Last week, I introduced the career planning model geared toward freshmen and sophomore students in Exploration, Part 1: Drawing Connections. In the early stages of career planning, you often find yourself exploring a broad array of interests and corresponding careers. You hopefully begin to see patterns, enabling you to hone in more specifically on a few possible career paths. But you still may be unsure of how to actually get yourself from point A –> having identified possibilities…to point B -> transitioning to your first post-graduate opportunity.
Now it’s time to dig deeper in your exploration. Investigate these paths more fully and be intentional about gaining experience that will set you up for more promising employment or graduate school leads. In the second phase of our office’s career planning model, students are encouraged to utilize resources & activities to help you:
As you work through the resources and exercises, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of understanding what employers and graduate schools are looking for. When constructing your documents (resumes, cover letters, graduate school essays, LinkedIn profiles, etc) and preparing to talk with hiring or admissions professionals (informational interviews, networking events, interviews, etc), you’ll be expected to articulate what you can contribute to their organization/program. The only way to do that successfully is to know what they value and how you fit into their bigger picture!
First, gain a broad understanding of the world of work by researching the expectations of employers. Use this information as motivation to begin developing certain skills, or as affirmation that you are on the right track. Then, delve into what specific industries look for and expect; read industry journals and explore professional associations of potential career fields. This will give you greater knowledge of expectations while also helping to clarify further whether or not it is a field you want to continue pursuing. From there, begin identifying specific companies or programs and research their criteria and preferred qualifications of successful candidates. By working through these tiers of exploration and investigation, you’ll be more fully prepared and confident as you make your transition into employment or grad school.
You may be overwhelmed with all of the information in these career planning models, and that’s ok! The key is to break things down into manageable pieces so that you can fully explore your options and feel confident in the decisions you make regarding your career planning. For a real-life example of a student who has put many of these suggestions into practice, tune in next week to read Jocelyn Davis’ post on exploring careers through job shadowing.
Gwen Miller, associate director of career services