Exploring the Possibilities
Are you just starting the process of considering what you want to do after graduation? A little anxious or overwhelmed about it all? The most important thing to do at this point (no matter what lays ahead of you) is to take a deep breathe and relax for a moment. The following information and resources should help you begin this process.
A large amount of the basic career exploration advice you will find is about 'knowing yourself.' And that's actually some pretty good advice, because knowing your preferences and desires for the future will be valuable tools for decision-making.
Most people who begin this process are interested in trying to ensure that the decisions they make will more or less contribute to their future happiness. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. So depending on how well you are aware of your own preferences will determine how much 'self-exploration' you will need to do.
There are a number of assessments available to you that can help clarify your preferences and values, but you can conduct a short assessment for yourself by asking yourself some pretty basic questions, such as:
- What do I value? Social interaction? Learning? Leisure time? Being efficient? Monetary compensation?
- How do I like to engage with the world? Hands-on? Contemplatively? Practically?
- And any other questions that pop up
The key to this being a valuable exercise is answering these questions honestly and openly. Once you have some understanding of you own preferences, you can start comparing them to options for jobs or potential employers.
Surveying the Field
After gaining some insight into your preferences, you should begin surveying various fields that interest you to determine how your interests align with what's actually out there. At this point, you do not want to get too wrapped up with in-depth examinations of a specific industry or company, you'll be doing that later. Rather you should seek to gain a basic "feel" for the type of work you want to be doing. You can actually use a number of the tools and techniques discussed in our researching section to get started. You may find it useful to write down your reactions and thoughts as you examine how your interests relate to these options.
Through this searching you will probably be able to make some statements such as "Well, I know that X doesn't sound like I would really like it," and "Now, that sounds really interesting and engaging..." It is also important that you allow yourself the freedom to change your mind about anything at this point. This process should be fun, energizing, and exciting.
For those students not quite clear on their career interests, the Center for Student Professional Development offers career coaching and resources to assist with clarification of goals. When appropriate, a career coach will recommend an online career assessment (MBTI or Career Leader) that will help provide additional information beneficial to a student's understanding about their interests and fit in the world of work. The coaching process often leads students to explore professional development opportunities through participation in activities offered through the Center.
To begin mapping out a life direction, students are encouraged to visit the Center during Coaching Express drop-in hours for a coaching assessment with one of the professional career coaches or peer career advocates on staff. The staff member will assist the student in determining next steps in the exploration process, or, if the student already has a field in mind, will connect the student with one of our Career Clusters (groups of related industries and/or career fields).
As you begin working with a coach, he/she may suggest you conduct informational interviews with individuals in your fields of interest or look into shadowing opportunities.
Informational Interviewing and Shadowing
A great way to find out if you would like a particular job/career/life direction is to ask someone who is already doing that type of work. Sitting down with an industry professional and asking what they think about their job or industry can provide you with an insider's perspective, a stronger network, and can sometimes lead to tips about job opportunities.
An informational interview is simply talking with professionals who are currently in occupations and/or industries you are considering in order to gain information and insights about a career, industry, or organization. This information can be used in choosing a major, exploring career options, or preparing for a summer or professional job search. Be clear with yourself and the professional you are interviewing that this is not a job/internship interview or a request for a job/internship. Learn more about informational interviewing.
Job shadowing is another great way to explore career directions. Job shadowing gives you the opportunity to watch someone at work in a particular job and experience some of the nuances of the job without having to perform the work yourself. This is a great way to "test the waters" before making a commitment to a specific career direction.
Professional pursuits of Vanderbilt graduates are varied and often not directly tied to a students major. By providing coaching based on career clusters (groups of related industries and/or career fields), you can explore your interests in various fields and see how you can apply what you have learned through your curricular and co-curricular experiences to a field of interest.
As you begin to explore and pursue your professional interests, there are many resources you can leverage through the Center that will help you. A key resource is meeting with a Career Coach in a one-on-one coaching appointment where students are supported in their professional development including ways to conduct a strategic internship or job search. The goal is for students to develop their professional toolbox during their four years at the university which will provide a strong foundation to build upon after graduation.