Career Choices

Bringing it all together

Ideally, your career choices need to mirror your preferences and agendas, and this means you are likely to reinvent yourself a number of times in your career-lifetime, according to the principles outlined below.  You will need to unlock the KODE to career success:

Knowing yourself – understanding which aspects of self we want to fulfill in our career

Opportunity scoping – research, and ‘try before you buy’ potential careers

Decision-making – assessing information and making an informed decision

Enacting – developing and implementing an action plan, and managing the transition effectively.

Knowing yourself

In topics 1-5, you have identified a number of factors that will impact your future career decisions, such as your life direction, motivations, interests, skills, strengths and personal attributes.

Opportunity scoping

Consider a number of ideas and options in an objective manner.  After extensive exploration of careers websites, and checking everything that seems interesting, you should narrow down your ideas (three to five ideas) to those that are most appealing, then follow the opportunity scoping process.  This should consist of three steps to gather:

  1. Theoretical information – the results of your online research, career snapshots, talking to academics and careers counsellors, and checking organisation websites.
  2. Professional’s knowledge – the results of your conversations with people already working in the career and/or industry that you are considering.
  3. Practical insights – these are the results of your experience, however brief, of the work setting, the industry or a sample job; this could be a university placement, self-organised work experience, shadowing (observing a professional at work), or volunteering.  You should keep an experience diary and reflect on your experience during and after.

Tip: A sustainable career decision should involve informed choice rather than solely a ‘gut feeling’ or picking an option by default. It should include a systematic, objective review of career and labour market information. To access detailed information (practical questions and actions) about the steps outlined above, download the JCU Course and Career Decision Making Information Sheet.

Decision-making processes

Decisions may be made intuitively, rationally, or through a combination of an intuitive and logical thought process.  The three-step opportunity scoping approach below caters to a variety of decision-making styles.  You can list reasons for and against a particular decision to help identify the best course of action for you.

Example – Career Decision-Making Process: Should I seek work experience with X employer?

Step 1 – List as many pros and cons that you can think of:

  • PROS – Advantages
    • Close to home
    • Know the boss, good chance of him/her giving me experience
  • CONS – Disadvantages
    • Work is not exactly aligned with my degree
    • Definitely no future employment opportunities with this firm

Step 2 – If you are still not clear on the decision to make, weigh the value of the importance for each positive and negative to clarify the really important considerations affecting your decision.  Assign a score of 1 (not that important) to 5 (very important) to each consideration.  Add up the score for the pros and cons, and see which comes out stronger.

  • PROS – Advantages
    • 2 – Close to home
    • 1 – Know the boss, good chance of him/her giving me experience
  • CONS – Disadvantages
    • 4 – Work is not exactly aligned with my degree
    • 5 – Definitely no future employment opportunities with this firm

Self-reflection and thorough opportunity scoping will provide you with a wealth of information for career decision making, but it is important to remember that it is impossible to have complete knowledge of career realities.  At some point, you will need to make a decision and take a leap of faith into a career option to test the ‘fit’ for yourself.


Enacting your decision means setting a specific set of goals and developing an action plan to achieve them.  This might involve finding a mentor or obtaining work experience in the field.  Students who start planning and preparing for their careers in their first year of university have a greater likelihood of capitalising on career opportunities that arise through their studies and an increased chance of achieving successful graduate outcomes.

Remember to be flexible with your career plans and goals and allow room for unplanned or unexpected events that happen along the way.  Action planning works best when specific steps are identified. Each time you complete one of the steps, you have achieved a part of your goal and you should experience a sense of achievement, which motivates you to take further steps.  A commonly used model for planning is the SMART model described below.

S = Specific

  • Who? – is involved
  • What? – do you want to accomplish
  • Where? – identify a location
  • When? – establish a timeframe
  • Why? – specific reason, purpose, or benefits of achieving a goal

M = Measurable

Monitor your progress – this helps you stay on track, reach your target dates, and feel that you are achieving something.

A = Attainable

Measure the effort required to attain the goal by breaking it down into steps -­ each step should move you closer to that goal.

R = Realistic

Personal and situational factors may influence your ability to reach your goal.  Make sure that your goal suits you and your lifestyle.

T = Time-bound

Time limits should be identified for each of the steps. Define start points and end points for steps along the way and maintain commitment to these deadlines. Celebrate each time you have achieved part of the process.

The next step in enactment is to write an effective goal statement

  • Use clear, specific language
  • Write it according to SMART goal criteria
  • Have positive, action-focussed language.

Example Goal Statement: I will land a job as a Data Analyst at a large financial institution by the end of the year.  To accomplish this goal, I will improve my skills in Excel and PowerQuery and connect with other Data Analysts in my network to find out more about their skill sets and job search processes.

Monitoring, evaluating and re-evaluating

Once you have mapped your goals and planned the steps to achieve them, you now need to monitor your progress and make adjustments to your plans when necessary.  It is also a good idea to remain flexible and adapt to any change in circumstances that may arise.  If you are not making progress towards reaching your goals, you may need to consider:

  • Are your goals still relevant?
  • What is stopping you from taking the required steps?
  • Are there barriers or obstacles in your way?

You may need assistance from friends, family or the JCU Careers and Employability team to overcome any difficulties you are experiencing.  Careers are constantly evolving, so you need to monitor, review and adapt your plans on an ongoing basis. It is essential that you assume personal responsibility for your career.  Recognise and welcome uncertainty, be open to opportunities that may arise, and be flexible with your career plans to accommodate change.

Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 9

Additional Resources