• Shannon Phillips

Career Planning for Recent High School Graduates

Congratulations on completing your high school education!



Once the excitement of the end of senior year is over and reality sets in, determining your next steps can be pretty scary. Whether you’re heading off to college or planning to enter the work force, your journey to your career is unique. Career planning isn’t one size fits all; it has to be individually tailored to suit your specific goals, skills, capabilities, and needs. If you are not sure where to start or where to go next on your career path, Cayuga and Cortland Works Career Centers would like help. We offer a variety of free resources to help you make the most of your future.



If you don’t know where you’ve been, it’s hard to know where you’re going.


Whether you’re thinking about your college major or deciding which jobs to apply for, taking an inventory of your assets is always a good idea. To get started, list your skills, educational achievements, employment experiences, volunteer experiences, hobbies, and accomplishments in one document. Don’t worry about organization just yet. This document will help you see the skills and interests that you can use while planning for a future career. It can help you see where your strengths and interests overlap. These broad areas of interest are often called Career Clusters. For example, if you volunteered to run in 5k to raise money for a charity, love to spend time at the gym,


played on a sports team, and were very successful in classes regarding health and wellness, the common thread here is fitness. These interests fall into the Human Services Career Cluster, which includes occupations like personal trainer or fitness instructor. They could also fall into the category of Health Science or STEM, which focuses on more advanced study of sciences such as physical therapy, kinesiology, and other medical professions dealing with the body in motion.


Do your homework


If you have a general idea of the type of work that might interest you, take a look at what is required to get a job in the field. A great resource for this type of information is O*Net Online, where you can explore occupations by Career Cluster, look for occupations that are growing quickly, use specific key words to search, and more. If you aren’t sure what it is you want to do, use the O*NET Interest Profiler to identify areas of interest and learn about jobs in that area – from entry level to those that require an advanced degree. You can also search by local labor market and discover the jobs in your field of interest that are available in our area, along with data about salary range and long-term employment outlook.



Network, Network, Network


Your network already includes family, friends, neighbors, and other people you know from involvement in everyday activities like clubs and sports. The key to effective networking is to make sure that everyone you encounter knows what type of job you are looking for. Ask people you know to ask people they know if anyone is hiring in the field that interests you. Build your network by taking advantage of community resources like Career One-Stops, the local Chamber of Commerce, and other business organizations that exist in your area. Remember that networking can take place online, too, by using social media sites to look for connections to the workforce.



Create a Master Resume


The best resumes are written based on job descriptions for a specific position. Before you find that job, however, you can use the information you generated in the first step of your job search to create what is called a master resume. This type of resume includes every skill you’ve developed, every work experience you’ve had, your educational achievements, and any other experiences that may qualify you for a job. You can get free expert advice on resume writing at your local Career One-Stop. You can also get help an editing existing resume. Once you have a master resume, it’s easy to remove any information that is not relevant to a specific position for which you are applying. When you find the job you want to apply for, use a current description of the job to determine the best way to present your qualifications and to identify key words to add to your resume. In addition to expert advice on resume writing in general, your local Career One-Stop has computers to type or edit your resume, apply for jobs online, or print resumes.






Making a career plan is daunting. The average American has 12 jobs between the ages of 18-54, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By taking an inventory of what you have to offer, researching the local job market, networking, and preparing a resume, you put yourself in a great position to take the first step toward a fulfilling career. Career plans are flexible and will change, sometimes in a completely different direction, as you gain experience in the job market and more clearly define your goals. Cayuga and Cortland Works Career Centers are here to help you reach them.

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