Before going back to school, it’s important to have clear goals for your college degree. A personal inventory will help you decide which degree path to take, including what schools, major, and degree fit your career goals best. The better you know yourself, and your goals, the more likely you are able to make smart choices that will benefit your finances as well.
At the same time, taking online courses can really help in this personal inventory process. Experiencing a new subject first hand -- with lower costs and therefore reduced risks – can give you deeper insight into your own interests and skills -- and help prepare you to make better decisions for your education and career without stressing about how it will affect your GPA. With online courses, you have the opportunity to explore potential majors on your schedule while earning college credit.
To begin your personal inventory, ask yourself:
What skills do I have?
To answer, make a list of current and past work experiences. Then, make a list of tasks performed on each job. What did you like? What did you dislike? What were you good at?
If that list doesn't offer any added insight, another effective way to look at your skills is by making a list of your achievements in past academic environments as well as the community. What did you like or dislike about those activities?
Finally, make a list of things you enjoy doing or are good at doing unrelated to your job. These could include hobbies or what you do in your down time. What parts of these activities do you enjoy? What parts don’t you enjoy?
Pay attention to your related likes and dislikes; these will give you good insight into activities you’d like to perform on a job and at school.
What interests do I have?
After you’ve identified your skills, find a common themes. For example, do most of the activities you enjoy involve helping others or do you find more satisfaction completing difficult projects alone?
Also pay attention to common dislikes. For example, perhaps you enjoy problem solving and making spreadsheets but when asked to make up a story, your mind goes blank.
What work values do I have?
A work value may sound like a simple thing, but it goes far beyond making money and earning a paycheck. What kind of projects do you enjoy? Do you prefer to work within a group or do you prefer to perform more independently? Do you like the rush of quick decision-making or do you prefer to sit back and analyze a situation slowly? Different degrees and career paths require different skill sets.
A personal inventory is not complicated -- but it is worthwhile. Taking an online course in subjects that are of interest to you as well spending the time to look at the goals you want out of your college degree prior to enrolling will help you better choose the type of degree, and career path, that ultimately suit you best.
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