Career tests, advice books, and counseling can all help you choose a suitable career path. However, these don’t offer the best career planning opportunities. Experience is the best teacher in every area, including career development. Experience challenges your assumptions and forces self-awareness like nothing else. Through experience, you learn:
Your true values and interests
Career tests can show what you think you value and what you think interests you. But you may discover new values and interests as you’re exposed to different environments. For example, you may think you value a high income, but you may discover that work/life balance is much more important after working in a high pressure environment.
What you absolutely cannot tolerate
Even bad experiences can serve an important purpose: helping you learn what you can’t tolerate. No job is perfect and every workplace or position will have downsides. Experience can help you identify job characteristics that you can tolerate and those that make you dread going to work.
What you really need to do your best work
Working in a variety of environments exposes you to conditions that affect your work performance positively and negatively. There is no test to identify the conditions in which you’ll thrive. Only through experience can you really know what motivates and energizes you.
Getting work experience can be a challenge for college students, but there are great options designed solely to provide you with experience. Number one is internships, which will allow you to get experience in a variety of industries without having to make a long-term commitment. Another great option is temp work, which is available in a variety of fields and offers more flexibility than a permanent job. Finally, volunteer work offers a way to discover your passions and interests as well as the type of work environment you’d enjoy.