Getting Started

Starting to think about your career is an important and often exciting step in your life journey. This page is for you on ways to conceptualize and start thinking about your career development, reflection, exploration, and taking action. 

SUGGESTIONS: Explore this page as an introduction to defining Career Development and what how it fits into your life

Recommend exploring this page and the various pages of the career center like a  step-by-step guide on how to begin thinking about and exploring your career:


Career Concepts and Terms

The following are concepts and terms you want to keep in mind when thinking about career.

"Career," "occupation," and "job" are related concepts, but they have distinct meanings and implications:


  • A job is the most specific of the three terms. It refers to a specific position or role within an organization or for a specific employer.
    A job typically has defined tasks, responsibilities, and often a job title. It can include part-time, full-time, temporary, or contract positions.
    Jobs are the individual tasks or roles that people perform to earn income. They may or may not be part of a broader career or long-term occupational path.

  • Occupation:
  • An occupation is a broader category that encompasses a group of related jobs that share similar characteristics, skills, and functions.
    Occupations are often defined by industry standards and classifications. Examples of occupations include "registered nurse," "software developer," "teacher," or "electrician."
    Multiple jobs within an occupation may have variations in specific duties, but they share common qualifications and skill sets.

  • Career:

A career is the most encompassing term of the three. It represents an individual's professional journey, which may include multiple jobs and roles within one or more occupations over an extended period.


The Career Development process wheel highlights various stages of career development and tasks you should consider implementing. These concepts also highlight the breadth (but not limited to) career questions and needs to be addressed in a career counseling appointment


Career Wheel


As you review the wheel, take note that each of the sections corresponds to a different section on the Career Center website. You will find resources that can assist you in progressing and learning in each of these areas. 

A career is a person's journey through a series of related employment opportunities, roles, or positions in their chosen field or industry over the course of their working life. It encompasses the jobs, roles, and experiences that an individual engages in, typically with the aim of achieving professional growth, financial stability, personal fulfillment, and, in some cases, making a meaningful contribution to society.

Career can consist of the following additional aspects

The career journey often begins with exploration. At this stage, individuals may be students or young professionals exploring various fields, industries, and job roles to discover their interests and passions.

Education and Skill Development:
After identifying areas of interest, individuals pursue education and skill development to acquire the knowledge and qualifications needed for their chosen career paths. This may involve formal education, training programs, certifications, and self-study.

Entry-Level Employment:
As individuals complete their education or training, they enter the workforce at entry-level positions. These early career roles provide practical experience and an opportunity to apply newly acquired skills.

Career Advancement:
Career advancement involves progressing through the ranks within a chosen field or industry. This phase often includes taking on more responsibilities, gaining expertise, and seeking promotions or higher-level positions.

Skill Refinement and Specialization:
In the middle stages of a career, individuals may choose to specialize in a specific area or skill set within their field. This specialization can lead to greater expertise and potentially more senior roles.

Mentorship and Leadership:
As professionals gain experience, they may become mentors to younger colleagues or take on leadership roles within their organizations. Leadership positions often come with increased responsibility and decision-making authority.

Mid-Career Evaluation:
Mid-career professionals may periodically evaluate their career goals and progress. They may consider whether their current path aligns with their long-term aspirations and make adjustments if needed.
IMPORTANT: With this in mind, just know what you major in does NOT determine what you will do for the rest of your life. 

Continued Learning and Adaptation:
Throughout the career cycle, individuals must stay current with industry trends and emerging technologies. Lifelong learning is essential for career growth and adaptation to changing job market demands.

Career Transitions:
Career transitions can occur at various points in one's career. Individuals may switch industries, take on new roles, or pursue entirely different career paths based on changing interests or opportunities.

Legacy and Knowledge Sharing:
Experienced professionals may focus on leaving a legacy by sharing their knowledge and expertise with younger generations. This could involve mentoring, teaching, or contributing to industry advancements.

Retirement marks the conclusion of the formal career cycle. However, many retirees continue to engage in part-time work, consulting, volunteering, or pursuing personal interests.
It's important to note that the career cycle is not strictly linear, and individuals may move back and forth between stages, especially when making career transitions or pursuing new opportunities. Additionally, the duration of each stage can vary significantly from person to person.

Purpose: A career is usually guided by personal goals, aspirations, and values. It is driven by an individual's sense of purpose, whether that's pursuing a particular passion, making a difference in the world, or achieving financial stability.

Adaptability: Careers may involve adapting to changing circumstances, industries, or job markets. This adaptability is essential in today's dynamic work environment.

Financial Considerations: Careers often play a central role in a person's financial well-being. Individuals pursue careers to earn income, provide for their needs and those of their families, and achieve financial goals.

Personal Satisfaction: Career choices are often influenced by an individual's desire for personal satisfaction and fulfillment. People seek careers that align with their interests, values, and passions.

It's important to note that a career is not limited to a single job or employer but encompasses the sum of a person's work experiences and achievements. Over time, a career may involve transitions, changes in direction, and various roles that collectively shape an individual's professional identity. Career planning and development are essential aspects of managing and advancing in one's career.

Career exploration can feel like a highly individualized process, and it's perfectly okay to take time to clarify their goals and preferences. Best take your time rather than make an impulsive decision that could cost time, money, and energy that doesn’t align clearly with your goals. 

Exploration may require continuous self-assessment, research, and seeking advice from mentors, peers, and career professionals to make well-informed career decisions.

These questions can help YOU gain deeper insights into their career preferences and aspirations.

Be patient, and open and honest to yourself as you reflect on the  following prompting questions toward meaningful career reflection:

  • What led to your decision to attend college?
  • What activities make you lose track of the time?
  • What problems do you want to solve? (a better alternative than “What do you want to be when you grow up?”)
  • What skills and knowledge do you want to learn?
  • When having options of classes (electives), what is your thought process in choosing certain courses over others?
  • What Are Your Role Models or Inspirations? What about their careers or qualities appeals to you?
  • What kind of lifestyle do you want?
  • What Are Your Short-Term and Long-Term Priorities?
  • What can I do with my time that is important to me?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, or 20 years?
  • What kind of lifestyle do you aspire to have?
  • What does a fulfilling and happy career look like to you personally? How do you measure career satisfaction?

COMING SOON Additional Prompting Questions

There are several career myths that can influence people's perceptions and decisions about their professional lives. It's essential to debunk these myths to make informed career choices. Here are some common career myths:

"There's Only One Perfect Career for Me":

This myth can lead to unrealistic expectations and anxiety about finding the "perfect" career. In reality, there are multiple career paths that can be fulfilling.

"Your Major Determines Your Career":

Many people believe that their college major directly determines their career. While it can be a factor, it doesn't limit your career choices. Your skills, experiences, and interests play significant roles in your career options.

"A College Degree Guarantees Success":

While a college degree can open doors, it doesn't guarantee success. Success depends on various factors, including skills, work ethic, and networking.

"You Need to Follow Your Passion to Be Happy":

The advice to "follow your passion" can be limiting. Sometimes, pursuing a career based on practical considerations or interests can lead to a fulfilling and successful life.

"Changing Careers Is Too Risky":

Career changes are common, and they're not as risky as you might think. With planning and preparation, changing careers can lead to personal and professional growth.

"Success Is Measured by Income":

While financial stability is important, it doesn't define success for everyone. Success can be defined by personal fulfillment, work-life balance, or making a positive impact.

"Your Job Should Be Your Only Source of Fulfillment":

Relying solely on your job for fulfillment can lead to burnout. It's important to have a balanced life with various sources of happiness.

"Job Security Is Guaranteed":

In today's dynamic job market, job security is not guaranteed. It's crucial to continuously develop skills and stay adaptable.

"Networking Is Only for Extroverts":

Introverts can be excellent networkers. Building relationships in your own way, whether it's through one-on-one conversations or online connections, is valuable in any career.

"Mentorship Happens Spontaneously":

Effective mentorship often requires proactive efforts to seek out and engage with mentors. It doesn't always happen naturally.

"You Should Settle for Any Job During a Job Search":

Settling for any job out of desperation can lead to job dissatisfaction. It's better to search for positions that align with your long-term goals and values.

"You Should Keep Work and Personal Life Completely Separate":

Achieving a work-life balance may require integrating work and personal life to some extent. It's not always feasible or necessary to keep them entirely separate.

Debunking these career myths can lead to more informed, balanced, and realistic career decisions. It's essential to consider individual values, interests, and goals while keeping an open mind about the diverse career paths available.

Seek internships, part-time jobs, or volunteer opportunities related to your career interests. Practical experience can help you confirm your career choice and build your resume.
Consider joining clubs, organizations, or projects that align with your interests. These can provide hands-on experience and networking opportunities.

Seek Guidance:

Meet with a career counselor or advisor. They can help you explore your options, set goals, and develop a career plan.
Talk to professionals in your desired field through informational interviews. They can provide real-world insights and advice.
Create a Career Plan:

Develop a clear and adaptable career plan. Outline the steps you need to take to reach your goals, including education, skill development, and job searching.
Set deadlines for achieving specific milestones along your career path.

Stay Informed:

Keep up-to-date with industry trends and developments. Subscribe to industry publications, follow relevant websites, and join professional associations.

Stay Open-Minded:

Be open to unexpected opportunities and changes in your career path. Sometimes, your interests and goals may evolve over time.

Take Action:

Act on your plan by applying for jobs, internships, or educational programs that align with your goals.
Continually reassess your plan and make adjustments as needed based on your experiences and changing interests.

Seek Support:

Surround yourself with supportive friends and family who can offer encouragement and guidance throughout your career journey.

Remember that career planning is a dynamic process that can evolve over time. It's okay to explore different paths and make adjustments as you learn more about yourself and your interests. Stay adaptable, proactive, and open to new opportunities, and your career journey will be a fulfilling one.
This page is intended to provide you with introductory information and resources about career development to get you started and reflecting on your career needs

Resources to Get You Started

Our website is designed, like a career, as an ongoing work in progress, and we are here to provide you with various resources and pieces of career advice to help you get started on your career journey.

Career counselors at the Career Center can help you address issues and challenges you face that lead to you feeling stuck on your career development.  


Courses listed are suggestions to help students explore their personal, major, and/or career interests at El Camino College.

Please consult with an academic counselor for information about major, general education (GE), degree, and transfer credits and  requirements as well as credit limitations.

Major and Career Exploration Courses at ECC


Meta-majors are groups of related majors with similar requirements, outcomes, or methodologies.

Learn More

As you utilize, reflect and explore our website, set concret goals for yourself on what is important to accomplish to address your career needs.

SMART goals are a framework for setting clear, concise, and achievable objectives. The SMART acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

This framework helps individuals and organizations create well-defined goals that are more likely to be successfully accomplished.

Ask yourself:

What do you need to move forward?

What questions do you have?

What do you want (and can) [to] achieve in the next few days, weeks, months, years?

What are your ultimate career aspirations?

Define your short-term and long-term goals. Prioritize your goals and break them down into actionable steps. This will make them more manageable and achievable. Utilize the SMART Goal Strategy.


Seek assistance from a Career Counselor if you need help creating a SMART Goal