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Imagine you are at the car lot to end all car lots. Every car known to man is available for purchase. The salesman asks you which car you want. Money is not a concern when purchasing this car.  Take a moment to picture in your mind your ideal car. On a sheet of blank paper, describe this car.
 
Looking at your car description, take note of a few items. Does your description name the make and model of the car? Did you include model year or exterior color? Have you gone as far as to think about the interior material, rim size, and any additional desired upgrades? If you were to describe your ideal car to the salesperson at the car lot would they be able to clearly understand and picture the vehicle you are imagining?
 
If you are currently in school, you will probably be asked the question, “What do you plan to do with your degree?” or “What type of job are you looking for after graduation?” If you are already in the working world, you probably think about your "dream job" or what the "next steps" in your career will be .Your ability to clearly and specifically answer these questions is a huge launching point for your job search and professional development. 
 
The first step in any job search is to define your objective. If you aren’t certain of the type or even types of positions you want, how can you go about effectively searching for jobs, networking with potential employers, or soliciting support from friends, family, and faculty? Just like knowing the specifics of your ideal car can help your salesman quickly and easily locate it, knowing your career objective will help your target audience (i.e. those in the position to help you reach your goals) be able to connect you with desired opportunities. 
 
As you develop your career objective think about the following criteria:
 
  • What industry do you want to work in? Examples: Manufacturing, Banking and Finance, Logistics, Healthcare, Retail, Education, Hospitality, Agriculture, Real Estate, etc.
  • What kind of role do you want to play? Examples: Research and Development, Consulting, Design, Engineering, Business Management, Service, Accounting, etc.
  • Would you prefer to work with a smaller or larger company?
  • Is your ideal job located in a certain part of the country?
  • Are you looking for a company that offers a certain salary or benefits? Examples: Affordable Health Insurance, 401k Matching, On-Site Childcare Options, Flexible Work Hours, Bonus Pay, Tuition Reimbursement, an Employee Gym, etc.
  • What are the key skills and qualifications you can offer a potential employer? 
Having a specific career objective in mind will help you pitch your goals and value to others who can support you in your job search. It can also provide motivation to jumpstart your job search in the midst of fulfilling your many other roles and responsibilities. As you begin to identify and apply for opportunities take note criteria that you are willing to compromise on or be more flexible with and items that are non-negotiables for you. Modify your objective when needed as your goals become clearer.
 
 
Next time you are asked the once dreaded questions, “What do you plan to do with your degree?", “What type of job are you looking for after graduation?” or "What are your next career steps?" you can respond with more than the quick, vague default answer, “A good job.”