Who am I? What are my skills? What should I do for a living?

Students searching for answers to some pretty big questions are finding help in CED 101: Career and Self Exploration.

The eight-week course, recommended by CMU freshman advisors, is perfect for students who haven't selected a major or decided on a career path.

"We ask students, 'What do you really want to do? What gets you excited in the morning?'" said Allison Arnekrans, assistant professor in the counseling department who oversees the course. "And how does that lead to what you want to do?"

The classes are small — typically 10 to 15 students, Arnekrans said.

"They're more intimate than a typical large lecture class," she said. "There's lots of discussion, lots of sharing out loud. Students make a personal connection with each other and with the instructors who become role models and mentors."

Students learn about themselves first, focusing on self-exploration, goal setting, time management and their own personality traits.

They work closely with CMU Career Development Center, taking several career and perso nality assessments and practicing job interview skills.

"Students learn about their own personality, how they relate to people," Arnekrans said. "Is working with other people important to them? Or are they fine working by themselves? Are they good at logistical thinking? Are they organized, do they see things in black and white? Maybe accounting or a another career in the financial world would suit them."

The career assessment tests often reveal surprises, she says.

"We hear a lot of, 'Gosh, I hadn't even thought about this,' and 'I didn't even know this was a career,'" Arnekrans says. 

Later in the class, students interview a professional in a career that interests them, to get an idea of real-world experiences. Then they craft a presentation on that career to share with the class.

It all leads to a comprehensive career plan.

"Some students walk away with a chosen major," Arnekrans says. "But at the very least, they have an understanding of their interests and how they might relate to a career."

Arnekrans said the assessment tests are key to helping you make decisions.

"These assessment tests are very expensive if you're not in the university setting," Arnekrans says. "They're comprehensive, proven tests. Much better than some quiz you take on Facebook."

The instructors are all graduate-level counseling students who offer guidance and advice, and the group experience is invaluable.

"It's also a great opportunity to interview someone who works in a career that interests you," she said. "If you didn't do it for a class, would you really just call someone up? Most students wouldn't."