Career Exploration: First Steps

Last updated Dec 18, 2023 
| aplustutoring

Teacher, astronaut, basketball player, doctor, ballerina—answers like this to the classic question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” seemed so simple once, but growing up happens fast. While some kids’ dreams remain fixed, for many teens career plans can either evolve or become more opaque. It’s okay to not have your future figured out. Still, whether it is choosing classes and extracurricular activities or selecting colleges and majors, getting started with career exploration early is the best way to begin shaping a path forward that aligns with your personality, skills, interests, values, needs, and goals. Follow the steps outlined below to take your first steps.


It might be tempting to jump right into filling out career interest surveys and browsing the web for career options, but it’s important to take time to reflect first. Create a document or use a notebook to take an inventory of your skills, interests, and values. Ask yourself: What skills give you confidence? What skills played a role in a big success? List hard skills, such as coding or writing, alongside soft skills, such as leadership or empathy. As you catalog your interests, consider the subjects and activities that you are passionate about: What do you get lost doing? What is something that you would study without a grade attached to it? Interests can include anything from babysitting to AI. Finally, take stock of what you value: How important is it to you to make a lot of money? Do you want a career where you can make a difference? Knowing the answers to these questions in advance will speed up the process and produce results that are more attuned to who you are and what you want. 


Okay, so now that you’ve made it through the introspection step, you’re ready to assess your career interests. Online surveys are a good place to start. The College Board’s Big Future offers  a 15 minute Career Quiz, for example, that provides personalized career suggestions based on your interests. Some other options include The MAPP Career Test, which takes 20 minutes and matches your skills, interests, and learning style with 1,000 possible careers, and the Holland Code Career Aptitude Test

Many schools have their own career assessment tools, which are available to students via online portals, such as Naviance. State websites like Pennsylvania’s CareerZone host career inventories for students, too. These tools typically offer students the opportunity to explore career clusters (a group of jobs in the same field that require similar skills) that are in sync with their personality and interests. A student who matches with a Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security career cluster, for example, might consider careers as a lawyer or intelligence officer. 

Last but not least, don’t forget to schedule an appointment with your school counselor who can provide more personalized assessment recommendations and help you put all of your results into context before you take the next steps in your career exploration journey.


Processing the information from career interest surveys can be overwhelming, especially when what comes next is researching the careers that your assessment results recommended. While it’s not a bad idea to keep your options open, start with a list of no more than five or six careers to investigate to stay focused and limit confusion. 

Keep track of your findings on a document or spreadsheet, taking care specifically to locate key information about each possible career: salary, education and/or licensing requirements, skills required, daily activities, and career prospects (i.e. labor statistics that indicate if the career is in a growing or shrinking field).

Initially, most of your research will likely take place online. Rather than googling a career and finding yourself getting lost in internet rabbit holes, visit reputable and credible sites that share everything you need to know, from statistics to interviews:

  • Big Future’s Career Search: This College Board resource allows students to search for a career based on their career cluster, interests, desired income, or education level. Students can then take a closer look at specific job information, such as median yearly income and projected job growth.
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Learn about the education and skills necessary for various careers, as well as the pay, job outlook, work environment, and more.
  • Career Village: Students can ask any question about any career before they are matched to relevant professionals who then offer advice.
  • O*Net Career: Learn occupation-specific information for careers in your career cluster, including tasks, skills, work activities, training, education, values, interests, and employment trends.
  • Job Shadow: Read interviews with people who work in a wide variety of fields in order to get a more detailed, personal, and realistic picture of possible career options.

Take Action

The ultimate goal of the research process is to narrow a student’s list of potential careers to three or four. Because now it’s time to take action. Close the laptop, turn off the phone, and get out there! The most effective way of figuring out the best career for you is to get closest to experiencing it firsthand: choose courses or attend summer enrichment programs that expand your knowledge and skills, apply for part-time jobs or internships in a related field, try job shadowing to experience a typical day in your future career, and interview people who currently do a job that interests you.

How A+ Can Help

Exploring career options early is not only a way to learn more about yourself—your goals and your interests—it also makes the process of choosing classes, extracurriculars, and ultimately colleges much more straightforward and fulfilling. Plus, it can be a lot of fun! This is your chance to translate your dreams and passions into reality. At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, we offer College Admissions Coaching services to guide students through the stages of the admissions process, which includes investigating majors and careers. We also offer Executive Function Coaching to help students develop skills, such as time management and organization, that will help them navigate the increased demands of high school, college, and eventually their chosen career. In addition, Test Prep Programs, including SAT and ACT tutoring, support students as they work towards their college and career goals. Whatever future path you chart for yourself, consider choosing us as a part of your journey. 

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, we can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at


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