Step 2: Determine Career Goals and Skillset

Graphic showing relationship between knowing yourself and finding a targeted job. Target job is placed in the center overlapped by: “Your Values (what are you willing to do?)”, “Your Passions (what do you like to do?)”, “Your Skills (What do you know how to do?)” and “Your preferences (location, work environment, responsibility, etc.)You made a great decision to pursue an engineering degree so you have a general idea of the work that you want to do.  Now is the time to define this a little more with a self-assessment of your career goals and skillset.  Career self-assessment is a process through which you reflect on your experiences and your thinking to become aware of your strengths and weaknesses, skills and abilities, interests, values, goals, and aspirations.  You may have completed a self-assessment when you were trying to decide on your college major, but the focus now will be on what you want to do with your degree. This Ten-Step Guide is designed for finding employment in industry; but if after determining your career goals, graduate school is your destination, then we recommend you also read the information on Pursuing Graduate School.

Completing a self-assessment now is important for a couple of reasons.  First, employers are looking to hire people with skills, work values and interests that match the positions they are working to fill, so this will be part of the networking and interviewing processes. Second, it should be your goal to find a job that is in line with your skills, interests, values, etc. so you will enjoy the work and feel good about contributing to the products and services of the employer.

You should perform a self-assessment early in your career at ISU and revisit it occasionally.  Don’t be concerned if there is some uncertainty in your self-assessment.  Your thoughts will change and become more defined as you complete your coursework, experience new things and learn about potential employers.  If you have completed the assessment as part of an internship, you have completed part of a self-assessment.

Self-assessment has several benefits:

  • It helps you identify strengths that can be emphasized in interviews, and assess weaknesses that can be downplayed.
  • It gives you practice in articulating your achievements, aspirations and goals in a way that connects your experience profile with the strategic needs of the organization with which you’re interviewing.
  • It builds your confidence as you become more aware of what you can contribute to an employer. This awareness makes it easier for you to answer interview questions in a way that is natural and forthcoming.

There are many different types and ways of doing a self-assessment but most career related self-assessments focus on some or all of the following:

  • Skills
  • Values
  • Interests
  • Geography
  • Work Environment
  • Responsibility, Stress and Money
  • Potential for Advancement/Professional Growth

To help you better understand yourself, complete the task and answer the questions in the following sections.  For each area, identify what is very important, somewhat important, and not important to you.  You want to remain somewhat flexible when you begin the job search, but you need to have a good understanding of yourself and a general sense of what you are looking for in a position.  Use the information and your new self-understanding to help guide your job search.

It is really important to develop an understanding of your skillset.  In the human resources world, skills are often classified as “hard skills” and “soft skills.” Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that can be easily verified, such as ability to operate certain equipment, write computer code, make calculations or speak a language.  Soft skills, sometimes called “people skills,” are subjective and often refer to qualities that make an excellent employee, such as networking, teamwork, communication, time management, reliability, etc.

To develop a picture of your skillset, list ten to twenty work-related skills that you enjoy using and are able to do well.  To help you capture both hard and soft skills think about your skills in the following three ways:

  1. Hard skills that are specific to your major or to jobs that you have held.
  2. Learned soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, leadership, etc.
  3. Adaptive/self-management soft skills that may be part of your personality such as being reliable, organized, detail oriented, etc.

After generating your list go back over it and make note of specific examples of skill usage that might indicate the skill is one of your strengths.  Compare your list of skills to the list of engineering competencies and skills in the previous section to identify gaps that you should work to fill.

Make a list of those things you value most, such as freedom to spend time with family or travel, financial security, helping others, having a positive impact on society or the environment, or a level of excitement. Think of as many values as you can and rank them.

In addition to qualifications, employers want to know what you want to do with your degree.  They know that you will be a happier and more productive employee if your interests match the work they have to offer. To help you understand your interests, answer these questions.

  • Why did you choose your major?
  • How did you choose to spend your summers while in college?
  • What courses in college did you most like and why?
  • What school activities did you get involved in?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What activities would be part of your dream job?

Some people love the Midwest and others are ready to experience someplace new.    Some would like to locate close to family and others are fine with a long distance relationship.  Geography is usually a consideration in most job offer decisions, so it is important to give it some thought.

  1. What geographic area(s) would you prefer to live?
  2. What areas would you consider living if the job was right for you?
  3. Do you prefer large urban areas or rural areas?
  4. How far/long are you willing to commute?

Think about the work environment that you perform in best and like the best.  Identify the job factors that are most important to you.

  1. You like to travel?  Local, Regional, National, International? How often would be ideal and too much?
  2. Do you like a high paced, high energy environment or something more relaxed?
  3. Do you like a lot of teamwork or prefer to do your own thing?
  4. How important is job stability to you or are you okay with a lot of change?
  5. Are you looking for a lot of variety in your work or would you prefer to become expert in one area?

Generally, but not always, money is linked to level of responsibility and with responsibility often comes added stress.  Some people like responsibility and others are more comfortable in a support position.  A little extra money is always nice, but not when it causes you to hate your job.

  1. Do you like to lead projects and teams?
  2. Are you willing to take on added responsibility and stress for more money?
  3. Do you perform well under pressure and handle stress well?

Potential for professional growth should be important to all engineers.  The world is changing faster all the time and it is important to be a lifelong learner.  Some people are also driven to climb the corporate ladder and lead people and projects.  Some jobs present more opportunities than others in these areas.  Questions that you should consider include:

  1. How important to you is having a good mentor to learn from or are you okay with learning on your own?
  2. Are regular promotions and title changes important to you or is a pay raise enough to keep you motivated?
  3. Does management of projects, resources (both human and other) appeal to you?
  4. Where do you want to be in your career in five years? In ten?
PREVIOUS STEP: Maintain a Positive Attitude

NEXT STEP: Step 3 – Identify Preliminary
Target Employers

The Employment Process Menu


Step 1: Understanding Employers and the College Recruiting Process

    -Maintain a Positive Attitude

Step 2: Determine Career Goals and Skillset

Step 3: Identify Preliminary Target Employers and Industries

Step 4: Develop Effective Marketing Materials

Step 5: Search for Specific Employment and Research Target Companies