Career pathways—which one are you on?

Tools to help you make an informed career decision.

What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a common question adults ask young people. For many regardless of age, this can be a very daunting inquiry when there are thousands of careers to choose from. How does one make an informed decision?

Michigan State University Extension recommends using a tool to help young people get started navigating through this maze called the Michigan Career Pathways. Here, occupations are categorized into six broad groups that share similar skill sets, interests and characteristics. On the careers pathways poster, you will find related coursework, careers and questions to help you choose a pathway that may appeal to you.  The careers pathways include:

  • Arts & communication
  • Business, management, marketing and technology
  • Engineering, manufacturing  and industrial technology
  • Health sciences
  • Human services
  • Natural resources  and agri-science

Once you identify a general career pathway that matches your interests, skills and values the next step is to explore and gather more information about different occupations in that pathway. One resource that can help with this research is the Occupational Outlook Handbook provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here you will find detailed descriptions of over 300 different jobs. You can discover what the people in those careers do, their work environments, pay, employment outlook and projections, training requirements, and sources of additional information.

Talking to people in different fields of interest is another way to research careers and at the same time expand your network. Parents, teachers, counselors, coaches or 4-H leaders may be able to provide personal contacts in different industries. Ask them for assistance in doing some of the following activities below. 

  • Invite someone to speak at one of your club meetings or classes.
  • Find someone with a job in the occupation you are interested in and schedule an interview with him or her over phone or online.
  • Attend a job fair and talk to company representatives in person about their careers and industry
  • Arrange for a tour of a company

Before meeting or talking with the representative, make sure to have a list of questions you want to ask.

Michigan 4-H also has numerous resources to help you get started exploring careers including an informational interviewing handout that you can use when talking to professionals in an area of interest. Start today, building your future for tomorrow!

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