Career counseling is more than figuring out what job you may want. It gets at bigger questions like, who am I, what do I want, and what is fulfilling to me? Career counseling allows you to reflect and learn more about your values, interests, personality and skills to make informed decisions about your major and career, as well as identifying factors that may be influencing your decisions. Students who are unsure of their next move – either in their major, choosing a different major or career – may find career counseling especially helpful.
During your appointment we will work collaboratively on your major and career concerns. We do not tell you what you should do, but we help you explore possible paths to expand or narrow your options for majors and careers. We don’t have all the answers, but we can help you uncover them for yourself.
Answers to Common Career Counseling Questions
The short answer is almost anything! Most jobs can be attained with any major. Your major does not have to define your career path, and many alumni go on to work in many different fields with many different backgrounds.
Focus on the set of transferable skills you have gained, the experiences you have been a part of and what you have enjoyed most as a starting place. Ask yourself how you want to use the skills and knowledge gained from your major in your future career.
There is a lot of overlap, but career counseling helps you explore bigger questions about fulfillment and meaning within your career and life. Career counseling can be helpful in learning more about yourself and your values, interests, personality and skills and how those might influence what you choose as a major or career. Career counseling can be helpful if you’re unsure where to begin in your career path or are feeling stuck with what you are able to do academically or professionally.
Career coaching and career advising covers more specific skills in the job search process and outlines how to make yourself marketable for internships and future careers in your desired field or industry. A career coach or career advisor can help you hone skills such as crafting tailored resumes and cover letters, preparing for interviews and developing your job and internship search strategy.
In both career counseling and mental health counseling, you will work with a professional counselor one-on-one or in a small group. Both mental health and career counseling could include exploration of identity, values, interests, personality, skills and strengths. Additionally, exploring factors such as stress, pressure, family influence, culture and a person’s lived experience would be common in both career and mental health counseling. You may also discuss concerns, feelings and struggles and may meet once or multiple times, depending on your needs.
While the process is similar in both – and there will likely be some overlap in what is explored – the focus of counseling is different. Career counselors help you develop a deeper understanding of yourself and the world of work, experiential learning opportunities and gain clarity on transferable skills and possible career, educational and life decisions.
There are many different ways to choose a major or career that fits you. We often talk about our career decision-making model as a helpful tool to guide your major and career exploration.
As the circular nature of the model suggests there is no right place to start. It is helpful to reflect on who you are by thinking about your values, interests, personality and skills (VIPS) and how that might influence your choices. Do you value helping society? Are you interested in math and data? Why not work for a non-profit as an analyst! It’s helpful to understand the intersection of your VIPS to consider the endless combinations of potential majors or jobs.
You don’t know what you don’t know! This is why it is helpful to explore your options. Career counselors can help you generate ideas and show you resources to help explore possibilities on your own. Common resources used include: Occupational Outlook Handbook, O*Net and Wayfinder.
You can also explore careers using self-guided resources such as:
- What Can I Do With This Major? Explore majors or search for information about your chosen field. Learn typical career areas and types of employers that hire in these fields, as well as strategies to make you a more marketable candidate.
- Career Ready Guide: Identify how to become career ready and learn to confidently articulate your skills to employers.
- Career Spot Videos: Watch videos with recruiters and career experts speaking on a range of topics.
Trying out experiences can be one of the most helpful ways to test out whether or not a major or career will be a good fit. The more you do, the easier it is to learn what you like or do not like. Sometimes what seems like a good idea in theory may not be a good fit once you try it out.
Finally, acting means making decisions. Keep in mind these can be small decisions, like the decision to try a related student organization, or taking an exploratory course. Remember that this is a process and it will take time.
First, take a deep breath; it’s going to be okay! It’s hard to choose a major without much experience or knowledge of what it will be like.
If you’re a freshman or sophomore, you have the option of changing your major. It is recommended that you talk with a TCE career counselor and a Vick Center academic advisor as soon as you think you might want to switch. Explore your options to see what else is out there by looking up degree plans, syllabi and course descriptions of different majors. Attend information sessions, participate in related student organizations or volunteer to get an idea of what these majors and careers are like before switching directions.
If you’re a junior or senior, the window to change your major has closed, but you still have many options. Many people work in fields unrelated to their major. The average American has 12 jobs in their lifetime, so it is likely that you may not work in the field that you studied. In this case, get involved as much as you can in your intended career field to test it out. Participate in student organizations, volunteer, intern, use research experiences, try out classes in other majors, add a minor or certificate. All of these can help you expand your knowledge and skills into other fields and give you an interdisciplinary background to make yourself marketable for future jobs.
Who to meet with:
The conversations you have with your career counselor can often lead to specific questions that are best answered by an academic advisor, and vice versa. Because of this, most students would benefit from talking to both a career counselor in Texas Career Engagement, who will focus more on major and career exploration, and an academic advisor in the Vick Center, who will help with things like internal transfer planning and course registration.
Texas Career Engagement career counselors meet with undergraduate students from all colleges and schools to discuss how their major can help fulfill their personal and career goals.
Vick Center academic advisors meet with students from the School of Undergraduate Studies and undergraduate students internally transferring to other majors to discuss their degree plan, course schedule and requirements for transferring majors.
Find ways to be involved in the field. You can do this even if you do not have the “right” major for that career, except for very technical or direct careers like engineering, nursing or teaching that may require certain coursework or certifications. Join student organizations, volunteer, intern and highlight the transferable skills that you have developed to pivot into a different industry.
While there are no assessments that are sophisticated enough to tell you what you should do, some students find assessments to be helpful in broadening their knowledge of themselves and their career options. Keep in mind that most assessments show a small piece of who you are and what your interests include. Assessments are not meant to replace the thought it takes to make these decisions. Your future is up to you!
Examples of Concerns Addressed
Below are some examples of concerns addressed through Career Counseling:
- “I feel lost and have no idea what I want to do with my life.”
- “I feel anxious about looking for a job.”
- “I don’t know what to major in.”
- “I’m having trouble picking one career option. I want to do so many things?”
- “I know what I want to major in, but I have no idea what I want to do once I graduate.”
- “I know what I want to do, but I’m not sure what the best major would be.
- “I want to become a ____ but I’m afraid I can’t do it.”
- “I want to know what kinds of jobs I can get with my major.”
- “I don’t feel like I know enough about all the different careers out there to know what I want to do.”
- “I don’t like any of my classes and none of the majors really appeal to me.”
- “I can’t get into ______. What do I do now?”
- “I thought I wanted to be a _______, but I got into my major and I really don’t like it!”
- “I really like my major, but I don’t want to do it for my career.”
- “I’m afraid I won’t be able to make enough money doing what I enjoy.”
- “My family really wants me to be a _______, but I’m not sure if that’s really what I want.”
- “I want to find a career that will allow me to provide significant financial support for my family.”
- “I’m afraid I won’t be able to find a job, so maybe I’ll just go to graduate school.”
All of these concerns and more can be addressed in a career counseling appointment.