We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, if you are going to college, you need a plan.
If you were an entrepreneur looking to take out a $50,000 small business loan from a bank, you wouldn’t stand a chance of getting that loan without a well-researched, well-thought-out business plan.
The same holds true if you are planning on spending four (or more) years of your life, and tens of thousands of dollars of someone’s money (yours, your parents’, or a bank’s) on a college education.
You owe yourself and anyone else who is gifting, loaning, or co-signing a loan for you a well-documented plan for what you are going to do with that investment of money.
What are the essential elements you would put on that plan? They are more or less the same components that would be included in any good business plan.
Here are the 10 things that absolutely need to be a part of your College and Career Plan:
1. Why are you choosing this career field?
What are your reasons for going into this career field? What do you love about it? Why can you see yourself in it?
2. What makes you a good fit for this career?
In what ways are you a good fit for this career? What are your skills, interests, values, and how do they match up with the career you are considering?
3. What’s your proof that it will work?
Can you provide an example of someone who is actually employed in this career field? If so, can you map out the pathway they took to get into their career? Is the pathway something that you can replicate? If not, how would your path differ?
4. How are you going to get from where you are today to your end goal?
What steps do you need to take? What are the milestones along the way? What training, certifications, or degrees will you need to obtain? What college major would be the best choice to prepare for this career path?
5. How many jobs are available in this field?
What kinds of jobs are available in this field? How many people are employed in this field?
6. What is the competition in this field like?
If it is a highly competitive field, are you willing to do what it takes to get into both the training programs and the jobs? What will you do to stand out from the competition? What can you do in college to get your foot in the door?
7. Are there geographic limitations related to working in this field?
Are jobs in this field found only in particular locations, or can they be found pretty much anywhere? Are you willing to “go where the work is?”
8. How do the numbers add up?
What is the starting salary in this field, and what can you anticipate earning over time? Does this number reflect a reasonable standard of living in relation to your lifestyle preferences? How much do you anticipate your education will cost in full? How much do you anticipate owing in student loans at the end of your training? Will you be able to handle the monthly payments that start six months after graduation (or whenever your grace period ends)?
9. What’s the outlook for this career field in the future?
Is this career field “growing” or “dying?” Will there be more or fewer jobs available in the future?
10. Do you know anyone who can help mentor you along your college and career path?
Can your college help connect you with alumni from your major? What associations or professional organizations can you join as a student? Do you know anyone who is working in this career field? Are they willing to provide you with some guidance along the way?
OOH…Where to find these answers?
The good news is that much of this information can be obtained easily from spending an hour or two with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.
For a much more in-depth exploration of these questions, and for a free copy of our Career Choice Road Map (a brief overview of how to make a college and career plan), sign up for our free Career Choice Crash Course. Click here to learn more.
Making a smart investment
The real reason you would want to create a “business” plan for your college and career dreams boils down to this:
You need to prove to yourself and anyone else who is backing you that what you are planning on investing your time and money in will be “worth it” in the long run.
Just like every business owner knows that to be successful she needs to be able to prove that her initial investment will yield a profitable return, you need to be able to prove that your college and career path will lead to both success and happiness for years to come—that the time and money you are spending on your training will ultimately pay off.
Now that would be a smart investment.
How about you?
There are dozens of other ways to prove to yourself if your college and career dreams will be worth it in the long run. How did you do it?
And do you think it’s even possible to “prove” that a career path will be a good investment of your time and energy? Let us know in the comments.