When to start planning for a career

There are different opinions on when is the right time to start planning for a career. I believe career planning should be done as early as possible to guide students in their study. When students celebrate the passing of the high school exams, I often advise them to plan their careers and determine whether they will go to college or vocational school and what field of study they should select.

Of course, many people believe students should not worry about finding a job while in college for they should focus on learning as a priority. Today a college degree does not guarantee a job anymore. There are changes in the job market and without a career plan in place, students can be misled and confused on what to study and what skills they will need. A career plan is a map that they need to maintain their course and can be adjusted when change happens. Without having this map early to guide them, everything can be left to “Random” and “Luck.”

The fact is companies hire workers who have the skills that they need and college is the perfect place to develop such skills. Career planning and studying are not exclusive and students can study and develop skills based on their career plan at the same time. Students who neglect their career planning or have no plan often select their field of study at random may NOT have the needed skills and have difficulty in finding jobs after graduation. Planning a career while studying is not just for those wanting to get high paying jobs but should be for all students regarding of what fields they are studying. Doing so helps them to discover what kind of work they want to do after graduation, as well as providing them with the skills that they need for their future career.

Many students fail when applying for jobs after they graduate because they do not understand the basics of the job market. Companies do NOT hire just any graduates, because they have a degree but hire those who have the knowledge and skills that they need. Knowing this basic and prepare for it is the main reason students should develop a career plan as early as possible. Combining study and career planning when going to college is not about creating more pressure for students but about doing what they need to prepare for their future.

Every university has a Jobs Service Center with counselors available to students after graduation to help them to find jobs. In my opinion, it is too late. It makes more sense to start career planning early when students entering college and those counselors should help them to select the appropriate field of study so after graduation they should not have difficulty to find a job. They should encourage students to think seriously about their career before they start university. This means they can make an informed decision about what fields of study they should select, what skills they will need to develop and what courses they should enroll in during their time there.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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