Making Career Choices

Making career decisions can be nerve-racking. Often students are afraid that they will make the "wrong" decision and end up in a career that will make them unhappy. Keeping the below thoughts in mind can help make the career decision making less stressful:

Make the time to explore your options.

You didn't choose to come to Northwestern without some serious thought, so why would you choose a career that way? Set aside time to learn about various careers and to reflect on your values, skills, and interests.

Keep your options open.

Many students believe they should have their career plans clearly defined - resist that expectation. Careers develop over time. In fact, for many, clarity about careers only develops after working a few jobs. Feel comfortable telling others that you're exploring your options, and then be sure to commit to a process of exploration!

Your first job will not determine the rest of your life.

This viewpoint will create paralysis and undue stress on your decisions. Rest assured that your first job has little likelihood of determining the rest of your life. In fact, your first job will have little to do with your last job.

Take risks.

Don't be afraid of failure or uncertainty. Playing it safe can keep you from discovering wonderful opportunities and making great connections. Even if you do decide that the internship or job isn't for you, you will have still learned things about yourself and gained skills from the experience that you will use in subsequent experiences.

Be aware and take advantage of opportunities.

Try different classes, get involved in extracurricular activities, research projects, internships, travel, or overseas study opportunities. The more experiences you have, the more you'll clarify your interests and values and learn where your passion may lie.

Listen to advice, but make up your own mind.

Gather information and perspectives, and then make decisions based on what is important to you, not what you think you should do or what others think you should do. Remember, it's your life.

Individual Appointments with a Career Counselor

Career planning can be an overwhelming process, complicated by many factors including self-perceptions, others' expectations, and the economy. The NCA career counselors are trained to listen to your concerns about any aspect of your career development.

10 Reasons You Should See a Career Counselor

  1. You are struggling with choosing a major and need some help narrowing down your options
  2. You have no idea (or only a fuzzy idea) of what you want to be when you "grow up"
  3. You would like help with creating and sticking to a career plan while you're at NU
  4. You are thinking about graduate or law school but are uncertain as to if, when and where you might attend
  5. You are interested in taking an assessment to help identify your interests, preferences, values, or skills and how they can align with potential career paths
  6. You are a graduate student thinking about transitioning from academia to industry or leaving your program all together
  7. You need an unbiased person to listen to your career-related goals, ideas, and concerns
  8. You are applying to graduate or professional school and you need a second pair of eyes on your application materials
  9. You need additional information about some occupations and industries you are considering
  10. You are thinking about shifting academic paths but need to talk it through before actually doing so

What to Expect From Your Career Counselor

Career counselors are trained to listen to you, help you formulate goals based on your needs, and assist you in finding the best resources to meet those needs. Formal assessments are often used to help you determine a realistic action plan to meet your goals. NCA career counselors are genuinely willing to help.

Making an Appointment with a Career Counselor

To make an appointment with a career counselor, log into CareerCat and choose "Request a Counseling Appointment" (located under Shortcuts). Your Career Counselor is determined by your school of enrollment.