What is Career Exploration?Career exploration is engaging in various experiences that help you learn about different career options and figure out what you enjoy doing. It can also take place in the form of conversations and research that provide you with career information. Career exploration happens in a variety of different ways—not only through jobs and internships.
Ways to Explore Careers
There are several ways to explore careers, including:
- Informational interviews
- Networking events
- Job shadows
- Activities and involvement
- Reading and research
Read each section for more information.
An informational interview is a conversation you have with somebody who can provide you with information about a career, company, or industry. In this course of this conversation, you can gain valuable information about what careers may or may not appeal to you and how you can enter a profession. Topics of an informational interview may include how they got started, what they like about their job, what challenges come with the industry, entry-level prospects, companies that may be hiring, and what makes a strong candidate. This is only a sample of the types of topics you can discuss together. To learn more about informational interviews and how to set one up, read our guide on informational interviews.
There are many events that are designated as networking events, which means they are designed for professionals or emerging professionals to gather, form connections, and share information. There are other events that might be held for separate reasons (ex. art installation), but since a variety of individuals is there, you can use it as a networking opportunity.
Events that are specifically meant for networking could include job fairs, certain CLBR events (Employer Engagement Events, fireside chats, etc.), or events or activities put on by professional associations at the local or national level. You can make a habit of seeking these events out, and ask somebody at CLBR if you would like advice on how to find networking events. If you plan to attend a networking event, make sure to do as much research as you can ahead of time about who will be there and the opportunities that will be presented so that you can show that you are well-informed and also ask thoughtful questions. While at the event, try to talk to as many people as possible, and get their business cards so that you can follow up with them. Having a LinkedIn profile is also a good idea so that you can easily connect with people that you meet after the event.
There are many types of events that are not specifically designed as networking events, but networking opportunities can still occur. Some examples might include community festivals, lectures, events at community organizations such as museums, or Reed Alumni Chapter events. Connecting with people in your community over a shared interest can often lead to professional connections, so think about opportunities to attend events in your community to meet new people!
Conferences are another way to explore career options, as most industries will have regular conferences where professionals gather to stay up-to-date on important information and meet one another. To find a conference in your area, you can start by asking your professors or peers for recommendations of ones that may have an academic connection. CLBR can help you identify professional conferences. Look to professional associations, both local and national, for more conference ideas.
Remember that you don’t have to be presenting to attend a conference—you can go as an emerging professional eager to learn more! To manage the costs of attending a conference, you can look for reduced rates for students. Sometimes, if you volunteer at a conference, you may also get benefits like a reduced rate. You can also consider applying to the Career Advancement Fund for support.
During the conference, listening to speakers, attending workshops, and meeting other professionals will help you learn whether or not you are interested in that field of work (and make professional connections if it is). Take advantage of as many session opportunities as possible to maximize your learning.
A job shadow is a short-term engagement (one day up to one to two weeks, typically) where you “shadow” a professional at their workplace so you can see what a company or job is like on a day-to-day basis. This can help give you clues as to whether or not you would enjoy the type of work or work environment.
By conducting a job shadow, you can explore a brand new area of work (ex. you don’t know much about marketing but want to learn), or a sub-area of work you are already interested in (you want to work in higher education, but you only have experience with admissions and want to learn more about student activities).
To learn more about job shadows and how to set one up, read our guide on job shadows.
Volunteering can often be just as valuable on a resume as job or internship experience, since many of the duties can be similar (and you make great connections, too). The other benefit is that it allows you to get firsthand experience with a company, industry, or type of work at a fairly low commitment (as volunteering is often a lower time commitment than a job or internship). Some volunteer opportunities may involve direct service (ex. talking to patients at a hospice, walking dogs at an animal shelter), which others may be more administrative (helping with filing so that organizations have more time to provide service). Either experience is valuable for the aforementioned reasons.
There are other benefits to volunteering. First, volunteer supervisors can serve as references. Second, volunteering can help you get your foot in the door for hiring processes, since organizations tend to like to hire people that they know.
If you are looking for volunteer opportunities, remember that you can check out the SEEDS website for ideas.
Activities and Involvement
Remember that all the activities you take part in, and ways that you are involved in your community, can help you explore careers too. For example, are you a signator of a club on campus? Do you enjoy administrative tasks or financial decisions? This can give you clues about what you like. Do you always attend the local film festival in your community? This might mean that you like a career related to film. What about the latest lecture you attended? Could this relate to a career area? Think about the things you enjoy and the topics you are already interested in, as this may provide valuable information to you about career options. If you know how to articulate what you like but don’t know what type of job this would translate to, that is a great reason to meet with an advisor at CLBR.
In addition to the classes you take at Reed, there are also classes that take place in community organizations or at community colleges that are short term and not for credit that can help you learn a new skill or about a new topic area. For instance, you can study a foreign language. You can take photography classes. You can learn about fundraising or volunteer management if you think you want to work in a non-profit. Do some research about what community classes might be in the community where you spend your breaks, and this could be a good career exploration activity.
Reading and Research
You can also do a lot of reading and research to explore career options. Career blogs have a lot of information, and the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics contains information on a variety of career options.
Also, reading through job descriptions can give you a good idea of what you do and do not like. This helps you later on because it gives you a better idea of what keywords to search when you are looking for job opportunities. Meet with an advisor at CLBR if you want to learn more about how to find websites with job descriptions.
Jobs and Internships
Any time you complete a job or internship, you are exploring a career. These give you a chance to understand what work environments you like, what duties you like, what you value in a team, what you value in a supervisor, etc. Think back on all the jobs and internships you have had and reflect on what you like and didn’t like. CLBR can help you use this information to identify future career options.
Like with the activities you participate in, your hobbies can sometimes connect to professional interests and goals. Think about the things that you enjoy doing with your free time and investigate if there may be career options associated with that hobby. For example, if you enjoy writing, you may want to work in journalism or the publishing industry. If you enjoy the outdoors, you may want to work at an outdoors-focused company. Feel free to meet with an advisor at CLBR to brainstorm the ways that your hobbies may connect to your career goals.
Travel can be a career exploration activity in multiple ways. While traveling can be topically connected to certain fields (international politics, international NGOs, language translation and interpretation, international education), it is also a way to learn more about yourself and to develop valuable skills. For instance, you may find when you travel that you enjoy planning out a detailed itinerary and taking care of logistics, so perhaps you want to explore jobs that involve logistical coordination. You may be inspired by the art in different countries, so perhaps you want to explore career options in museums. If traveling itself is very important to you, there are many careers out there that involve a lot of travel, so perhaps you want to explore those options! CLBR can help you figure out what those options are.