.  

Interests, skills, and values all play an important part in making any decision in life, but are especially important for career decisions. If you struggle with career and academic decisions you may benefit from developing a greater sense of self-awareness. 

If this sounds like you schedule an appointment with an advisor to discuss career assessments options.

Exploring the following resources and activities will help you choose an academic direction:

This isn't just for fun; clubs and organizations are a great way to create networks, assume leadership positions, and develop marketable skills.

You can explore the full list of Stockton clubs and organizations on OspreyHub

Another great way to explore these opportunities is at Stockton's bi-annual Get Involved Fair hosted by Student Development

Sound career decisions require reliable, accurate information about the reality of jobs and occupations. The following resources and activities can help you get the information you need: 

Career preparedness simply means being ready for career opportunities. This includes the steps you take for planned career goals as well as learning to be open and ready to respond to unexpected, unplanned opportunities. 

In this phase, you will articulate emerging career and academic goals while continuing to gather and prioritize the requirements for achieving those goals. With a keen understand of employer needs, you will use principles of professional branding to demonstrate your value through resumes, cover letters, networking and job searching tactics.

The goal of the preparedness phase is to plan and pursue primary career goals while learning to recognize and take advantage of chance opportunities when they arise. 

Degree works allows you to examine requirements toward achieving your intended degree. This is an important step in planning timely degree achievement.

You should also use Degree Works to consider minors as well as cognates and "at-some-distance" courses. Specializing your education can help set you apart from other job and internship candidates.

Use the “What if” tab on Degreeworks to test hypothetical degrees and minors. For expert assistance with Stockton's curriculum consider meeting with one of our outstanding academic advisors

Tip: Don't wait until the week before registration to plan your course selection.

To become a qualified candidate you will need to know the qualifications employers seek for the positions that interests you and work hard to obtain them. 

Resumes and cover letters evolve from semester to semester and change with your career goals. It is not enough to have a resume or cover letter, you'll need to learn how to write each effectively and quickly. 

Whether your interviewing for a big job or sharing an elevator with the president of your dream employer, you'll benefit from being able to confidently respond to the question, "tell me about yourself?" 

  • Start with your major, concentration, and minor

  • Then, summarize  your relevant experience or a relevant accomplishment.

  • End with your immediate career interests and/or goals.

Great pitches should be well rehearsed and fluid enough to adapt to varying audiences and settings. Try to keep them to 30 seconds or less. 

Example: I am senior biology major with an excellent GPA, academic and research experience in freshwater ecology, and I have also served as the president of the table tennis club for 3 years. I am really interested in working in conservation and preservation at the state or federal level. 

Great interviews involve a lot more than smiles and charisma. Careful preparation and practice are key! Here are several resources to help you get ready for the big day. 

The most effective job searches are focused on a defined goal (also known as a job target),  are well organized and structured, and incorporate a large proportion of strategic networking. 

The following will help you get started with your job search:

Job search boards are an important part of a well organized job search, but should not be relied upon solely. Here are two of the most useful job boards: 

Although the search process is the same, there are some important things to consider when preparing to find an internship. Learn more about internships here, and be sure to speak with Career Education and Development as well as relevant faculty and programmatic coordinators. 

Graduate school is a very big decision. You should carefully consider the necessity of a graduate degree for your career aspiration, the timing of a graduate degree, and the costs before committing. This takes time, so start early.

Applying to graduate school is also time consuming and a lot of work, and not just for you! Understand what you need to apply well in advance of deadlines and make sure you give your recommenders ample time to write letters. 

Here are some resources to help you start considering graduate education as well as how to do so when the time arrives: 

Career commitment is about making a choice and taking action. This means engaging in career related activities to try on different career roles while exploring your interests and honing skill sets. 

Each experience you gain will give you a better understanding of your work and career preferences. This means that you'll be able to make better decisions as time goes by, but it also means that you'll have to take some risks too. 

The goal of the start phase is to actively engage with work opportunities and to take calculated risks in exploring new opportunities.

There is no set timeline for declaring a major, and many student will change majors at some point. The more exploration and planning you do earlier in your education, the sooner you'll be ready to declare. 

To declare a major, complete and submit this form to academic advising

If you are considering a major change and need assistance with the process: 

OspreyHub is a great way to find and join student groups. 

If you don't find something that is for you, consider starting your own student organization. 

You might also consider a leadership role within your organization or run for  Student Senate

Service Learning offers many opportunities to hone and develop many marketable skills while gaining invaluable experiences.

  • Complete other service oriented projects and programs and/or apply to be a Bonner Leader. 

These are two great ways to observe real-world work settings without making serious commitments. For example, a student interested in becoming a veterinarian might volunteer with an animal shelter, animal hospital, or veterinarian office. Career Education and Development can help teach you how to find these opportunities.

Most professions can be accessed and experienced through part-time work opportunities. For example, if you are interested in law enforcement try seasonal or year-round work in security or as class one or two police officer. Consider discussing this with Career Education and Development.

Internships, whether for-credit, not-for-credit, paid, or unpaid, are a great way to gain marketable experience. Not surprisingly, as many as 60% of internships lead to full-time job offers.

 Professors are outstanding resources in your career deveopment and may provide you with mentorship as well as connections to opportunities with a variety of industries and fields. 

Engage with them for formal and informal projects as well as other academic opportunites like being a Teaching Assistant.

You can also apply for national opportunities through REU programs.

Graduate school is a necessity for some and a strategic investment for others. It is a serious time commitment which is both expensive and time consuming. Do your homework and be confident in your reasoning when you make the commitment. 
This is the logical goal of education for most undergraduate students and a very big step in your career. It is also a big commitment, so be strategic and choose a first job that makes sense for you. At the same time, it won't be your last job, so don't be afraid to take small risks for exciting opportunities. 

Adapting is about actively building resiliency and responsiveness to lifes unplanned changes and chance events. 

Over the course of your career you will expereince barriers and set backs as well as unexpect and chance opportunites. Be on the lookout for both and be ready to change course. 

The goal of the adapt phase is to develop flexibility in goal setting, maintain an awareness of alternate career directions,  learn take calculated risks, and generally increasing comfort with the unexpected nature of life and career

Career goals are specific in the near term and progressively more fuzzy, or flexible, in the long term.

It might be helpful to think of career goals as near term,  concrete objectives and career aspirations as more distant  possibilities.

For instance, a great career aspiration is to become a neurosurgeon; however, it is a long road with a lot of ground to cover.  A great related career goal for an undergraduate student might be to obtain a biology degree with competitive grades leaving the door open for medical school as well as many other occupations. 

Try answering these questions to create your goals: 

  1. With in the next year I will accomplish: __________
  2. This will help me to accomplish my goal of __________ by graduation (or two or three years' time from now)
  3. If I am successful, I am most excited about the possibility of becoming __________ in 10 years (or more)

Life happens. Sometimes we change, sometime life changes around us. It can be as simple as desiring a new role or employer or as complicated as a complete career change. We could be lucky enough to hit the lottery, or be unfortunate to get laid off for any number of reasons (like a recession, or even a global pandemic).

For whatever reason you might need to make a change in your career plans, be ready with ideas and possibilities.

  • If I desire, or am required, to make a change in my career I could, or would be interested in, become: 
    1. __________
    2. __________
    3. __________
    4. __________
    5. __________

Tips: This is a great questions to add to your goal statements above. This list is something that should remain fluid and evolve over time with your career.

Careers are both created and discovered. Just as we might desire or be required to change our careers, we also may be presented with unexpected chance opportunities. 

Construction careers therefore requires use to be bale to make decisions. There are many way to make decisions, but some tried and true ways to analyze our options are: 

  • Pro vs. con list
  • Values congruence analysis
  • Skills congruence analysis 
  • Strengths congruence analysis
  • Informal and formal mentorship advising

Current students and recent graduates should consider meeting with working with an adivsor in Career Education and Development.

Change is not something most people readily embrace. It take time and energy and can also produce anxiety and fear (especially if it is undesired or unexpected change). However,  it is also a natural part of life and career. Dealing with change and overcoming obstacles is a learned skill. 

These questions will help you to be prepared for changes and obstacles: 

  • Who and what resources are available to help you?
  • What changes, challenges, or obstacles have you overcome? 
    • What steps did you take? 
    • What personal characteristics or strengths did you rely on? 
    • How can you apply that to your current situation
  • What mistakes or failures have you experienced before?
    • What did you learn from those experiences?
    • How can you apply those lessons now?