Thursday, March 29, 2012

Starting Your Career

You Majored in What…?
Spring is the time for new beginnings, great weather, and blooming flowers.  It is also the time career offices get flooded with students in their final month of completing their degree asking:
  1.   How do I market this degree?
  2.  What if I don’t want to work in the area of what my degree says?
  3. I haven’t done much work to prepare for the workforce, is all hope lost?

If those questions mirror your own, you are not alone.   Be assured that it is going to be okay, keep going strong until you finish.  Studies have shown individuals will change their career several times over a life span.  Many do not even work in their originally planned professions.  I know someone who majored in Music Theory and upon graduating had no idea what to do or where to put that degree to use.  They were just excited they were able to maintain a high GPA and enjoy every class while doing it.  After some career exploration they realized that they preferred music to be more of a hobby.  Students (and contributing family members) invest too much into education and don’t want the hard work and money to go to waste.  By the way this article isn’t just for college grads.  The information you are about to read is for anyone who has decided to seek a career instead of just a job.

Where do I go from here?

You will need to do some self-reflection.  I suggest you seriously begin to really think about your interests, values, and skills as it relates to the area you plan to receive a degree.  That will play an integral part in your short-term and long-term goals during your career planning process.  This process is actually useful at any stage of a career whether you’re new to the job search process or just want to re-invent your career identity.  At this stage I also encourage you to consult those close to you to also help answer the questions below. 
Ask yourself:
  1. What can I do?
  2. What would I like to do?
  3.  What level of training do I have? (i.e. high school diploma, certificate, associates, bachelors, graduate, or doctoral degree)

Yes, those three simple questions can get those gears in your mind moving.  Knowing what you like to do puts you in a perspective of seeking long term career satisfaction.  I believe individuals should work with what they have and build.  Understanding that basic information about yourself will allow you the freedom to think outside the jurisdiction of your degree or past job.  We all have potential and free will.  You can do absolutely what you’re willing to work hard for.  The compensation may be great but happiness keeps you there.  Also, I realize everyone doesn’t have a college education.  Depending on what you plan to do in your career will determine what level of training is required.  Of course, the more education or training you have the more control you have over your career choices.  With that said, never discount any experience you’ve gained inside and outside the classroom.  Everyone has something to offer.  Your skills are transferrable and can apply across the board.  What you “can do” will be the preliminary point that will lead you to “doing what you love”. 

Your Career Planning at Work

You might have an interest in becoming a brain surgeon but you majored in education.  You have to be realistic with your current skill set and optimistic with where it can take you.  Of course you would have to research the requirements to become a brain surgeon and fill in the blanks in your academics and experience but anything is possible when you put your mind to it. (No pun intended!)  I graduated from Norfolk State University with a Bachelor of Art in Psychology.  My original interest was mental health therapy.  Upon graduating, I worked as an administrative assistant in a behavioral sciences clinic that provided psychotherapy and eventually discovered that this type of work was something I would NOT like to do.  Did I leave immediately?  No, I gained some employment experience, networked, volunteered and allowed that to be my short term goal as I pondered a new and improved long term goal.  Did I find the next position perfect for me immediately?  No, it definitely took a lot of research and self-exploration to discover what I liked to do.  Eventually I recognized a strength and have been on a positive trajectory ever since.

Where Do I Start

Your local college or university should have some helpful resources in their Career Services Department whether you’re a student or not.  There are also a variety of free resources out there that can help your independent career exploration process.  I’ve provided some online resources that I feel are very useful and often refer to when helping individuals. 

Good luck and stay tuned to additional articles discussing strategies to being successful with your career goals.  If you have any specific questions or need assistance in your career planning please feel free to email me at

By: Tamara Cherry-Clarke

Tamara Cherry-Clarke has a Bachelor of Art degree in Psychology from Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Virginia.  With a work history that expands over 19 years, Tamara has been helping individuals achieve their academic and career goals since 2003.  She has worked as an educational counselor, adjunct instructor, and career counselor at Old Dominion University’s Research Foundation, Lake Michigan College, and Indiana University (South Bend).  Currently, she is an Academic and Career Advisor for the College of Southern Maryland but dedicates a great majority of her time to her local community volunteering as a job coach.

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