November 20, 2013
Industry research helps prep for college and beyond
It's that time of year when high school seniors start deciding which universities they want to apply to. This process often includes another key decision: what major to declare.
What many incoming freshmen don't realize, however, is that declaring a major is not something that needs to be done immediately. Most schools have a set list of interdisciplinary classes that all students must take over the course of their college career, and the first year or two are often spent fulfilling those requirements.
Unless a student is on a specific, predetermined academic path (such as a flute player with a music scholarship), not only are majors subject to change, many students choose to switch. It doesn't take long to realize which classes they enjoy most and excel at, or to discover all the opportunities available.
Before declaring a major or deciding on a career, make sure you know what the job prospects look like. For example, many RNs getting out of school are finding a dearth of jobs locally. The perennial message that there is a nursing shortage is partially correct: there is a need for experienced nurses. That isn't to say that no entry-level jobs are available, but competition is fierce for hospital positions in the Seattle area. Be prepared to either relocate or consider other areas within the field. Alternate career paths may include the military or the government, such as Madigan Army Medical Center or the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.
So where do you research industries and job prospects? The best sources are professionals in the field (LinkedIn is a gold mine for this). If you want to be an event planner, for example, find a few near you and set up informational interviews or have coffee with them. Talk to corporate event planners as well as independent wedding planners. Ask them about the challenges and changes they have seen in the last few years, and where they think the industry is going.
Next, check out professional associations. Thinking of going into teaching and hoping to stay in the Puget Sound area? Look at the Washington Education Association statistics. Read local municipality reports to see which areas are expecting new-home growth (new homes means more families and increased need for schools.) The Department of Labor also publishes detailed information about national growth trends.
Finally, find out your potential college's graduating placement numbers. The career center should have historical data on how many alumni have gotten jobs in specific fields, including how many had offers right out of school.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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