Career Preparation

Earning a college degree opens up a world of career opportunities, but it’s not the only thing employers look for in candidates. Don't wait until you graduate to start building the skills and experience necessary to turn your career dreams into reality! Begin using the BECOME Career Preparation Model below to ensure that you are prepared to launch a successful career when you graduate.


How to BECOME a Highly Qualified Professional

Follow these effective practices to become a highly qualified professional capable of achieving your career goals.

Learn how to schedule an appointment with a CDC counselor for further assistance with your career journey to becoming a professional.


How others see you can impact your career success. Moving forward, you will be asked for references or letters of recommendation when applying to jobs and internships, research programs, and graduate or professional schools. To acquire strong references and letter writers for these opportunities, it is important to begin building a positive reputation with professors, employers, and classmates early on in your college journey.

Ways to Build a Positive Reputation

  • Participate in class discussions and ask questions
  • Utilize professors’ office hours
  • Do your best on assignments and exams
  • Be an active and positive teammate when working on group projects at work and school
  • Show up on time and be mentally present

Hard skills are the specific knowledge and abilities required for success in a particular job, such as the ability to operate lab equipment, proficiency in software, or fluency in a foreign language. Research the skills of interest to employers in your field and pursue opportunities to develop those skills inside and outside the classroom. Be proactive in seeking support from professors during office hours to strengthen skills introduced in class and take advantage of opportunities to apply those skills through involvement with student organizations, volunteer opportunities, and internships.

Resources for Building Your Hard Skills

Though you will begin acquiring hard skills in your classes, take advantage of additional resources to further develop them.


Build hard skills important for your chosen field by completing virtual job simulations with real companies through Forage. View instructions for how to access Forage on the CDC CareerLINK page.

LinkedIn Learning

Develop your technical and creative skills in areas like video editing, UX design, data analysis and more through a wide assortment of free self-paced online trainings and classes. Access LinkedIn Learning through Single Sign-On.

Campus Tutoring Centers

Take advantage of CSULB’s many tutoring opportunities to enhance classroom learning and help strengthen your skills.

Soft skills are personal qualities and attitudes, such as adaptability, a willingness to learn, and being a team player, that make someone a desirable employee. These types of skills are highly valued by employers because they are critical to success in the workplace. Take advantage of opportunities to develop these important skills through class projects, student organizations, and volunteer experiences.

Resources for Developing Your Soft Skills

Building soft skills takes time and effort. These resources offer opportunities to learn about and grow this valuable skillset.

Career Success Competencies

Learn about the 8 competencies essential for career success, as defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).


Build soft skills that are highly valued in your chosen industry by completing virtual job simulations with real companies through Forage. View instructions for how to access Forage on the CDC CareerLINK page.

The Learning Center

Visit the CSULB Learning Center for support with developing study techniques, time management and other soft skills.

Student Life and Development

Get connected to opportunities outside the classroom designed to build community, ethical leadership, and personal development through CSULB Student Life and Development.

The Leadership Academy

The CSULB Leadership Academy offers a curriculum of workshops and experiences designed to cultivate leadership excellence.

LinkedIn Learning

Boost soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity and communication through a wide assortment of free self-paced online trainings and classes. Access LinkedIn Learning through Single Sign-On.

Relevant experience is key to becoming a competitive candidate in your field. Seek hands-on learning opportunities such as internships, fieldwork, employment or volunteer work.

Resources for Gaining Experience

CSULB offers many opportunities to build experience in line with your career goals.

Job and Internship Search

See an overview of the job search process on the CDC Job & Internship Search page.

CareerLINK Job Board

Find both on- and off-campus jobs and internships from employers looking to hire CSULB students and alumni. View instructions for how to access the CareerLINK Job Board on the CDC CareerLINK page.

Center for Community Engagement

Make a difference and gain experience by participating in service projects that benefit the community through the CSULB Center for Community Engagement.

Student Research Opportunities

Explore CSULB student research opportunities.

Achieving your long-term career goals requires determination and resilience. To become a highly qualified professional, you must focus on building effective strategies to stick to your goals in the face of obstacles. You can begin building resilience now by devoting energy to developing a growth mindset and overcoming procrastination.

Develop a Growth Mindset

A key component in maintaining a resilient attitude is moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

From Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

“A fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are carved in stone – who you are is who you are, period. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality, and creativity are fixed traits, rather than something that can be developed.

A growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. Yes, people differ greatly – in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments – but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

To understand the difference between a fixed and growth mindset, consider a job applicant with a fear of interviewing. With a fixed mindset, this person might come to the conclusion that their interview anxiety will keep them from ever getting a job, but that same individual with a growth mindset will devote the time and energy needed to increase their confidence and improve their interviewing skills because they know improvement is always possible. This type of growth-oriented thinking will enable you to be resilient and overcome obstacles in pursuit of your career goals.

For assistance shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset, follow the formula below:

The Fixed to Growth Mindset Formula

  1. Focus on a specific goal.
    • Example: “I want to be able to talk to professionals at the upcoming job fair.”
  2. Identify the fixed voice.
    • What are you internally saying to yourself? If you want to change, you’ll need to start paying attention to your internal dialogue.
  3. Recognize you have a choice.
    • To shift your mindset, you must choose not to listen to your fixed mindset voice and instead choose to listen to your growth mindset voice.
  4. Create a growth mindset voice.
    • Since it can be difficult to create new ways of thinking on the spot, have a growth mindset voice prepared in advance. Then once you temporarily stop the fixed mindset voice, you will have a growth-oriented alternative to fill the void.
  5. Take the growth mindset action.
    • Practice hearing both voices but only acting on the growth mindset. Changing from a fixed to a growth mindset will not happen overnight, but with time and effort, your growth voice will replace your fixed voice.


Fixed voice: “I’m too shy to be good at networking.”

Growth voice: “I may not be able to do it now, but I can learn to network with time and effort. I have done it before - every one of my friends started off as someone I did not know.”

Overcome Procrastination

A key component of building resilience is facing your problems. Procrastination enables us to put off dealing with challenges until later…or not at all. Being proactive and dealing with issues as they arise will enable you to take charge of your career journey. When you are having a difficult time facing a challenge or starting an undesirable task, practice the exercises below to help you move forward.

Two-Minute Rule

If you are struggling to start a task because it feels too overwhelming, commit to work on the task for only two minutes. After two minutes is up, you know that you have the option to stop and come back to the task later, but you will most likely want to continue since you’ve already accomplished the hardest part – getting started.


If you’re having difficulty getting started on a cover letter, commit to spending two minutes writing one sentence. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be perfect – you’ll have time to revise it later. After you have written one sentence, you can stop and move on to something else. However, it’s likely that you’ll build momentum and decide to keep working. If at any point you feel overwhelmed, remind yourself that 1) you can stop at any time, 2) your cover letter does not have to be perfect on the first draft and 3) you have can have your cover letter reviewed at the Career Development Center before you send it to the employer.


The bundling method helps you overcome procrastination by pairing a behavior that you should do but would rather avoid with a behavior that you want to do. To give this approach a try, follow the steps below:

Create a “Want to Do” vs. “Should Do” List

In the left column, write down activities you enjoy doing – your “want to do” list. In the right column, write down behaviors you should be doing to achieve your goals but often avoid – your “should do” list.

Example: "Want to Do" vs. "Should Do" List
Want to DoShould Do
ReadWork Out
Play Video GamesStudy
Spend Time on Social MediaSearch for a Job

Look over your list and see if you can combine or “bundle” one of your instantly enjoyable, easy-to-do behaviors with something you should be doing. For example, if you like to read, you could listen to an audiobook while you work out. Or maybe you only allow yourself to check social media after finding five jobs to apply for. By knowing that doing an undesirable activity will lead to one you enjoy, it’s easier to follow through on the less fun habits that pay off in the long run.

Resources for Building Resilience

Resilience not only benefits you but also makes you an attractive candidate to employers. Take advantage of resources to grow this important skill.

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Resilience Project

Explore the CSULB College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Resilience Project for student success stories, resilience assessments, and helpful articles about resilience and growth mindset.

Focusing on your career development as a student is critical to ensuring you’re ready for the workforce by the time you graduate. Unfortunately, balancing academics and other obligations can make it difficult to devote time to your career goals. The good news is that you can begin developing a positive reputation, acquiring valuable skills and experience, and building resilience through activities you may already be doing such as class projects, part-time jobs, and student clubs.

You can also help ready yourself for your future career by creating a Career Preparation Plan, which is a timeline of specific goals you want to accomplish.

Steps to Creating a Career Preparation Plan

Creating a Career Preparation Plan requires learning how to set effective goals and then establishing a schedule for working towards them.

Create SMART Career Goals

Not all goals are created equal. To ensure that you are developing quality career goals that you are likely to achieve, use the SMART approach to goal-setting.

SMART Goal Characteristics and Examples
SpecificMake goals clear and well-definedI will start a graphic design internship this fall. (This goal is specific regarding the type of internship and the timeframe.)
MeasurableCreate goals with specific criteria to measure your progressI will apply to three jobs per week. (Quantifying makes it easy to determine if/when you reach this goal.)
AchievableFocus on goals you can realistically accomplishI will have a rough draft of my cover letter finished by the end of this week. (Starting with a rough draft makes this goal more achievable than expecting a perfect, finished product.)
RelevantMake sure any goals you set are in alignment with your broader, long-term ambitionsI will volunteer at a hospital the summer after my sophomore year in preparation for medical school. (The goal will contribute to the long-term objective of getting into medical school.)
TimelyCreate goals with clearly defined timelinesI will land a full-time marketing position within three months of graduating. (Creating a target date can provide motivation to work toward the goal.)

Create a Schedule for Working Toward Your Goals

Research has shown that developing a schedule significantly increases your chances of accomplishing your career goals.

Begin by mapping out a plan for your long-term goals while at CSULB.

Example: Mapping out a plan for your long-term goals
School YearFallSpringSummer
FreshmanAttend Week of Welcome and join two student clubsGo to the CDC for help finding an on-campus jobVolunteer at Boys and Girls Club
SophomoreApply for tutoring positionsJoin Beach Nexus Spring Mentor ProgramWork at a summer camp
JuniorStudy abroad in SpainAttend Spring Job Fair to find a summer internshipIntern with a nonprofit
SeniorConduct research with Human Development facultyApply for full-time jobsTravel and start a full-time job

Next make a schedule for working on your short-term goals.

Example: Schedule for working on your short-term goals
DayTimeShort-term goals
Mondays2:00 – 3:30 PMSearch for internships
Tuesdays7:00 – 9:00 PMApply for internships
Thursdays9:00 – 10:00 AMPractice interviewing

Creating a Career Preparation Plan with both long- and short-term SMART goals and schedules for achieving them will put you on track to make your career dreams a reality.

Resources for Goal Setting and Time Management

Goal setting and time management will serve you in both your academic and professional careers. Take advantage of resources to grow these skills.

The Learning Center

Visit the CSULB Learning Center for support with developing time management and study techniques.

LinkedIn Learning

Explore a wide assortment of free self-paced online trainings and classes on topics including goal setting and time management. Access LinkedIn Learning through Single Sign-On.


Start building your skills and experience by completing the BECOME Career Preparation Checklist.

Plan Your Future

Career Preparation is one step of the journey to achieving your career goals. See the entire career development process on the CDC Plan Your Future page.