Study choice and career orientation: Keep your eyes open for the career!

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Anyone who has finished school in Germany will be spoiled for choice in their choice of occupation and course of study: In addition to 344 state-recognized occupational vocational training courses, there are currently about 12 700 degree programs and subjects. How should you find the right one?


Here writes for you:


Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherConsultant and head of the Institute's job pictures Yourweb.


The agony of choice

Around 390 state and private universities compete for the favor of high school graduates, and there are always courses of study. The old saying “keep your eyes open when choosing a profession” still applies, but with the unmanageable offer, school leavers find it difficult to direct their gaze in the right direction.

Because when the school-leaving certificate is within reach, a question comes inexorably: "What do I do afterwards?" It is actually clear to everyone that you cannot avoid answering them.

11% has no idea

And yet, not a few students have found a suitable answer even shortly before the Abi celebration: 11% did not even deal with the topic of study and career choice half a year before the end of the school year.

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In any case, the seventeen-year-old Eva Krummenauer from Oberbrombach near Birkenfeld is at a loss: Even though she still has two years to graduate from high school as a 11th-grade student, she is already busy studying and choosing a career. But even though she has read various magazines such as “Mercury” or “Abi Berufswahlmagazin”, found out about courses and made a self-assessment center on the Internet, she only knows one thing so far: she doesn't want to do anything with science. But what possibilities does she have to find out which degree or training is right for her?

Check your own interests

Barbara Knickrehm, career consultant for high school graduates at the employment agency Herford, advises students like Eva, first to start with themselves, before you can be confused by the many possibilities:

“Surfing the internet haphazardly looking for the right job or studying self-assessment right from the start doesn't bring much. It is better to take an honest inventory of your own interests and skills. ”

Just do not hurry around the Internet

First and foremost is the question of the topics that are of particular concern to you. Of course, these include activities that are fun and that give you the impression that they are good for you. But also the experiences that are exciting in school life and in private life. Eva could regularly keep a diary into which she enters her observations.

For example, she could write down what she likes to talk about, which books, newspaper and magazine articles she enjoys reading, which pages she likes the most on the Internet, or what she looks at on television with enthusiasm. As time goes on, so does her gaze. Above all, she should write down which tasks, which subject she captivates so much that she loses any sense of time; because these are usually the things that really interest you.

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Sharpen your eyes

In a second step, Eve can gain clues about special qualities and abilities she feels to be her own strengths, as well as those attributed to her by parents or friends. Best written by writing down five of her positive qualities and asking friends and relatives to do likewise. Finally, Eva should try to clarify for herself what is important to her in her life. Is there a value that is irrefutable in everything she does and how she lives? What are less important aspects? An idea would be to briefly describe what a successful and fulfilling life should look like. Barbara Knickrehm points out, however, that while such exercises help to focus attention on one's own interests, abilities and career aspirations, they do not necessarily lead to quick results:

“Self-exploration is a process that takes time and needs to be practiced. Even after the first decision for a profession or a field of study, self-reflection is important, for example when it comes to finding a specific field of work within a field of study. It also plays a role in later decisions for further training or changing careers. ”

To get a general idea

If Eva is thus made clear where her journey is to go, she can purposely research information on the Internet. It is helpful not to concentrate too much on the offer of subjects, but rather to start with the later job profiles. For example, managers have not always studied business administration or management - many are engineers and originally worked in the manufacturing industry.

As a first point of contact, career counselor Barbara Knickrehm therefore recommends the BERUFENET of the Federal Employment Agency. Because here you will find descriptions of activities and tasks of 3000 occupations and receives information about future prospects and earning potential. But not only: The BERUFENET also shows what training you need to do to get to your dream job, mentions alternatives and provides pointers to more extensive sources of information such as colleges, professional associations or job advertisements.

Weigh the pros and cons

If Eva thinks about starting an apprenticeship or attending a vocational school instead of studying, she should critically question motives: A university degree always offers better prospects in the long term.

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  • For example, is a lesson only begun because one is uncertain about the choice of study? Does Eva expect more training from a vocational training career?
  • Or is it the prospect of financial independence that makes a decision for in-company training attractive?

Some of these “advantages” are losing weight in the face of new developments at universities. For example, bachelor's degree programs allow a university degree in six to seven semesters, a time comparable to professional training. The number of dual study programs, in which company-based training, including payment, is integrated into the course, is constantly increasing.

If, on the other hand, Eva wants to find out which courses of study there are at which universities, she can get an overview in the database of Dr. Elke Mittag from the Student Counseling Center of the Leibniz Universität Hannover recommends that students first narrow down the field of study, interest them and differentiate them in their search - for example, for artistic-creative, humanities-linguistic, social science, natural science and technical subjects. In this way, Eva can focus her search more and more on a few subjects and colleges where they are offered.

Get information about studying

When Eva gets an overview of the various study opportunities and has found interesting courses of studies, she should select some of them and deal with them more closely. It is now important to balance whether the intended study actually meets their expectations, suits them - and, above all, leads to the aspired desired occupation.

One way to do this is to look for role models, parents, relatives or friends. She can ask Eva what kind of training she has achieved and what she should absolutely pay attention to. If she does not know anybody from the dream job, she should look for suitable people on the internet. Most people are usually helpful and like to tell about their work and their career. For example, business Internet platforms such as Xing or LinkedIn can help in the search. Eva would get a particularly good impression of her dream job through an internship: this helps to find out if the job is for her and she comes into direct contact with people who already practice this profession. Since Eva's school does not provide an internship, she might just ask companies in her area to find out if an internship is possible.

Read job advertisements for relevant professions

Studienberaterin Dr. Elke Mittag also recommends reading the job advertisements on the relevant occupations regularly in national newspapers and finding out which courses of study employers attach particular importance to. After completing these studies, Eva can then look around the university pages and explore the structure, requirements and application requirements. Every degree program requires certain qualifications and specific subjects.

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In any case, Eva should be well informed about how extensive these are and when and which exams have to be taken. This is important, because many undergraduates have false expectations of their field of study and then quickly become frustrated because they have to take subjects they do not like - Malte Eilenstein from the private study consultancy Plan Z in Berlin knows from experience with many dropouts. Because:

What content does the desired study subject have?

“The websites of the universities offer a wealth of information on studying. However, you need to know what information is important and where to find it. If you really want to know how a course is structured, you should read the examination and study regulations for the course ”,

explains Eilenstein. Because only here is listed in detail what to expect and what event / lecture is to be completed when. Many universities have also created so-called module manuals for the degree programs, in which one can even find the content of the individual events. The examination and study regulations are usually also published on the internet pages of the examination office or the department or can be obtained directly from the university. In addition to the study content, the study environment is also very important for a successful study. Does anyone feel comfortable at the university? Are the fellow students and Professornice? How full are the lecture theaters? Is the library well stocked? How bureaucratic is the university administration?

Taster study and university information days

"Because if you don't like it at your university, you will have problems finding your full motivation to study."

Malte Eilenstein from Plan Z reports from his consulting experience. Therefore, Eva should visit interesting colleges just once and sit down in a lecture from the desired study subject. You can find them in the course catalog. Some colleges also offer students the opportunity to take part in the regular university events as trial students. Afterwards, Eva was to start the conversation with the future classmates. They usually have a lot to tell about their field of study. Alumni networks also help here by providing contacts to students or graduates.

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“Attending regular events makes sense when you already know exactly which way to go. If you want to get an overview first, university information days offer a good opportunity ”,

advises student advisor Dr. Elke Mittag. Such events, which are designed to give students such as Eva a broad first impression of the study program, are held regularly at almost all universities. Sometimes it is simple information events and lectures, sometimes entire summer universities and student colleges, which should show as clearly as possible what happens at the university. Interested parties can learn more about the university and the study program, have a closer look at the faculty and the laboratories as well as get in touch with teachers and students. Not infrequently, students can also gain very practical experience and conduct their own experiments. Prospective students should, however, make it clear that universities often pursue their own interests with their offers, be it information events or self-assessments on the Internet - for example, by specifically targeting subjects with very low numbers of applicants.

Action Plan Career Choice: How to reach a decision?

This is intended as a hands-on exercise to help you choose a career or study. Allow sufficient time for the following questions (at least one afternoon, but better for a few hours on several consecutive days). Write down what you think about each question. If you get stuck, talk to friends or family about the questions.

1. inventory

What are my interests?

  • Which situations interest me, which activities do I enjoy (in school, family, free time)?
  • What do I like talking to friends about?
  • For which activities would I like to have more time?

What skills and talents do I have?

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  • What is easy for me and why?
  • Where have I been successful?
  • What do others trust me?
  • Which of my talents could I use more than before?

What particular knowledge and skills do I have?

  • What have I learned over the years in school, family and hobbies?
  • Which tasks do I fill out in family and leisure time (eg activities in the household, in youth groups)? Which jobs did I have?
  • What could / can I do and do I like?

With which properties can I briefly describe myself? eg my special characteristics, my personal characteristics:

  • eg I can listen patiently
  • eg I'm friendly
  • eg I have a lot of understanding for others

2. evaluation criteria

  • What wishes do I have for my life? Are partnership and family at the same level as the profession?
  • Do I only want to do what I really enjoy doing, and do I accept material uncertainties, or is safety more important to me?
  • Am I willing to forgo my professional career on private activities?
  • Will or do I have to earn my own money as quickly as possible?
  • Is it important for me to stay close to my family / friends, or can I imagine going elsewhere?
  • What working conditions are still important to me (environment, colleagues, working hours, money, career opportunities)?
  • Who or what has influenced me in these opinions and ideas? What influence do my parents have on my career aspiration?

3. objective development

  • What would I like to do in ten years?
  • In which environment and with which people do I want to live and work?
  • What are my tasks?
  • What wishes could I have?

4. Approaches and alternatives

  • When I look at the results of point 1-3: Which fields of activity crystallize out?
  • In which professions can I realize these activities? Are there alternatives?
  • What speaks for, what against every single alternative? Each face advantages / disadvantages on a sheet
  • In what order can I bring the career ideas? Do individual fall out completely?
  • When I look at the best-rated job sites: what problems could occur in their implementation (eg hardly any training places, bad grades)?
  • What can I do to reduce or circumvent these problems? (eg exertion in certain subjects, foreign study)

5. Decision review

  • Do the professions (or disciplines) that I have chosen fulfill most of the conditions that are important to me (see point 2)?
  • If I could not decide yet, what do I still lack a decision? How can I continue?
  • Can I justify my decision to my friends, parents, etc.?
  • Which situations interest me, which activities do I enjoy (in school, family, free time)?
  • What do I like talking to friends about?
  • For which activities would I like to have more time?

6. realization

  • Where can I learn the chosen profession? (Collect information about educational institutions and places of study, eg vocational colleges, companies, universities)
  • How do I apply?
  • What alternatives do I plan if my application fails?

Self-assessment and student advice

More and more higher education institutions are also offering applicants for studies, virtual study counseling, web-based aptitude tests or self-assessments. Eva has already done such a test, and found that the result can also be very confusing. Because not every test is recommended for everyone, because content and orientations are very different are: Some are purely aptitude tests, in which only the existing (subject) knowledge is queried and the candidate receives a recommendation for or against the subject. Others help as a self-assessment with a mix of extensive study information, background knowledge of professional practice, and self-test to make a decision. Such tests can help to clear up a field of study with misconceptions, but, as with Eve, they do not always lead to the desired goal.

There are also a few disadvantages: The quality of a self-assessment always depends on the intention of its creators. Even if the tests, which can be assumed in self-assessments at universities, were created according to scientific methods and tested sufficiently in advance: the content, requirements and results presented do not always correspond to reality. Which reality should they not meet - they are often tailored to specific study requirements .... Often only partial areas of one's own abilities are tested, so that test results can not make comprehensive and unambiguous statements. Many offers include only the subjects of their own university, some universities have their online offer limited to only certain subjects. And self-assessments usually do not take into account that prospective students can still develop over time.

In addition to numerous reputable providers, there are also companies that only want to make quick money: caution is advised, for example, if providers offer a professional or study choice test or consultation only for a high payment without providing more detailed information about the procedure. Or if the phone number is just an expensive 0180 or 0900 number. This does not make virtual orientation techniques completely redundant, but they should only be considered as a building block among many others in the whole decision-making process. As career counselor Barbara Knickrehm explains:

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What do professional choice tests bring?

“Although there are numerous tests that are based on a well-founded scientific basis, such as the free BORAKEL from the University of Bochum or the comparably cheap EXPLORIX, a test should actually only form the basis for a consultation, so you should get the results of an online - Definitely discuss tests with a consultant who can then make much better statements about the choice of profession or study. ”

If Eva can not make progress with the choice of occupation or course of study, she should consult a professional adviser - for example career counseling of the Employment Agency: this can show each counseling person, individually from the personal profile, all possibilities, and then the process of choice of study accompany to the decision. What that looks like in detail must be discussed in detail with the adviser beforehand: some clients will need a conversation, while others will need more than one to find out exactly how they can help. But the consultation with the Employment Agency also has its limits, as Barbara Knickrehm explains:

“Coaching over several months is not possible. This is mainly due to the lack of time, because not all employment agencies are staffed equally and every consultant has to deal with a large number of inquiries every day. ”

Use student counseling at universities

Another point of contact is study counseling at the universities: First there is the General or Central Student Advisory Service. She knows the environment and the structures, has an overview of all offers of the university and can name other contacts. However, the Central Student Advisory Service is less familiar with the specific contents of a field of study. For this, Eva can turn to the specialist study counseling, which can convey the specific course content and requirements of a subject. There are differences to note, such as student advisor Dr. Elke Mittag explains:

“Student advisory services are often closer to the course of events than the lecturers, both of whom have a specific view of the requirements. But they do not always know the entire course of the course and are fully aware of the professional prospects. ”

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Private student advice

Therefore, if Eva does not feel well advised by the Employment Agency or at the university, she could also seek out a private vocational or study counseling service. Even if it is correspondingly expensive, private consultants often have fewer clients than the employment consultants of the employment agencies and therefore more time to respond individually to their wishes. In addition, private consultants are usually completely independent, while the free study counseling of the universities usually only give information specifically for the offer of their own universities. And commercial consultants see themselves as service providers who want to satisfy their customers: that sometimes goes beyond the actual consulting, as Malte Eilenstein of Plan Z explains.

“If somebody cannot get used to the study recommendations, we will continue to look for suitable study opportunities together until we have found a satisfactory solution.”

Whether employment agency, university or private advice: In any case, it depends on quality of advice: A bad consultation can quickly become a frustrating experience and even have a deterrent effect. In addition, there are different counseling methods that are not right for everyone; For example, some consultants place more emphasis on psychological aspects, while others primarily convey information. Eva should therefore agree in advance with the advisor exactly how this will proceed and, above all, make clear what awaits you from the advice. Only in this way can she also determine whether the chemistry between her and the consultant is right at all, because that is also important for the success of the consultancy. Also, it should not be limited to a consultation, but depending on the knowledge and knowledge, the appropriate experts to consult.


In the unmanageable range of possibilities, it is not easy to find the right one for yourself. Even though Eva started thinking about choosing a profession and study early on, she now notes:

It is not enough, just a few Article to read or take a single online test to know what you want. Rather, choosing the right profession is a complicated process of self-discovery and information search, which also takes a lot of time. Eva has now received some suggestions on how to proceed systematically. In any case, she will also consult a professional advisor, be it at the employment agency, the university or private advice.

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  1. Lara Hertle

    I like your post very well, a lot of useful information, since I am also plagued with this annoying topic.

  2. Career choice for newcomers and those switching: Which profession suits me? | PROFESSIONAL PICTURES

    […] Vocational advisor for high school graduates at the Herford employment agency, advises in our series of articles "Eyes open" when choosing a career for newcomers and people switching to start with themselves first before they get away from the many [...]

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