July 20, 2024

First Career Steps: Confidence and Excitement About Future Careers

Ten years ago, in the fall of 2011, I created a survey for high school students called “First Career Steps” to look at career development experiences, confidence and future plans. I shared the survey link with colleagues, and with their help, gathered and analyzed several hundred responses over those next few months. After the initial survey period, I left the survey online, and soon found that people from all over the U.S. and Canada were finding the link and completing the survey. Over the past ten years I have gathered over 7,500 responses, with about half coming from students who were assigned the survey as an activity in school, summer programs or after-school programs; and the other half coming from students who were independently searching online for career information and happened to find the survey.

Consistently over the past ten years, the survey results have shown a mixture of confidence, worry and excitement about career plans. Students who are participating in career development activities, who have had work experience and internships, and specifically those who answered the survey during a career development class or workshop in a school, summer program, or after-school program express greater confidence in their career plans and in their career skills. Interestingly, this pattern held constant during the past year-and-a-half of pandemic, with no drop in the number of students who say that they are confident and/or excited about their careers.

With ten years of survey data, and with two interns working with me this year, available to work on survey data analysis, I plan to share a series of articles about these survey results.

The survey will remain online, and additional responses are welcome. Find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FirstCareerSteps

The first survey question asks respondents how they feel when people ask them about their career plans, with an introduction offering assurance that it is fine if their career plans are continuing to evolve, and that many successful careers evolve over time.

HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN PEOPLE ASK YOU ABOUT YOUR CAREER PLANS? (Do you feel confident, worried, excited, bored? Ready or not-so-ready? THIS SURVEY asks about your current career plans — with the assurance that it is fine if your career plans are continuing to evolve!! Check all that apply — how do you feel about career planning?)

ResponseNumber of ResponsesPercent of Total
I know exactly what I want1,28017%
I have lots of options2,68436%
I don’t have enough information2,31831%
I have too much information2894%
I have about the right amount of information90412%
I haven’t really started planning yet1,97526%
Total Respondents7,560100%

Answers overlapped, showing how confidence, excitement and worried can be mixed together. For example, one-quarter of those who said “Confident” also said “Worried.” Almost half of those who said “Excited” also said “Worried.” And some checked all three of these answers: confident, excited and worried.

Subsequent articles will look further at the survey questions to look at career development experiences and career goals to see how young adults may gradually gain confidence and feel ready for their first career steps.

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