Some stuff can be planned in a nanosecond – meeting a friend at the mall, arranging a study night or planning a Friday night party.

Career planning? Not so much.  Exploring options and avenues for your life is going to take more effort than hitting SEND, a longer attention span than it takes to snap chat, and more knowledge than can be shoehorned into a tweet.

But is prepping for your future, discovering strengths and interests that will lead you into work you love worth it? Yes. YES! Strong research shows that people that use their strengths in their career are happier, more fulfilled and even more successful in both work and life.

Here are five ‘career prep’ areas you can explore to be better prepared for the next few years.

Career Planning Tip #1: Find your strengths

What amazes us, and maybe you, too, is how little we know about our own strengths. While there are lots of tools for discovering these, one includes asking others’ opinions.

Hit up friends, parents (yep!), and teachers (definitely) by asking them about your strengths. What do they say you are a “natural” at? What qualities stand out to them? How would they describe your personality? If your teacher, best friend and mom all say you are outgoing? Bingo! Research careers that allow your people-oriented gregariousness to shine.

Career Planning Tip #2: Talk with career counselors

Career counselors are all about making things easier for you, and their resources – assessments, insider info, college and career insights – leapfrog you ahead in thinking about your future. They are especially skilled at helping you pair strengths and interests with possible career opportunities. Schedule an appointment with your career counselor today!

One great career assessment we love is Career Key. This online assessment offers you career options to explore and shows you how they align with possible college majors. The test is only $9.95 to complete, and worth every penny as an investment in your future!

Career Planning Tip #3: Explore LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social networking site that, for a long time, focused only on professionals. Now, teenagers and young adults are using it to begin creating connections as they explore interests, passions and careers.

LinkedIn also just launched University Pages, a new feature that helps you tap into schools and ask questions of the campus community and alumni. You can also go directly to Alumni Pages to see what career and major alumni from your school are working in. This is a great way to build a network that will develop strong, sturdy connections that can move you ahead for years to come.

Career Planning Tip #4: Read What Color is Your Parachute? For Teens

So, reading’s not on your top 10 favorite things to do? We get it! This book, though, is different. It’s entertaining, interactive and packed with step-by-step activities to help you explore career options.

One of the best features is that What Color is Your Parachute? For Teens includes real-life stories of young adults who have explored and found their dream careers. The book is a great step-by-step guide for discovering your career interests, exploring your options and landing a great internship or first job out of college.

Career Planning Tip #5: Take workshops and classes

Make time in your schedule to take courses and classes that will boost your knowledge about your career interests and options. Check out our 1-day workshop and career tutoring information here as we’d love to help you learn about your interests and strengths and how those translate to a fabulous career! You can also check with your school counselor for other suggestions of classes and programs related to career readiness.

Building the foundation for a great career starts with early exploration. The key is to be proactive and make time for career related activities and preparation throughout the next few years. Don’t wait until your senior year of college to start thinking about your career! Build up your knowledges and experiences to land fulfilling internships and to prepare you for your first job out of college and a rewarding career for years to come.

Which of this five tips have you already explored? Which will you do next?

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