How to Use the Virtual Career Center
Planning and launching a career, especially in today’s complex economy, is a process that has a number of components, and to be most successful in achieving your goals requires thoroughly addressing all of those components. This requires significant time and effort, but is well worth it – after all, it is time and effort invested in yourself and future life.
The purpose of this page is to provide some perspective on the career planning process, and thoughts on using the resources provided in the Virtual Career Center
The Career Planning Process
As mentioned, there are a number of components in the career planning process, and it is useful to organize them into steps, such as assessment, exploration, preparation, etc. This makes it easier to get a sense of the overall process; provides a way to organize your work as you go through the process; and facilitates your own evaluation of where you stand in your career planning.
The Virtual Career Center organizes the most important components of the career planning process into five steps: Assessment; Research; Planning; Preparing for the Job Search; and Job Hunting. These steps are progressive, in that subsequent steps build on work done in previous steps. A complete career planning process would start at the beginning, and proceed through all of them.
Not only is it important to go through this process now, but you can revisit the process, or parts of it, at any time later on in your life. You can evaluate your career at any time, make changes in your goals, and adjust the path that you are on. This is important to remember – the decisions you make now are not set in stone. You can always re-evaluate where you are at, and where you want to go.
Using the Virtual Career Center
One question you might have when looking at all of the resources available is how to know where to start. In our experience, many students have not gone through a formal career development process, such as outlined on the Virtual Career Center page. Instead, they have gone through an informal career planning process, resulting in a goal and some idea of how to achieve it.
One way to decide where to begin then is to ask whether you have engaged in a formal career planning process, for example by going through a series of workshops; a dedicated class; reading a career guide book, etc. If you have not, you might consider going through all of the steps provided on the Virtual Career Center page, to increase your clarity and confirm your choices.
Another approach is to consider how clear you are about your current goals. If you have no clear goal, then you should definitely start with Assessment. If you have a goal, but wonder if it is really the best for you, you should also start with Assessment.
Once you are satisfied with your career goal, then you can evaluate what you need to do to achieve it. Do you know exactly what education, training or experience will get you there? Do you know how to identify and research employers to find those that offer the kind of career you want? Have you spent time learning and practicing the tools of the job search, such as writing a resume and interviewing?
In other words, look at each of the steps in the career planning process as outlined on the Virtual Career Center page and ask what conscious, formal effort you have engaged in for each one. Wherever there has been little or no prior engagement, it is recommended that you spend some time working on that step.
If you are in a situation where you have an immediate need, such as writing a resume, then you should go directly to that resource. Once you have addressed the immediate need though, you are encouraged to go back and look at all of the steps, to ensure that you are well-prepared.
In terms of which resources to use within each step of the process, sometimes the resources in a step address different topics, and sometimes there are two or more that address the same topic.
Where two or more resources within a step address the same topic, you can choose which one(s) to use. For example, the "Assessment" section includes Focus 2 and Choices Planner, which both offer assessment tools. Focus2 offers more types of assessment than Choices and can generate related occupations based on any combination of your assessment results. The assessments in Choices are more limited, but Choices offers other functions, such as analyzing past work experience to identify jobs in new industries for those seeking to make a mid-career change, or providing equivalent civilian job titles for military job codes. While you can choose to use both Focus2 and Choices, it is not necessary. In order to determine which to use, we suggest you spend a little time exploring both, to see which best meets your needs. For more information about these two specific tools, please go to our Focus2 help page and our Choices help page.
If the resources within a step address different topics, you should use all of them that apply. “Preparing for the Job Search,” for example, has résumé preparation and interview preparation, and if you have no prior experience with those, you would benefit from utilizing both.
Finally, the resources provided in the Virtual Career Center are useful, but they are necessarily designed to be generic, and you might find you would like more individualized assistance. You are encouraged to visit the Career Development Center and talk to a counselor for more assistance with all of the areas covered on the Virtual Career Center page.