Bethany Emory
Education, Higher education
Material Type:
Curriculum Education
Effective Learning Strategies
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Course Alignments

Career Planning

Career Planning


 free digital textbook serves as a companion to EDUC 1300/1200/1100 Learning Framework: Effective Strategies for College Success at Austin Community College. This book is an accessible and relevant way to explore the research and theory in the psychology of learning, cognition, and motivation as well as factors that impact learning, and the presentation of specific learning strategies. This Open Educational Resource was remixed from a previous version found at by Heather Syrett and Laura Lucas.

Senior Contributing Author and Editor

Heather Syrett, Associate Professor and Assistant Department Chair

Student Development and General Studies

Austin Community College

Contributing Authors

Edgar Granillo, Professor and Assistant Department Chair

Student Development and General Studies

Austin Community College 

Laura Lucas, Adjunct Professor

Student Development and General Studies

Austin Community College 

Tobin Quereau, Adjunct Professor

Student Development and General Studies

Austin Community College

It is maintained by Bethany Emory, Dean of teaching and Learning Support at Southwestern Community College. This free digital textbook serves as a companion to ACA-111 in the NCCCS. 


Values and Goals

Values and Goals

Assessing Your Core Values

The journey of achieving success in college begins with a single step: identifying your personal values. Your personal values are your core beliefs and guiding principles. They shape the roles you play in daily life. They color your interests and passions and frame your thoughts and words. In essence, your values are a compass that helps you make decisions and choices.

Identifying your own values helps you plan for:

  • Your academic goals
  • Your career goals
  • Your financial goals
  • How you spend and manage your time
  • How you spend and manage your money

Values are the things that you believe are fundamentally important in the way you live and work. They shape how you interact with others. They determine your priorities (whether you’re conscious about it or not), and they shape the choices you make. They are the measures by which you judge yourself and they’re also the measures by which you judge others.

When your actions are consistent with your values, you feel peaceful with the choices you make even if the outcome of those choices is not positive. When some action or decision is not aligned with your values, you feel conflicted and remorseful.

Why Find Your Core Values?

This might seem like a rhetorical question, but in fact, it is quite important to understand the power and importance of core values. They are your foundation as a person, guiding your actions and your decisions. The stronger the foundation the better and greater the person you will be able to become.

What are your values, then? Which are most important to you, and which are least important? How do your values fit into your educational goals? How do your educational goals relate to your future career? Are you spending your time in a way that prioritizes your goals? Does your budget reflect your goals?


  • There are three criteria for identifying your core values. Identifying your core values is the first step of the goal-setting process.

    Choosing a Career Path using Career Coach

    Career Exploration

    One of the most widely known and successful American entrepreneurs of all time is Steve Jobs. He is best known as the co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple, Inc. He also co-founded Pixar Animation Studios and was a member of the board of directors of the Walt Disney Company. Four hundred eighty-four inventions bear his name.

    From early on in his life, Jobs was interested in electronics. When he was thirteen, for instance, he worked at the Hewlett Packard factory, which developed hardware and software components. Jobs later reflected on how he landed this job when he called Mr. Hewlett to ask for parts for an electronics project: “[Hewlett] didn’t know me at all, but he ended up giving me some parts and he got me a job that summer working at Hewlett-Packard on the line, assembling frequency counters . . . well, assembling may be too strong. I was putting in screws. It didn’t matter; I was in heaven.”

    Jobs’ electronics and computing career quickly unfolded as he pursued his passion for creating and promoting computing products. At age nineteen, he was a technician for Atari, a leading electronics, gaming, and home-computer corporation. By twenty-one, he and his two partners had formed Apple, Inc. At thirty-four, he was named “Entrepreneur of the Decade” by Inc. magazine. And at fifty-two, he was inducted into the California Hall of Fame by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. All in all, Jobs was relentless about pursuing his interests and passions. The products he and his associates developed have transformed modern culture, including the iMac, iTunes, Apple Stores, the iPod, the iTunes Store, the iPhone, the App Store, the iPad, the Mac OS, and the Mac OS X.

    Perhaps Steve Jobs never had a job he didn’t love. But he always had a career: pioneering the personal computer revolution. This story of Steve Jobs’s professional pursuits illustrates a dream, a goal, and an ambition that many college students share: to be successful in earning money and finding personal satisfaction in employment.

    In this section, we explore strategies that can help you chart your professional path and also attain ample reward. We begin by comparing and contrasting jobs and careers. We then look at how to match up your personal characteristics with a specific field or fields. We conclude by detailing a process for actually choosing your career. Throughout, you will find resources for learning more about this vast topic of planning for employment.

    Job vs. Career

    What is the difference between a job and a career? Do you plan to use college to help you seek one or the other?

    There is no right or wrong answer because motivations for being in college are so varied and different for each student. But you can take maximum advantage of your time in college if you develop a clear plan for what you want to accomplish. The table below shows some differences between a job and a career.

    DefinitionsA job refers to the work a person performs for a living. It can also refer to a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation. A person can begin a job by becoming an employee, by volunteering, by starting a business or becoming a parent.A career is an occupation (or series of jobs) that you undertake for a significant period of time in your life—perhaps five or ten years, or more. A career typically provides you with opportunities to advance your skills and positions.
    RequirementsA job you accept with an employer does not necessarily require special education or training. Sometimes you can get needed learning “on the job.”A career usually requires special learning—perhaps a certification or a specific degree.
    Risk-TakingA job may be considered a safe and stable means to get income. But jobs can also quickly change; security can come and go.A career can also have risk. In today’s world, employees need to continually learn new skills and to adapt to changes in order to stay employed. Starting your own business can have risks. Many people thrive on risk-taking, though, and may achieve higher gains. It all depends on your definition of success.
    DurationThe duration of a job may range from an hour (in the case of odd jobs, for example,) to a lifetime. Generally, a “job” is shorter-term.A career is typically a long-term pursuit.
    IncomeJobs that are not career oriented may not pay as well as career-oriented positions. Jobs often pay an hourly wage.Career-oriented jobs generally offer an annual salary versus a wage. Career-oriented jobs may also offer appealing benefits, like health insurance and retirement.
    Satisfaction and contributing to societyMany jobs are important to society, but some may not bring high levels of personal satisfaction.Careers allow you to invest time and energy in honing your crafts and experiencing personal satisfaction. Career pursuits may include making contributions to society.

    In summary, a job lets you enjoy at least a minimal level of financial security, and it requires you to show up and do what is required of you. In exchange, you get paid. A career, on the other hand, is more of a means of achieving personal fulfillment through the jobs you hold. In a career, your jobs tend to follow a sequence that leads to increasing mastery, professional development, and personal and financial satisfaction. A career requires planning, knowledge, and skills, too. If it is to be a fulfilling career, it requires that you bring into play your full set of analytical, critical, and creative thinking skills. You will be called upon in a career to make informed decisions that will affect your life in both the short term and the long term.


    Whether you pursue individual jobs or an extended career or both, your time with your employers will always comprise your individual journey. May your journey be as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible!

    The Five-Step Process for Choosing Your Career

    As your thoughts about career expand, keep in mind that over the course of your life, you will probably spend a lot of time at work—thousands of hours, in fact. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average workday is about 8.7 hours long, and this means that if you work 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, for 35 years, you will spend a total of 76,125 hours of your life at work. These numbers should convince you that it’s pretty important to enjoy your career!

    If you do pursue a career, you’ll find yourself making many decisions about it: Is this the right job for me? Am I feeling fulfilled and challenged? Does this job enable me to have the lifestyle I desire? It’s important to consider these questions now, whether you’re just graduating from high school or college, or you’re returning to school after working for a while.

    Choosing a career—any career—is a unique process for everyone, and for many people the task is daunting. There are so many different occupations to choose from. How do you navigate this complex world of work?

    Powerpoint Slide: "Think about THIS!" At left, a divided image labeled "Pursuing Your Career" shows a drawing of a young woman in a graduation gown and an older woman seated in a classroom. Bullets on the right read, Is this the right job for me?, Am I feeling fulfilled and challenged?, and Does this job enable me to have the lifestyle I want?

    The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office has identified a five-step decision process that will make your career path a little easier to find. Below are the steps:

    1. Get to know yourself
    2. Get to know your field
    3. Prioritize your “deal makers” and rule out your “deal breakers”
    4. Make a preliminary career decision and create a plan of action
    5. Go out and achieve your career goal

    Step 1: Get to Know Yourself

    PowerPoint Slide: Numbers 1-5 appear in orange circles at the top, "1" being highlighted; title on top right is "5 Step Decision Process." Text at top reads Get to know yourself and the things you're truly passionate about. Three images at the bottom: left is a drawing of a young woman studying, labeled Gather Information. Middle is a man in a thinking posture, labeled Weigh Your Skills. Right is a woman seated, wearing glasses, labeled Assess Personality.

    Get to know yourself and the things you’re truly passionate about.

    • Gather information about your career-related interests and values
    • Think about what skills and abilities come naturally to you and which ones you want to develop
    • Consider your personality type and how you want it to play out in your role at work

    While you are encouraged to explore your personality, interests, and passions, you may still feel overwhelmed by the possibilities. The following video discusses the career coach assessment, and it introduces ways to explore related opportunities and gradually focus your interests and efforts.

    Career Coach

    Before moving on to step 2, you may wish to complete your career coach assessment. 

    Step 2: Get to Know Your Field

    PowerPoint Slide: Numbers 1-5 appear in orange circles at the top, “2” being highlighted; title on top right is "5 Step Decision Process." Text at top reads Get to know your field / What level of education? A drawing of people seated in a classroom is below, and five circles at right read Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Professional, and Doctorate.

    You’ll want to investigate the career paths available to you. One of the handiest starting points and “filters” is to decide the level of education you want to attain before starting your first or your next job. Do you want to earn an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctorate or professional degree? This is a key factor in narrowing down your search to career paths that will be a good fit for your goals and expectations.

    Step 3: Prioritize Your Deal Makers

    PowerPoint Slide: Numbers 1-5 appear in orange circles at the top, “3” being highlighted; title on top right is "5 Step Decision Process." Text at top reads Prioritize your “dealmakers” and rule out your “deal breakers.” A circle bottom left reads “Decide what you WANT,” with “what role?” just below. To the right are four simple drawings in a grid: OUTSIDE or OFFICE [image of beach], BIG or SMALL [image of bar chart with rising arrow], COUNTRY or CITY [image of path between house and city skyline], and PUBLIC or PRIVATE [image of figure wearing hat and nametag next to figure wearing a tie].

    Prioritize your deal makers and rule out your deal breakers. Educational requirements aren’t the only criteria that you will want to consider. Do you want to work outside or in an office? In the country or a city? In a big or small organization? For a public organization or a private company? What type of industry is interesting to you? What role do you see yourself playing in the organization?

    Step 4: Make a Preliminary Career Decision

    PowerPoint Slide: Numbers 1-5 appear in orange circles at the top, “4” being highlighted; title on top right is "5 Step Decision Process." Text at top reads Make a preliminary career decision and create a plan of action. Two website logos and addresses are in the middle: California Career Cafe,, and Career Zone California, On the right is a drawing of a woman, titled “Use counselors.” The bottom shares a quote: “Find a career that you love and you will never work another day in your life” - Barbara Sher.

    Make a preliminary career decision and create a plan of action. Now that you have an idea of who you are and where you might find a satisfying career, how do you start taking action to get there? Some people talk to family, friends, or instructors in their chosen disciplines. Others have mentors in their lives with whom to discuss this decision. Your college has career counselors and academic advisors who can help you with both career decision-making and the educational planning process. But be advised: you’ll get the most from sessions with your counselor if you have done some work on your own. Resources such as the Career Services Department can help you get started.

    Step 5: Go out and Achieve Your Career Goal

    PowerPoint Slide: Numbers 1-5 appear in orange circles at the top, “5” being highlighted; title on top right is "5 Step Decision Process." Text at top reads Go out and achieve your career goal! A drawing shows a man wearing a backpack at the bottom of a set of steps, with the phrases written on each riser. From bottom to top, they read: preliminary plan, comprehensive plan, internships, part time work, volunteer work, GOAL!

    Now it’s time to take concrete steps toward achieving your educational and career goals. This may be as simple as creating a preliminary educational plan for next semester or a comprehensive educational plan that maps out the degree you are currently working toward.  (We will tackle both of these tasks in our next chapter).  You may also want to look for internships, part-time work, or volunteer opportunities that help you test and confirm you preliminary career choice. Your college counselor can help you with this step, as well.

    Your work experiences and life circumstances will undoubtedly change throughout the course of your professional life, so you may need to go back and reassess where you are on this path in the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty. This number is projected to grow. A prediction from Forrester Research is that today’s youngest workers will hold twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime. But no matter if you feel like you were born knowing what you want to do professionally, or you feel totally unsure about what the future holds for you, remember that with careful consideration, resolve, and strategic thought, you can find a career that feels rewarding.


    • A job is work you do for a living, while a career is an occupation that requires specialized professional knowledge and skills and typically provides an opportunity for advancement.
    • Use a systematic approach to narrow down your career interests and to select a major.

    Licenses and Attributions



    • Values and Goals. Authored by: Heather Syrett. Provided by: Austin Community College. LicenseCC BY-NC-SA-4.0
    • Discovering Your Values and Goals. Authored by: Heather Syrett. Provided by: Austin Community College. LicenseCC BY-NC-SA-4.0
    • Planning for Your Career. Authored by: Laura Lucas and Heather Syrett. Provided by: Austin Community College. LicenseCC BY-NC-SA-4.0
    • Get to Know Yourself. Authored by: Heather Syrett. Provided by: Austin Community College. LicensePublic Domain: No Known Copyright