Launch Into The Future

More Information

Office of College and Career Success
School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising
42 W. Madison St., 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60602




This pathway involves a paid work agreement between an employer and employee. The term applies to a person who is hired for a salary or fee to perform work for an employer. Consider whether the position being considered is a career or a job.

A logo for career does not equal job.

It is important to consider whether you’re interested in a job or a career in order to plan your professional goals. It is likely that you will hold several jobs throughout your career.

  • What is a job? A job is work you do to earn money to support your basic needs; it pays the bills. It can be full-time or part-time. You might earn an hourly wage or a set paycheck. Benefits such as retirement plans, pensions and other incentives may or may not be available. An employer may require you to learn specific skills, but not all jobs require a specialized degree or advanced training. (Source: Indeed Career Guide)
  • What is a career? A career is a long-term professional journey shaped by your professional goals and ambitions. To achieve a career, you may have to earn specialized credentials, accomplish varying levels of education or degrees, and seek training or periodic upskill throughout a lifetime. Individuals pursuing careers often have set salaries, room to advance, increasing earning potential, and benefits such as retirement plans, pensions and other incentives. (Source: Indeed Career Guide)

How to Pursue This Pathway

The employment pathway is one you might explore if you're certain that more school isn't the right path for you, or if you are looking to balance the work world and college for a period of time. Consider how a career and a job differ, employment options for individuals with a high school diploma, and strategies to find employment.

Are there “good jobs” for workers with a high school diploma or less?

Good jobs for workers with a high school diploma or less still exist, but they have declined precipitously. There is a direct correlation between education, skills, credentials, job opportunities, and income.

In “Three Educational Pathways to Good Jobs,” a publication of the Center for Education and Workforce Development, about 27% of young workers ages 25-34 with no more than a high school diploma have a good job. Overall, persons with only a high school diploma hold 20 percent of all good jobs. However, these good job opportunities are primarily for males. In comparison, 24% of good jobs are held by persons who have certifications, licenses, associate’s degrees, and some college coursework; 56% are held by individuals with a bachelor’s degree.

Looking to the future, jobs requiring a high school diploma or less are seeing little growth in availability and have lower wages than occupations that require some postsecondary education or upskill.

What is considered a good job?

This question can be answered in different ways depending on your values, beliefs, and ideas of what you want to get out of a job. In terms of income range, a good job is one that pays in the range of at least $35,000 for workers 25-44 and at least $45,000 for workers 45-64, according to a recent publication of the Center for Education and Workforce Development at Georgetown University. To get an idea about living expenses and living wage expectations in Chicago and Illinois, consider the Living Wage Calculator made available by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

How can I find employment?

As technology evolves, the old days of circling job ads in the classified section of a newspaper are in the past. Some of the more traditional job search strategies are no longer popular and although they are still an option, aren’t quite as effective as other approaches.

Here are a few places to start your search:

  • Networking events
  • Referrals
  • Company websites
  • Search engines
  • Social media
  • Job fairs
  • Recruitment agencies

Next Steps

If the employment pathway is a postsecondary option that interests you, consider taking the next steps:

  1. Determine the type of employment you want. Start by assessing what you’re looking for and why you want to do that type of work. Figure out what you enjoy and what will be a good fit with your interests, experiences, and personality.
  2. Create a resume (and cover letter). It’s a written compilation of your education, work experience, credentials, and accomplishments.
  3. Search for employment. Don’t rely on one source or way of doing your search. Do a combination of search engine sites, seek referrals, attend job fairs, and network. Spend time wisely and keep your network and social media presence professional and alive.
  4. Secure references. Select people who will emphasize your strengths to potential employers.
  5. Apply for a variety of employment opportunities. While each company has their own type of hiring process, you’ll almost always have to convey in some way who you are, where you’ve worked and why you’re interested in the company. This is most often done through an initial submission of an application and a resume, cover letter and references.
  6. Interview. These can be done in a variety of ways, not limited to personal (one-on-one), group (various candidates), or panel (committee). They are intended to ascertain a candidate’s fit in meeting a job description.
  7. Review and accept or reject employment offer(s). Offers generally include the terms and conditions under which employment is offered (i.e. pay, benefits, job responsibilities, expected work hours, start date, and other details).

Sources of Information

In general, information published by these sources is both current and reliable.

  • Employment Checklist
  • Chicagoland Career Pathways - A free and open website where young adults and their guides (parents, teachers, counselors, mentors) across Chicagoland can learn about free or low-cost training and certification programs that can lead to rewarding employment. The directory is searchable by career field, eligibility requirements, certification/credential, location, and more. The directory is a resource for adults finishing GED programs as well.
  • Skills for Chicagoland’s Future - A public-private partnership working to match businesses that have current, unmet hiring needs with qualified, unemployed and underemployed job seekers.
  • Find IL Jobs - A comprehensive job search site administered by Illinois.gov.
  • IL JobLinks Job Seeker - IllinoisJobLink.com is the state’s help wanted internet job board managed by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
  • Career One Stop - The source for career exploration, training and jobs. Sponsored by the US Department of Labor and a proud partner of the American Job Center network.
  • LinkedIn Profile Checklist - Tips for building a LinkedIn profile.
  • Students.LinkedIn.com - The Student Job Hunting Handbook Series is packed with insights and tips from 400 million+ members. This series is designed to help students move into the professional world with confidence.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook - This Handbook will help you find career information on duties, education and training, pay, and job outlook for hundreds of occupations.
  • O*Net Online - Welcome to your tool for career exploration and job analysis! O*NET OnLine has detailed descriptions of the world of work for use by job seekers, workforce development and HR professionals, students, researchers, and more!
  • Chicago Jobs Council (CJC) - Moves people out of poverty through employment using on-the-ground expertise, advocacy, and capacity-building.
  • Workforce Information and Resource Exchange (WIRE) - This is a directory of employment training and other workforce service providers in Illinois. Search for job training and education programs using the filters below, zip code search, or by clicking directly on the map. Follow these instructions for updating your organizational information.
  • USA Jobs - USAJOBS is a United States Office of Personnel Management website.
  • Job Corps - The largest FREE residential education and job training program for your adults ages 16-24.
  • Cara Program - Bootcamps and businesses that get people back to work. Cara helped people get and keep jobs and rebuild hope, self-esteem and opportunity for themselves and their families in the process.
  • National Career Development Association - Provides professional development, publications, standards, and advocacy to practitioners and educators who inspire and empower individuals to achieve their career and life goals.
  • IDES Offices - Offices throughout the State of Illinois of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - This form is used to apply for federal financial aid for college, career schools, or grad school.
  • FSA ID - A username and password that gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems and can serve as your legal signature. Only create an FSA ID using your own personal information and for your own exclusive use.
  • FSA Pubs - The office of Federal Student Aid provides publications, fact sheets, online tools, and other resources to help you prepare and pay for college or career school. Resources are grouped by topics.
  • Illinois Postsecondary Handbook - A reference source produced by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to provide general admission and financial aid information about Illinois postsecondary institutions. Please check with each institution for exact costs.
  • Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) - The state’s college access and financial aid agency.
  • Naviance for CPS - A tool that enables students in grades 6 through 12 to conduct comprehensive college and career planning. Use your CPS username and password to login.
  • Alternate Application for Illinois Financial Aid (for qualifying undocumented and transgernder students) - Effective January 2020, the IL RISE Act permits state aid to be awarded to persons who are not otherwise eligible for federal financial aid, including, but not limited to transgender students and noncitizen students who have not obtained lawful US permanent residence.
  • SAT - Find out tests dates and information on what kinds of questions you’ll see and what the test measures.
  • CPS Academic Works - Complete the General Application to begin reviewing scholarship applications.
  • CPS Scholarship Alert Workbook - Search for scholarships.

Other Job Sites & Boards

Page Last Modified on Monday, February 03, 2020