Step 4: Experience Your Field
Gain valuable hands-on experience in your field through participating in internships, service learning, volunteer opportunities, networking, mentorship, and informational interviews.
Table of Contents:
- Step 1: Self- Discovery
- Step 2: Career Research
- Step 3: Design A Career Plan
- Step 4: Experience Your Field (see below)
- Step 5: Launch Your Career
Internships allow you to test-drive career options, develop important skills and establish relationships with people who may ultimately help you get hired after graduation.
An internship is work experience that is either directly related to your major or career interest. Some internships are paid and some may provide academic credit. See the Jobs & Internships page for specific information pertaining to internships.
Top 10 Reasons to Intern:
- Experience in a field will help you make more educated career choices.
- This is your chance to explore careers in different fields or specific areas within your field.
- Hands-on experience enhances your academic experience and performance.
- You can develop career related skills and demonstrate them for future employers.
- A significant percentage of surveyed graduates from across the country continue to report that they got their current job because they previously interned for their employer!
- Employers prefer candidates with previous work experience.
- Gaining professional contacts in the field can help you get hired and get ahead in your career.
- Many organizations use internships as extended interviews for full-time employment.
- Most organizations will hire successful interns over candidates they have just met.
- Many internship positions are paid!
Consider a service learning experience as an opportunity to build your resume and job skills. In particular, your upper-division service learning credit should relate at least to your major if not also to your career interests. Use this experience as an opportunity to network with people that may be useful in your future career endeavors. See the volunteer section on the Center for Community Engagement website for information on local opportunities.
If you find yourself in need of more experience related to your field in order to get hired in a position that you want, volunteering may be an option. Volunteer experience related to your career interests enables you to gain valuable experience and polish your skills. Volunteering is also a great way to make contacts with people in the industry and network your way into paid opportunities. See the volunteer section on the Center for Community Engagement website for information on local opportunities.
Working on-campus can give you great experience performing in a professional environment. This may mean that you get to build general office skills and prove that you can manage your time and be responsible. In addition, there are many opportunities that may help you gain specialized experience in your field and build key relationships with professional staff and administrators.
Networking is the act of meeting people with whom you can develop mutually beneficial relationships and exchange information, advice, contacts or support. Networking in the early stages of your career can help you build contacts, find out about open positions, enhance your understanding of industries, and gain important insight into what it takes to succeed in your field.
A career mentor can assist you in your career development journey by providing valuable career recommendations specific to your field of interest. To discuss ways to find a local mentor, attend drop-in career counseling at the Career Development Center. See the schedule of Fall 2013 Workshops & Events Calendar (PDF, 1.0 MB) for details.
An informational interview is one of the best ways to identify what organizations are really looking for in competitive applicants. By interviewing someone in your field of interest you will find out tips and strategies on how to enter the field. You will also learn about the challenges associated with the position and get recommendations on how to become a competitive applicant. To setup an informational interview, the first thing you will need to do is conduct research on companies/organizations in your field of interest. Second, you will need to identify potential individuals who you intend to interview. Third, you will need to draft a letter to request the informational interview; see the prospective cover letter section in the Resume Handbook (PDF, 1.64MB) for a sample. Lastly, you will need to prepare for the informational interview by developing a series of questions to ask the interviewee. Attend drop-in career counseling to discuss ways to prepare for an informational interview. See the schedule of Fall 2013 Workshops & Events Calendar (PDF, 1.0 MB) for details.
- What skills/attributes are important for success in this position?
- What was your career pathway?
- What trends have you recognized over the years in this field?
- What other organizations are you aware of that hire for this position?
- Which professional associations or publications would you recommend I consult?
- Do you have any recommendations to make my resume more appealing to employers in this industry?
- Do you have any advice for a new graduate entering this industry? How does an individual stay competitive in this field?
- Do you have any recommendations of additional people in this field that I can interview?