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Be Ready for a Thanksgiving Inquisition: How to make a career plan to keep Grandma off your back

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

“Pass the turkey, also… what are you going to do with that degree you are studying at Lehigh?” You know the questions are coming from Grandma, not to mention the rest of the extended family during the holidays. If the thought of being grilled about your post graduation plan over cranberry sauce is giving you the sweats, let us help. Be ready to answer their questions, and learn how to get some answers for yourself.

When Grandma asks “What jobs can you get?”

But really, what do you want to do with your Lehigh education? If you are still trying to determine a major, it might be time to take STRONG, a career assessment that matches career options to your interests and personality. You can schedule this by contacting the Career Center at (610) 758 3710.

The Career Center also provides access to “What Can I Do With This Major” website that outlines the Areas, Employers and Strategies associated with each academic major. To access this website, click the link found on the Handshake Resource page, Explore Careers tile.

Using those two resources, begin to compile a list of job titles, career paths, companies, or skills that interest you. You may also find it helpful to do a mind map or meet with a Career Coach to further tease out your options and ideas. The good news is no matter your academic interests, you have plenty of options once you start to research careers.

Now you can answer: “I asked the same questions so I looked into this and I am exploring job options within Marketing firms, Consulting or even starting my own agency after I get work experience.”

When Grandma asks “But what does that type of career really look like?”

Once you have one or more career paths of interest identified, gather the facts and figures for job titles. BLS.GOV is an incredible source of information on a wide range of career paths. Use the search bar to look up job titles of interest and review the information provided including tabs to learn Median Pay, What They Do, How to Become One and review (my favorite tab)“Similar Occupations”. Its also important to note the number of jobs available in this field, which will help you gauge how competitive or likely it is to see openings. Get the facts about the position

When Grandma asks "How much money can you make?"

One of the most common questions you may be asked, or even asking yourself, is what type of pay is offered for the jobs you are considering. While we know this is an important question, keep in mind a career that connects to your values, passions and natural talents will often prove to be more rewarding than just pursuing a large paycheck. Never the less, everyone has bills to pay, so its fair to want to know the salary expectations.

Glassdoor offers a great salary tool that lets you look up job titles or companies by location. This is critical, because salary may differ by location due to cost of living changes. Most importantly, you can also filter for years of experience, which gives you fair salaries for recent grads. Other sites like indeed or LinkedIn also have salary reports you can check. Keep in mind, things like how much related experience, your GPA, recent grad status, geographic location and other factors can raise or lower a starting salary.

Now you can answer “Actually Grandma, I have done some research on my salary options. If I secure an internship working with social media before graduation, build skills in analytics as a compliment to my creative skills, and keep my GPA to at least a 3.0, I expect to be offered $49,000 as a starting salary for a Social Media Coordinator position in New York. Living costs are pretty high there but if I do a short commute and keep my budget in control, that will be enough for me to handle my expenses. After I get some work experience I could move to a Marketing Coordinator position and make closer to $51,000.”

When Grandma asks “Will you be qualified for that career?”

While Grandma may be asking about your post graduation plans, we want to you build a career plan that begins now. There are lots of ways you can start building skills or experience that will help prepare you for a job. Consider just a few of your options in research, volunteer roles, part-time jobs or internships that will be critical to preparing you for life after Lehigh.

Now you can answer “I recently joined a club on campus that is going to give me some great starting experience. Not to mention, I have two summers to pursue internships or work with a faculty member on research. And my Greek organization has several executive board positions open I plan to apply to. My resume will definitely be ready by senior year for the job search process.”

When Grandma asks “Who can help you?’

Good news, you have an entire Lehigh network to support in preparing, searching and securing a job. Start with the Career Center. Career Lab offers walk in hours Monday - Friday, 11 am - 4 pm in Maginnes Hall, Suite 500. This is the perfect place to start with your questions and get help shaping your career plan no matter where you are.

The Lehigh Alumni network is also extensive, start by communicating with an alum on Lehigh Connects. This growing community is already well past 3,000 volunteers who have signed up to support students with career exploration and prep. Log in to browse the network to find an alum that shares your career interests, academic major, industry or by using other filters. Its easy to communicate, which you can do with a simple message or phone/in person meeting request.

Dear Nadine,

I recently declared Journalism as my major and I am exploring some of the career options that connect to my degree including careers in the marketing and creative industries. I was drawn to the position at Adobe mentioned on your profile on Lehigh Connects. Can you tell me more about how you applied your journalism background to your position? What drew you to working as a Marketing Communications Specialist? What are the skills you use every day? How much of your day do you work independently vs collaborating with a team? What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

Thank you for any insight or advice you can provide. I would love to learn more about your role through job shadowing if there is day during my upcoming winter break that I could spend with you.


Your Name

10 more ways to respond to “So what are you going to be when you grow up?”

  • I am not positive on my career path yet but I’ve got a plan to figuring it out (internship, job shadowing, networking on Lehigh Connects, trying a class, getting involved on campus, etc.)

  • I don’t feel like I have to know exactly what I want to pursue until after I have taken a few more classes in my major that will better expose me to the industry.

  • This summer I want to do some job shadowing so I can answer that question with more confidence after I have actually been in some of the environments I am considering.

  • One of the advantages to my degree is the flexibility it offers in career application. I don’t know what I want to do yet, but I do know my options.

  • How did you figure out what you wanted to do when you were my age?

  • I am thinking about a few career options, do you have any connections in the __________ field I could contact to ask them questions about their work?

  • Did you know that 1/3rd college students switch majors, 1/10th of them switch more than once? I am not rushing the decision until I feel ready to commit to an academic program.

  • I don’t have a clear long term goal yet but I have set 2 short term goals for this semester including ____________ and _______________.

  • Graduation is still pretty far out, I am focused on making some decisions about the best way to spend my summer and deciding between study abroad, internships, research or other jobs I can work.

  • I don’t think it works for my generation to narrow down their careers to single option. I like to think about what's next and for me that would likely be ______________.

Need help with your career plan?

Attend Career Lab, Monday - Friday, 11 am - 4 pm in 500 Maginnes

Review the resources on the Handshake, Explore Careers tile

Schedule an appointment with your Career Coach via Handshake

This post was also featured in the Brown and White article here.

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