Figuring out what to do for a career is a process that happens over time, rather than a single one-time decision. Career planning is a developmental, thought-provoking process. You must examine yourself: your interests, your temperament, and your values. You then need to think about what you want in a job.

1. Establish tentative personal/career goals. Write them in terms of short-range and long-range objectives, with an emphasis on what you plan to do after high school. Remember, you must continue your education and training beyond high school in order to support the lifestyle you want.

2. Discuss your career goals with counselors, teachers, family. Ask their advice, and encourage their input so you can evaluate their suggestions and ideas along with your own.

3. Explore occupations and gather career information. Store your collection of materials, articles, and pamphlets in a loose leaf binder or scrapbook. Find out what education or additional training will be required to pursue the careers of your choice.

4. Conduct informational interviews. Talk with people who are working in occupations that interest you. Consider using a tape recorder to take notes. Ask your counselors or parents to assist you in arranging field trips to see various work environments.

5. Develop a resume of activities, honors, achievements. This can be used later when you apply for part-time jobs and volunteer to work in community and civic activities.

6. Assemble a list of admission requirements and qualifications. This list will assist you in determining how competitive you are. Two- and four-year colleges, military organizations, and trade schools have entrance requirements. Collect college catalogs and other brochures. Ask about open house activities.

7. Visit colleges or other education/training sites. Talk to professors and administrators, interview students, sit in on classes, tour facilities, read the bulletin boards and get copies of the college newspapers. Develop a list of questions to be answered, and names, addresses and phone numbers of key contacts.

Make sure that the institutions offer the type of education and/or training you will need to pursue your career choices. Inquire about the placement of their graduates.

• Bob McDonnell is executive director of Arizona College Planners, L.L.C., a member of the College Planning Network, the National Association of College Funding Advisors and the National Association of College Acceptance Counselors. For questions, email Info@ArizonaCollegePlanners.com.

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