Goodbye, summer. Hello, reality.

The final days of summer are upon us. Yes, it’s true. I know it’s hard to accept. This time of year always makes me feel a mixture of emotions, as it probably does for many of us. I always feel kind of wistful and nostalgic, reminiscing about days gone by, when summer meant a relaxation of parents’ rules and an extension of our yard to include any and all open space in the entire neighborhood. And now all of the privileges of summer are rudely being yanked away from us just as quickly as they arrived.

But with Fall comes a new set of rules, some of which are surprisingly refreshing after a few months of unstructured and carefree vacation time. First off, kids are returning to the routine of school, homework, and after-school activities. The days are becoming shorter, and with that, nights are getting cooler, and bedtimes are coming sooner. Mornings are crisp and busy with our roadways brimming again with people heading back to school and work after enjoying their summer holidays.

I thought this article from the Wall Street Journal, aptly titled Dear Class of 2016: Get Moving on Your Future, would help motivate all of us to get back on schedule. The article is directed at current college and university students but can broadly be applicable to any of us who are looking to prepare for and break into a new career. I thought the points were well made but could be condensed into a checklist of sorts. Feel free to use this checklist as a starting point for your own personalized career development checklist.

  1. Sign up for a public speaking or writing course. These skills are needed for virtually every job, even if it does not seem obvious to you.
  2. Learn a new language. Multilingual employees are in high demand, especially those who have mastered Arabic or Mandarin.
  3. Reconnect with people in your network. This could mean professors, alumni, or professionals in your field.
  4. Visit a career development professional. Career services staff and career development practitioners can give you helpful career interest and personality assessments, and can help you understand how your interests can be fulfilled through your career.

    your career development checklist

  5. Find a part-time job or volunteer position in your desired field. Start getting experience now. It will give you a head start on acquiring critical skills that will be needed in your future job.
  6. Take an accounting or finance course. Enhance your practical money management skills both for personal reasons and to get you ahead on business matters.
  7. Join a club, team, professional, or community organization. You can learn new skills, meet others who share your interests, and build your network.
  8. Get an internship or an “externship.” An internship is self-explanatory. An externship is a program offered by some colleges where students have the opportunity to job shadow alumni for a day.
  9. Take extra courses and continue your education. Even if you have completed the formal requirements for your degree, there are always opportunities for lifelong learning and career development. Do some research and find courses to help you upgrade your skills.
  10. Research trends in your field. Understand what the job market looks like, visit job boards, and investigate job leads.
  11. Land that job! You’ve done the legwork, declared a major, and effectively made a decision about your future. Take all of the information you’ve learned and all of your youthful energy and funnel it into finding that job opportunity that will set you on your desired career path.

Do you have a plan to deal with student debt?

A recent survey has highlighted the challenges students face in dealing with mounting debt from tuition rates that seem to be steadily creeping higher and higher. Although students polled in this survey were generally excited to return to school in a couple of weeks, it seems their financial woes are weighing heavily on their minds. In fact, their accumulated student debt is causing more stress than maintaining good grades and finding a job post-graduation.

The survey indicated that 27% of students are very stressed about covering their tuition costs — and with good reason. College and University tuition costs, including room, board, and living expenses, for a four year program can amount to over $40,000 (U.S) and close to $60,000 (Canadian).

However, the news is not all bleak. There is some hope on the horizon. Some of the burden faced by students today can be eased by the confidence of knowing that they’ve chosen the right career path. It can make all the difference in the world to know your education investment is sound, and to have a career plan in place, as well as a plan for debt repayment upon securing a full-time job. It can be worth every penny to take that extra step to seek guidance from a professional career or guidance counselor and to take a career assessment that can help point you in the right direction or validate your decision.

I can appreciate and empathize with those who are unsure about their career goals when they first enter college or university. And for the most part, that’s okay. But it can certainly be a useful exercise to set up a career plan and a financial plan with a counselor or advisor before heading off to school. At the very least, this plan will help you fully understand the consequences of taking a wrong turn or having to start over on a new career path and the toll these readjustments can take both on your well-being and your pocketbook.

So as you embark on another year of studies, my advice is to take a few minutes to map out where are you going and how you plan to get there. And stay tuned to the blog for updates, as we continue to work on resources that can help you develop and refine your career plan.

Poll: How did you choose your career path?

Our careers are always evolving. That’s the beauty of a career – it adapts and grows with us and our circumstances. Sometimes we take a step in the wrong direction; sometimes a giant leap forward. But we all started out somewhere and initially had to make that first decision about whether to pursue that education or training, or whether to apply for that job. Today’s poll is asking how you ended up on your current career path. If you are still in the exploration stage, let us know what your current top factor is in shaping your career path.