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The career development process explores a person's strengths, weaknesses and interests, investigates career paths, identifies career goals, and establishes a plan to accomplish them. The process often begins in secondary school with an exploration of the world of work and an introduction to different possible career options. It continues post-secondary school and is often a structured part of the college and university experience. Career development is a lifelong concern with whatever path a person takes, but in the context of higher education it has an imposed structure that involves exploring majors, testing, and working with counselors from the school's career development office.
Secondary school students worldwide are often familiar with the system's goal to not only educate but to help students identify a career they have an interest in pursuing. This introduction to careers sometimes starts as early as elementary school, with adults visiting classes to explain what they do for a living. In high school, the career development process takes on its first bit of structure. Schools organize career fairs, encourage students to investigate career options, and use guidance counselors to try to match a student's skills and interests to an appropriate career path. That path often entails higher education but can sometimes include other options, such as military service or vocational training.
Colleges and universities focus on the career development process. Advanced education is expensive, and most people are disinclined to invest in it unless the student comes away with significant value. Focusing on a career path as early as possible in the educational process makes it more likely that a student can satisfy requirements without wasting time and money. The system is typically set up so a student has a period of general education where he can explore his interests against his strengths and weaknesses, followed by the selection of a major. Once a major is selected, the student works with academic advisors and the career development office to set goals and work on a plan to launch his selected career.
The career development process in the college setting mirrors the process people go through in every context and throughout their lives as they seek to establish a career. If a person chooses vocational training over higher education, he still has to consider how to move forward successfully on his chosen path. Career development requires self-assessment, exploration of options, goal-setting, and establishing an action plan to reach those goals. As a person establishes himself in life, career development becomes professional development of a single, chosen career.