When you examine the rate at which students change college majors and the number of adults who have careers outside their field of study, you will notice that many students suffer from a lack of career development programming. According to a 2018 study by the US Department of Education, almost 30% of college students change their majors within 3 years of enrollment. The numbers are higher for students pursuing a Bachelor's degree as compared to an Associate’s, and even higher for STEM majors than non-STEM majors.
Many students get to college and beyond only to find themselves confused and unsure of what to do for a career. Too Americans regret their majors, end up hating their jobs, and eventually change careers. Reports indicate that only 27% of Americans use their degrees in their professional careers.
A mismatch of college degrees and careers was never much of a problem until the boom in the student loan debt. The truth is that many Americans regret going into debt for a degree that they never used. Now more than ever, career development and exposure are vital to the well-being of college-aspiring Americans.
What is Career Development and Why is it Important?
Career development opens the door to the vast array of professional opportunities and offers exposure to different career paths through mentoring, job shadowing, networking events, internships, summer jobs and different workshops. Through these enrichment programs, students grow as young professionals and benefit in the following 5 ways:
Students get exposure to different career paths
As children, we’re only exposed to the most popular professions like law, medicine, engineering, teaching, and business administration. However, students remain ignorant of the different specialties that exist within these fields. For instance, many students are unaware of the 24 medical specializations that they can pursue and limit themselves to the most common fields like cardiology or neurology. Career development is an important segment of college readiness that teaches students that there are endless professional opportunities and pathways to explore.
Students are introduced to the demands of professional qualifications
Through career development programming, students not only get exposed to the many careers that they can pursue, but they also gain an introduction to the demands and expectations of those careers. As students learn what a general surgeon is, they also learn what is required to become a general surgeon.
Students develop soft skills
Career development is more than just identifying one’s dream job; it also teaches students soft skills that will help them assimilate into the labor force when the time comes. Internships, job shadowing, and summer jobs are invaluable development and enrichment opportunities that prepare students for the real working world.
Studies indicate that recent graduates and new members of the workforce lack the soft skills that they need to effectively perform their duties.
Students learn the value of punctuality, professionalism, conflict resolution, adaptability, and effective communication inside the workplace, the sooner they start interning, job shadowing and working summer jobs
Career development opens the door to new and various interests
Another great benefit of career development is that it allows students to develop different and new interests. Through development opportunities like job shadowing and internships, students get to sift through an array of fields and gain a better understanding of their interests. Students also get to develop new interests that they wouldn’t have been exposed to before.
Students get to build a professional network
By networking with professionals and pursuing different opportunities, students get to develop their connections and professional networks. As students climb the ladder to a career from a summer job to job shadowing to an internship, they establish connections that they can use throughout their careers. Through these opportunities, students connect to the real world in ways that they couldn't through a singular student status.
These five benefits of career development are reason enough to encourage students to explore their professional interests before they get to a college. To mitigate the mismatch of college majors and careers is to increase career development programming, starting in high school, if not sooner.