What Is a Career? | College of Arts

What Is a Career?


Your Career Future is Full of Possibilities. 

Career ideas are often shaped and, maybe, more importantly, limited by:

  • social and cultural context
  • what we have been exposed to
  • our present experiences
  • the well-intentioned people who advise and steer us
  • whether or not our ideas are validated by opinions we respect

In other words, we only know what we know.  When transitioning from school to work, you are in a process of re-invention, which means old information may no longer work and new information is needed to broaden and build your possibilities.  

Building a career identity is about exploring your possible selves (who can I become? what purpose do I want to serve?), seeking opportunities to test and experiment with career ideas (try, learn, and evaluate), and notice your transformation process (personal and professional growth) for continuous sense-making and decisionmaking.  Career identity is a continuous process of uncovering what's next, not about choosing a job title to do for the rest of your life.

The Career Myth

Linear - the way it is supposed to be:

diag 1

Squiggly - the way it is for most:

Diag 2

What a Career is…

  • A career is a metaphorical journey where you learn, grow, and try new things through a series of experiences.
  • A career is a unique opportunity to contribute to something meaningful.
  • A career explores our relationship with work – primarily through values, strengths, and goals. 
  • A career is a sequence of occupational experiences and experiments (paid and unpaid) that grow and change as you do, creating career possibilities.
  • A career is squiggly making it dynamic, open-ended, and customized to your abilities, ambitions, and contributions.

What a Career is not...

  • A career is not a job title, a position, level, or set of responsibilities.
  • A career is not passive or something that happens to you.
  • A career is not a linear pathway.
  • A career is not what your degree is.

More on Navigating the Squiggly Career .....


What is an Academic Career…

Your degree is an opportunity to have series of experiences exploring who you are, how you learn, and what matters to you.

  • The curriculum allows you to acquire subject matter expertise, practice transferable skills, and learn technical skills.
  • The courses expose you to the world of work through an examination of challenges happing in the world; problems to solve and opportunities to create.
  • Assignments, projects, presentations, seminars, and labs are where you practice competencies ( a set of knowledge, skills, and experience) you will use in a job.
  • Experiential learning are curricular and co-curricular opportunities to test out course material in real-world applications. 
  • An academic career is a cognitive and socio-emotional investment to explore what you like to learn, what you want to do, and who you are becoming; these are all key factors in building a career.


experiential learning college of arts