A universal definition of a job is “work that you do in exchange for money.” It can also be a particular role or title. Going back to our definition of career above, a career is something for which we train, something that we intend to do permanently—which in actuality means long-term and over time, not necessarily for the rest of your life. It is a field or area in which we have achievement. It occurs progressively and usually consecutively. Here is how some current college students have defined “career”:

  • “A career is long-term; you do it until you can’t anymore.”
  • “Something you love . . . a dream job.”
  • “What you plan and strive for while you work.”
  • “When you are more invested in the activities of the job than just getting a paycheck.”1


When Shira was in college, she had a job at a local ice-cream stand. She made very good money in the summertime, so she could work less during the school year. She also learned a lot about customer service and working with her coworkers as a team. Shira eventually took on more responsibility as a supervisor, creating work schedules and interviewing prospective new employees. She really enjoyed this part of her job because she liked tasks involving helping people do well at work. Her boss, customers, and coworkers told her she was good at it. Unbeknownst to her at the time, this was the beginning of Shira’s career in human resources.

How did this happen? As she took classes in psychology and business, Shira saw her courses in organizational psychology and management as applicable to her work. She enjoyed learning about how people interact in the workplace. She learned about human resources, which is typically defined as the department of a business or organization that deals with the hiring, administration, and training of people. She wanted to learn even more, so she got an internship in the human resources department of a bank before she graduated and loved it.

After getting her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, Shira got her first career-oriented job, as a recruiting specialist at a health insurance company. After about two years of working diligently, Shira got promoted to a job as a human resource generalist, with responsibility for recruiting strategy and process; recruiting specialists now report to her. In addition to working full-time, Shira also is active in her local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management and will begin studying to take the national certification exams offered through this organization, giving her a highly sought-after professional credential. Within 5 to 10 years, Shira hopes to become a human resources director.

Study groups can be helpful to college success. (Credit: University of Essex / Flickr / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC-BY 2.0)

Shira’s career path is a straightforward one. She learned a lot about herself early in her college career. She got some experience and studied academic subjects she was interested in. Shira was nervous and uncertain at times, but she remained positive and adjusted her course as needed. She worked hard and made plans to be sure she could get a “good job.”

What Students Say

  1. What is your most significant concern about starting your career after college?
    1. I didn’t choose the right major
    2. I won’t have enough experience or knowledge to get a good job
    3. I might have to compromise my interests or goals
    4. Something about my career path, my past, or my decisions will impact my ability to be hired.
  2. With what do you feel you need the most help in preparing for your career?
    1. Choosing the best major/pathway
    2. Gaining experience that will lead to success
    3. Standing out from others with similar majors or experience
    4. Writing a resume/profile and/or building a portfolio

You can also take the anonymous What Students Say Survey below.

Students offered their views on these questions, and the results are displayed in the graphs below.

What is your most significant concern about starting your career after college?


Most students are concerned that they won't have enough experience to get a good job, followed by having to compromise interests, not choosing the right major, and lastly something will impact their ability to be hired.
With what do you feel you need the most help in preparing for your career?

Most students fell they need the most help gaining experience, followed closely by standing out from others, and not so much choosing the best major or writing a resume.


  • 1 Canisius College Student Interviews, Buffalo, NY, September 2019

Source: OpenStax College Success is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License v4.0


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Strategies for First Year College Success Copyright © by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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