Decision Making and Goal Setting

Picking your major or choosing a career can be a challenging task. The good news is that information you learn about yourself and the world of work, combined with real world experiences, will put you in a better position to make informed and effective decisions about your career, set relevant goals, and achieve them.

If you are about to make a tough decision, we strongly suggest that you make a 60-minute appointment with a Career Specialist. You can also review the guidelines below.

Career Decisions

Making informed, effective decisions involves considering:

  • Contributions you hope to make in your community and to the world at large
  • Your unique set of values, beliefs, and morals
  • Your skill set and strengths
  • Your personality
  • Your career and leisure interests
  • Your options in occupations and education

(For a comprehensive list of values from which to choose, download the Values List.)

Your career decision-making journey is an ongoing process of exploration, discovery and re-evaluation that will repeat itself throughout your lifetime. You will continue to gain helpful information about yourself and your preferences through each job and experience you have. This information should be used to fine tune your career plan.

  • Identify your strengths
  • Explore careers
  • Re-evaluate regularly: As you grow and mature, the information you used to make an initial career decision may change. Continue to evaluate career-related information to ensure that the career you have chosen suits you at any given point in your life.
  • Keep your options open: Many students believe that that their career plans must be clearly defined. That is not entirely accurate. It may be necessary to explore a variety of job options. Careers evolve over time. For some, it may be necessary to work different jobs in order to identify a career that is a good fit.
  • Your first job does not determine the rest of your life. Knowing this will help you eliminate unnecessary pressure. It is likely that your first job may be very different than your last job. It is not a predictor of the rest of your life.
  • Take risks. Be willing to explore different internship and job opportunities, and be willing to experience uncertainty and failure. The saying that “we learn more from our failures than our successes” is true.
  • Identify and take advantage of opportunities. Go to workshops, seminars and conferences. Get involved in clubs and organizations. Obtain internships, research opportunities, and jobs. The more experiences you have, the more you will be able to clarify your passions, skills, interests, and values.
  • Make time to do your research. It is important to obtain realistic information about different careers.

Goal Setting

Goal setting turns imagination and dreams into reality. Your goals should be focused on specific timeframes that include:

Long-term: 5-20 years or lifetime goals
Mid-term: 1-5 years
Short-term: 1 year or less. These can be broken down further into monthly, weekly and daily goals.

STEP 1: Set goals that you want to accomplish. In order to be motivated to actually achieve your goals, they need to be based on the information that you considered during the decision-making process.

STEP 2: Consider your goals thoughtfully to ensure that they don’t contradict each other.

STEP 3: Write your goals down, in detail, and review them regularly. If you’re focusing on concrete goals you can visualize, you’re more likely to accomplish them. Make sure your goals are “SMART”:


STEP 4: Create a plan of action that identifies detailed steps that you will take along the way to stay on track and make progress. When your overarching goal seems overwhelming, focusing on the smaller, more immediate and doable components can help.

STEP 5: Think about your goals each day, and with every decision you make, ask yourself if that action will take you closer to, or further from, your set goal.

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