Major & Career Discernment Toolkit
Before ever setting foot on Xavier’s campus, you’ve likely been asked the following questions hundreds of times:
- What is your major?
- What do you plan to do when you graduate?
For some students, these answers come easily. They arrive at Xavier confident in the major they’ve selected and know exactly what they want to do post-graduation. Whether before arriving at Xavier or after, each individual must go through the major and career discernment process.
WHAT IS DISCERNMENT? HOW CAN IT HELP ME AS I CONSIDER MAJORS AND CAREER OPTIONS?
Discernment is a process of making decisions - big or small - in which we pay close attention to our lives in particular ways: listening to our experiences, feelings, emotions and desires; using reason (e.g. making lists of pros and cons); taking time to reflect on a matter of importance; asking critical questions; and consulting with others.
Most students find themselves in one of the following discerning groups at some point during their time at Xavier:
- Exploratory: Students who are unsure what to major in or what they want to do after graduation find themselves exploring major and career options as they strive to make a decision.
- Questioning: Many students select a major, but begin questioning if it’s the right fit. Sometimes a challenging course or conversations with other students in the selected major cause a student to wonder if they should explore other options.
- Considering Career Options: Students who are confident in their major selection will find themselves exploring career options for that major at some point. They may be considering how adding a minor, gaining hands-on experience, or pursuing graduate school could better prepare them for a variety of career options.
As you consider major and career options, the following questions can aid you in your reflection and discernment as you seek the right fit. These are excellent questions to revisit should you find yourself questioning your post-Xavier plans and as an alum within your chosen career. Click each question below for further reflection prompts and resources.
After reflecting upon the above questions, we've compiled some helpful next steps for further conversation, research, and connection.
Consider the activities that you engage with in your free time. These activities can be a number of things from the sports you play, the groups you find yourself involved in on-campus, or the activities that help you relax or have fun. An activity that brings you joy is one where you lose track of time, feel energized while and after doing it, and want to continue coming back to it on a regular basis.
- What activities do you most enjoy?
- As you consider a past job, internship, or campus activity, what was most fun to you?
- What activities leave you with a feeling of proud accomplishment when completed?
- What energizes you?
- Remember that what brings you joy can be a significant part of your career choice, a small part, or something you do outside of work. Where do you see these activities fitting in best in your future?
- What Brings You Joy Reflection Activity
- Experiential Learning Cycle Discernment Activity - David Kolb
- Strong Interest Inventory
Consider the skills that come easily to you, both hard and soft skills. Perhaps you have a knack for organization and details, and are your family’s go-to person for planning birthday parties and baby showers. Event planning is a breeze for you. Or, maybe you’re a natural with relationship-building, easily engaging with new people, staying in touch, and connecting them with others. Maybe you are the person everyone goes to when they have computer problems, and you find that figuring out and fixing the issue is a fun challenge you happen to be pretty good at.
- What are things that come naturally to you?
- What are your strengths?
- Reflect on compliments you’ve received on a job well done: What skills did you implement?
- While it's ideal that your future career matches your strengths, recognize that there will be challenges too. It's likely some of what you excel at may not be incorporated in your 8-5 job. What outlets might you engage with outside of work that would allow you to share your gifts with others?
- FOCUS II
- StrengthsFinder: Purchase the book to take the CliftonStrengths assessment and better understand your unique strengths or check to see if your campus organization or group offers this to its members.
- Put your strengths into practice. Pursue active involvement in a student organization, volunteer, or apply for internships which will allow you to test some of the things you believe you’re good at and gain experience that will look great on your resume.
Consider the issues, concerns, and needs in the world that mean the most to you. Why are you passionate about these issues? In what ways can you imagine getting involved, helping the cause, and making a difference? Is it important to you that this is the focus of your future career, or something you'd engage in through volunteering and activism? In what ways could your strengths and unique skills be put to work to impact the greater good? Reflect upon the organizations, job titles, and opportunities in your personal time that might allow you to have the greatest impact. If you’re stumped, a Career Coach can help!
- O*NET Online and the Occupational Outlook Handbook: Search for job titles you are considering and learn about the tasks and work activities typically associated with the role; required skills, knowledge, and abilities; work values, wages and employment trends; and related occupations.
- Musketeer Career Network: As you start to identify organizations and job titles that spark interest, supplement your research with a conversation with someone currently working in a role or organization that you're considering. Connect with a Flash Mentor to schedule conversations with industry professionals eager to share with you their path and about their role and organization. Beginning your sophomore year, you can apply for a long-term mentor in the Professional Mentor Program who can be an excellent resource for information, advice, and building your professional network!
- Career Development Model
- Ask members of your family and close friends what they believe to be your strengths, when they’ve seen you thriving, and how they could imagine you combining what you’ve been reflecting upon into your career planning. Remember that their insight is intended to spark new ideas or confirm what you’ve been considering, not to make a decision for you.
Talk to someone you trust on campus.
- Share with them what you’ve been reflecting upon and where you stand with your major/career discernment. Let them know how you feel about it - hopeful, stressed, anxious, excited, etc.
- Ask for their insight on what you’ve shared. Where do they see alignment with what they’ve observed in you?
- Ask for advice and connections. How might you deepen your reflection? How can you research the options of greatest interest to you? Could they connect you with someone who could provide their own experience with what you’re considering? What opportunities are available to try it out?
- Not sure who to talk to? Here are a few ideas:
- Meet with a trusted faculty or staff member:
- Connect with peers through student organizations and campus activities:
- Meet with a trusted faculty or staff member:
Explore the Career Development Model.
Xavier's Career Development Model is a unique system that takes the information, skills and experiences you already have and helps you arrive at your next step in your career path. Whatever that step may be - from incoming first-year Musketeers trying to choose a major to an alum looking to make a career shift - our Career Development Model keeps you on course.
Connect with Career Development.
The Career Development team is available to you every step of of your discernment journey. Meet with a Career Coach to discuss major and career options, connect with a professional mentor for real-world advice, put your skills and interests into practice through experiential learning, or take steps toward pursuing that first post-Xavier job.