Exploring Major & Career Options (2023)

On This Page:

  • Self-Exploration
  • Explore Your Academic and Career Options
  • Observe Work Environments and Discuss Your Options
  • Engage in Meaningful Experiences
  • Reflect on What You’ve Learned


How can you really figure out who you are, what drives you, what you want, and what you have to offer in the context of an academic major and, ultimately, a future career?

Check out our Career Exploration Career Guide Worksheetto guide you through taking action steps with these strategies:

You have four strategies you can use, in any combination you’d like, to start building that picture:

  • Reflecting
  • Asking for feedback from people who know you well
  • Taking career assessments
  • Working with a CLA career counselor


You actually know a lot about yourself already. You probably just don’t think about it very much or, more commonly, you take it for granted.

Reflect on it all now so that you can get it out of your head and onto paper. Capture it, organize it, and look for patterns that will offer clues about potential academic and career paths for you to pursue—keeping in mind, of course, that both you and your academic and career interests will likely change over time.

Start the self-exploration process by thinking—really thinking—about questions like these (and writing your detailed responses in a notebook or an online document):

  • Why are my interests? What captures your attention? What are you curious about?
  • What are my skills? What skills have you built—or could you build—that are transferable from one area to another?
  • What are my Core Career Competencies? Which of the Core Career Competencies that signify career readiness are you already confident in? Which ones do you need to develop?
  • What are my personality traits? Where do you get your energy? How do you take in information? How do you tend to make decisions?
  • What are my values? What’s most important to you? What will you fight for?
  • What are my strengths? What are you inherently good at?
  • What is the influence of my personal identity or culture? How has your identity or culture (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, age, religion, family position, etc.) influenced your ideas about a major or a career path?
  • What are my needs and other influences? What are your expectations about factors like pay, location, and the education/training you’ll ultimately need?

Take a Career Readiness Course to Explore Majors and Careers

CLA provides a comprehensive career curriculum that is designed to meet all of your career readiness needs—including major and career exploration. Check out our many career course offerings to learn more.

Asking for Feedback from People Who Know You Well

If you’re like most people, you will inevitably overlook—or, worse, ignore—key characteristics about yourself that will be critical to your academic and career planning decisions. How can you address this problem? By purposefully asking other people in your life—people who know you well and care about you—for feedback. About you.

For example: What insights does your best friend have about your interests? skills? personality? values? strengths? How does it all look from your mother’s angle or from your favorite high school teacher’s point of view?

You will be surprised, often pleasantly, by the things others see in you that you simply cannot see in yourself.

Taking Career Assessments

CLA Career Services offers formal and informal career assessments (for very low or no cost) in five key self-exploration categories: interests, skills, personality, values, and strengths.

Know, too, that if you haven’t already done so, you can also take (for free) the SuperStrong assessment, a tool that will help you see how your interests intersect with specific majors and career options. Learn more about these career assessments.

Working with a CLA Career Coach

The in-depth, one-on-one conversations you have with a CLA career counselor can give you the targeted self-exploration guidance you need, especially as you begin to see the breadth and depth of the information you’re trying to understand—and eventually act upon. It can be a lot to manage.

Learn more about meeting with a career counselor and how to make an appointment.

Explore Your Academic and Career Options

As you continue learning more about yourself, you can also begin exploring your academic and career options.

CLA offers more than 65 majors and more than 70 minors in diverse disciplines, with thousands of courses to choose from. Chances are you’re familiar with only a few of them.

Likewise, the career possibilities for liberal arts majors are almost endless.

Having lots of possibilities can be liberating, of course. But it can also be overwhelming. So here’s a strategy you can use to explore your academic and career options in-depth and then make confident decisions about what path(s) you ultimately pursue.

As you begin exploring your academic and career options, it’s helpful to gather basic information about different possibilities available to you. Doing research—primarily through reading—is a low-risk, low-commitment way to do just that.

Resources for Researching Academic Options

Explore major and minor options at the UMN and in CLA:

Highly Undecided or Considering Multiple Majors?

Connect with the Center for Academic Planning and Exploration (CAPE), which offers personalized services that will help you develop an action plan for major and career decision-making if you are considering majors in multiple colleges.

Explore Options by Major: So many students ask, "What can I do with a major in...?" These web pages showcase skills gained in each major, alumni profiles, and other resources to help you discover some of the many career options associated with the majors in CLA.

Resources for Researching Career Options

Explore Options by Career Field: Get advice from employers, see example internship and job titles, discover the best sources to find internships and jobs, and get tips for how to prepare for success in the eight most common career fields that CLA graduates work in.

Read and Watch Career Profiles

Learn about Alumni Careers

University of Minnesota Alumni Association’s Maroon and Gold Network: This tool allows you to explore the career paths of alumni. You can search by major or industry to see the diversity of roles and experiences alumni have pursued.

LinkedIn Alumni Tool: This resource has search functionality to help you sort profiles of UMN alumni by college, major, location, industry, and organization they work for. The data may help you identify industries, roles, or organizations you may want to learn more about. You can read profiles and connect directly with alumni to learn about their career paths.

Explore Options by Major webpage and the Explore Options by Career Field webpage also include some example alumni careers as a way to inspire ideas for your own future.

Engage with Employers: Connect with employers to discover what kinds of internships and jobs are available that may be a good fit for your interests and goals. There are many ways to meet with employers right here on campus!

Read Job Descriptions

Reading through job and internship postings will help you discover:

  • What types of jobs are most frequently listed, and where.
  • Which industries seem to be doing the most recruiting.
  • What qualifications (education, experience, skills, Core Career Competencies) tend to be required for various positions.
  • Salaries or salary ranges for particular jobs.

Use Handshake, the University of Minnesota’s free search database for jobs, internships, and volunteer positions to get started with searching for and reading job descriptions. It is truly an amazing resource, offered exclusively to UMN students and alumni! On a typical day, you’ll find some 7,000 postings for jobs, internships, and volunteer positions on Handshake, submitted by thousands of active organizations and companies. What does that mean? Lots of job and company descriptions, all of which lend themselves nicely to your career (and academic) exploration pursuits. You can use Handshake’s search boxes and filters to refine (by geography, for example, or by keyword) what’s presented to you on the page, making it even easier to explore careers with precision. You can even save these customized searches so that you don’t have to set up filters every time you’re on Handshake.

Observe Work Environments and Discuss Your Options

You can only gain so much insight from reading about your options. So find opportunities to connect with people in your field(s) of interest and to observe various work environments in that field.

Request an informational interview with someone in a career of interest to ask them questions about their career, for example, or shadow a professional in their workplace or talk to employers at a career fair.

Resources to Observe and Discuss Options

University of MinnesotaAlumni Association’s Maroon and Gold Network: This tool allows you to explore the career paths of alumni and connect with them. On the profile pages of the alumni in the network, you can see what they have indicated they are willing to help students with, and many of them have indicated they are open to helping students explore careers. Through the system, you can reach out to alumni via messaging them or requesting a meeting. Through your conversations (i.e., Informational Interviews) with them, you’ll gain valuable perspectives as you explore your academic and career options.

LinkedIn Alumni Tool: This resource has search functionality to help you sort profiles of UMN alumni by college, major, location, industry, and organization they work for. You can read profiles to identify contacts to reach out to request an informational interview.

Center for Academic Planning and Exploration (CAPE) Major Network: The Major Network is a University of Minnesota cross-college network that connects exploring students with upperclassmen who are passionate about their majors. As an exploring student, it gives you the opportunity to learn from a student mentor about what the major is like, such as coursework and internships.

Attend Alumni and employer networking events, such as career fairs!

Engage in Meaningful Experiences

Sometimes, the best way to clarify a potential path is to try it for yourself.

There are literally hundreds of ways to get engaged on or off-campus to get some actual experience doing whatever it is you’re exploring, such as by doing internships. A nice side benefit of these experiences is that they also help you build the Core Career Competencies that employers and graduate/professional schools consistently desire in their candidates. Some ways to get started include:

  • Find information aboutinternships, research, leadership opportunities, and more!
  • Talk to people you know for referrals.
  • Take an introductory class in a major or topic of interest.
  • Meet with a CLA Career Coachfor one-on-one assistance.

Feeling Overwhelmed and Anxious? Help Is Available—Right on Campus

Student Counseling Services offers individual and group counseling, classes, workshops, and other resources covering a wide range of topics—including career uncertainty as well as related mental health concerns.

Reflect on What You’ve Learned

Always remember to reflect on what you’ve learned from any given activity. Be sure to consider what factors have contributed to your overall impressions.

Remember too that, when it comes to experiences, in particular, those that turn out to be less than enjoyable still give you insights that help you narrow down or expand your academic and career options. Nothing is ever a “waste.”

Consider meeting with a CLA career coachand/or your CLA academic advisor to reflect upon your options and experiences in more depth. It’s often beneficial to do your thinking with someone who can ask you insightful questions, help you spot patterns, and offer suggestions from a different perspective.

The CLA Career Readiness Guide can help you explore your career options, go to the Explore section to learn more. Access the guide online, or pick up a copy in CLA Career Services or in one of the CLA Academic Advising offices.


How do I explore my career options? ›

Engage in networking to explore career options. Identify your career fields of interest. Identify specific job titles of interest. Describe your decision making style for important decisions in your life and be aware of how that style should affect how you implement your career exploration strategy.

What does exploring career options mean? ›

The career exploration process involves learning more about yourself, researching your options, trying new experiences, and creating a strategic plan to reach your professional goals.

When you are exploring career choices it's important to think about? ›

Knowing what is important to you (your values), what you enjoy (your interests), and what you do well (your skills) will make it easier for you to make a career decision. Think of values, interests, and skills as the three legs of a stool.

What is career and major exploration? ›

What is major and career exploration? Major exploration is the process of exploring and deciding on an undergraduate major or field of study. Career exploration is the process of researching, evaluating, and learning about a variety of occupations and career opportunities.

What are 6 ways to explore careers? ›

Here are six ways to explore new career paths in the New Year:
  • Begin With the End in Mind. As we wrap up one year and begin another, we tend to reflect on the past 12 months. ...
  • Research Career Opportunities. ...
  • Update Your Resume. ...
  • Contribute and Connect. ...
  • Start Small. ...
  • Set Yourself Up for Success. ...
  • Find Support through the ASYMCA.
Jan 30, 2023

How do you write a career exploration paper? ›

1) Identify 1 similar occupation to the one you're writing about. 2) Briefly (2-3 sentences) explain how this alternate profession is similar to the one you are exploring in your paper. 1) Describe your vision for your possible future in this profession.

What is an example of exploring options? ›

"Exploring your options" means trying to get information to make a decision. For example: We're probably going to switch to a new website host, but we haven't decided which one yet. We're still exploring our options.

What does exploring mean in college? ›

Go on a fact-finding mission to gather information about your different options for a major.

What are the two types of career exploration? ›

Author J. Zikic indicates there are two types of career exploration: self-exploration and environmental exploration.

What is the most important step of career exploration? ›

Self Assessment

How can you know which career path is going to be most satisfying, if you don't even know what you're all about? You can't. That's why self assessment (sometimes referred to as a career assessment) is such an important part of the career planning process.

What is the value of career exploration? ›

Career exploration helps students bridge the gap between education and the workforce by showing students how their interests, academic career and skill set can translate into the job market, and what steps they can take to reach their goals.

How do you write a career goal statement? ›

How to write a career goal statement
  1. Think about your passions. One of the best ways to realize your career goals is by understanding what you're passionate about. ...
  2. Do your research. ...
  3. Ask yourself important questions. ...
  4. Set SMART goals. ...
  5. Develop an action plan. ...
  6. Adjust accordingly.
Feb 27, 2023

What is career exploration and why is it important? ›

Career exploration is one way to find out about multiple career options. During the different phases of exploration, students take part in a variety of activities that can assist in figuring out their unique interests, skills, and talents.

What does major exploration mean? ›

Once greater self awareness occurs, students enter the Major Exploration phase and begin to connect their self knowledge to academic options. At this point in the journey, the Exploratory advisors will point out emerging themes and translate this information into a list of possible majors.

What is the impact of career exploration? ›

Studies have shown that career exploration contributes to increasing young people's knowledge of themselves and the working world (Cheung and Arnold, 2014; Cheung and Jin, 2016;Lent et al., 2017), their achievement of career goals (Hu et al.,200), and achievement of personal identity (Zikic and Klehe, 2006;Zikic and ...

What are three important elements of career exploration? ›

The Career Planning Process Itself Has Three Main Components:
  • Skills.
  • Values.
  • Experience.
  • Interests.
  • Education.

What is the first step in exploring careers? ›

Learn about yourself

Understanding what you enjoy—and what you're good at—is the first step in exploring careers, say school counselors. “If you don't know what you want to do, the question is, 'What do you like to learn about?

What are the three C's for exploring career opportunities? ›

In human resources, the three Cs refer to compensation, career path, and culture.

How do I write my career path? ›

  1. How to Write a Career Plan.
  2. Set your objectives.
  3. Assess your current position.
  4. Review your options.
  5. Create your action plan.
  6. Updating your career plan.

How should a career summary be written? ›

An effective resume summary follows this formula: Professional Title (if relevant) + Key Experiences (with the total number of years worked) + Top Achievements (preferably measurable results) + Top Skills/Expertise/Unique Values (relevant to the job and industry).

Why is career exploration important in college? ›

Career exploration will help expose you to different working environments and find where you will fit in and grow as an individual. You are more likely to be good at things you take interest in.

What does exploring mean in essay? ›

Explore: Consider an idea or topic broadly, searching out related and/or particularly relevant, interesting or debatable points. Evaluate: Similar to “assess”, this often has more emphasis on an overall judgement of something, explaining the extent to which it is, for example, effective, useful, or true.

Why is college exploration important? ›

Topics. A Career and College Exploration Experience (CCEE) is an opportunity for students to learn about options for careers and colleges and connect what they learn in the classroom to what will be expected of them in the workplace or college.

What are the four 4 kinds of career path? ›

There are four types of career paths—knowledge-based, skill-based, entrepreneur-based, and freelance. Every kind of career path caters to a specific set of qualifications that help you perform your job.

What is a career exploration interview? ›

A career exploration interview is a relaxed conversation where you ask someone working in a career field that interests you for information and advice. These interviews can be powerful tools to help you build your personal network and give you direction in your future career options.

When should career exploration begin? ›

High school is an important time to engage in career exploration so you begin working toward your long-term goals. At this stage, a career search is all about investigating what's out there and finding opportunities that interest you so that you can decide what you need to do next.

What is an example of a good career statement? ›

I offer experience in leading and managing diverse teams, motivating them to achieve business objectives through innovative and creative solutions which positively contribute to the bottom line. To this end, I am now seeking an opportunity where I can utilise my expertise to deliver strategic procurement programs.

What is the best career objective statement? ›

To get an opportunity where I can make the best of my potential and contribute to the organization's growth. Seeking a position in a company where I can launch my career and build a valuable skill set. Seeking a role in an MNC where I can upgrade my skills with time and take the company to the next level.

What is reflection about career exploration? ›

Reflection is a critical part of the career exploration process. It helps you take stock of what you have learned and experienced, return to your own values, interests, and skills, and refocus your plan for moving forward.

What is an exploration focus? ›

Focused Exploration is the time in the inquiry learning process when students are ready to investigate a challenge that will help them discover certain science concepts and encourage them to ask more questions.

Why does exploration matter? ›

Exploration is key to increasing our understanding of the ocean, so we can more effectively manage, conserve, regulate, and use ocean resources that are vital to our economy and to all of our lives.

What is considered an exploration? ›

1. an act or instance of exploring or investigating; examination. 2. the investigation of unknown regions.

What is the best way to find your career path? ›

How to choose a career path
  1. Outline your career goals. ...
  2. Create a five- and 10-year plan. ...
  3. Discover your personality type. ...
  4. Review your previous experience. ...
  5. Compare job requirements to your education. ...
  6. Assess your current skill set. ...
  7. Identify your core values. ...
  8. Consider your salary needs.
Mar 10, 2023

How do you brainstorm career options? ›

Design Your Career: Brainstorming/Ideation
  1. Invite a core group to help you brainstorm. The first step is to gather a group to help you brainstorm. ...
  2. Prepare for your brainstorming session. Think about what you want to get out of your brainstorming session. ...
  3. Brainstorm! ...
  4. Select Promising Ideas.

How do I find my career path and purpose? ›

How to find your career purpose
  1. Determine your passion. Once you know what you're passionate about, you can pursue a career to follow it. ...
  2. Find a career that combines passion and purpose. ...
  3. Identify the ways your work helps people. ...
  4. Look for an impactful organizational culture. ...
  5. Find ways to use your career in the community.
Feb 3, 2023

What is your career aspirations sample answer? ›

Career aspiration example 1

I would like to continue to develop my skills and experience by working with professional recording equipment. I also want to develop my leadership and organizational skills. This will help me achieve my goal of leading production teams in the future.”

What is an example of a career path? ›

Career paths typically refer to either your path through an industry or your path through an organization. For example, if your goal is to become a principal, you'd typically start as a teacher and work on your administrative credentials while teaching.

What are the 4 types of career paths? ›

One of four types of career paths may be used: traditional, network, lateral, and dual. An employee progresses vertically upward in the organization from one specific job to the next. A method of career pathing that contains both a vertical sequence of jobs and a series of horizontal opportunities.

What are five key steps to choosing a career *? ›

Five-Step Career Decision Making Process
Dec 11, 2022

How do I make a clear career plan? ›

8 Steps to an Effective Career Plan
  1. Identify Your Career Options. Develop a refined list of career options by examining your interests, skills, and values through self-assessment. ...
  2. Prioritize. It's not enough to list options. ...
  3. Make Comparisons. ...
  4. Consider Other Factors. ...
  5. Make a Choice. ...
  6. Set “SMART” Goals.

How do I choose a career path if I don't have any passion? ›

Try these ways to find a career that meets your interests and strengths:
  1. Identify your strengths. ...
  2. Consider your hobbies. ...
  3. Take a career quiz. ...
  4. Look for a role model. ...
  5. Try something completely new. ...
  6. Research potential salaries. ...
  7. Talk to a friend. ...
  8. Find an internship or apprenticeship.
Jun 24, 2022


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