Step 3: Researching Careers

Step 1 of your career planning process involved research into your "internal" world, those aspects of your personality that relate to employment and a career.  Step 2 considered the fit between your academic self and a variety of career options.  In a sense, it's a bridge to Step 3, which is an investigation of the "external" world of work.

When considering career options for after graduation, or making decisions about graduate or professional school, it is essential that you be informed about the nature of the work, the reality of the field or industry in question, any potential idyosyncrisies or "hidden land mines" regarding particular occupations, and even about specific companies or organizations.

If this seems a bit daunting, it may help to break down Step 3 into the five Phases below, progressing from the broad area of fields/industries to informational interviews.  Informational interviews with alumni and other professionals will help validate what you've read and fill in the gaps.

Phase 1: Researching Fields & Industries

Click to learn more about one of the following areas listed for specific information for each field/industry to get a solid introduction to the careers you're considering: Arts & Communications, Business & Finance, Careers for the Common Good (nonprofit/government), Education, Health Professions, Law, and Science & Technology.

Phase 2: Researching Occupations & Job Titles

Occupational research is where Steps 1, 2, and 3 really come together.  This information gives you a snapshot of the daily responsibilities and requirements of the job.  Explore these links for more information:

  • Occupational Outlook Handbook - U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Provides descriptions of hundreds of occupations, including the training and education needed, earnings, expected job prospects, what workers do on the job, working conditions.
  • O*Net - Searchable database of job titles with comprehensive information about duties, environment, and skills required.
  • - Detailed information about duties and requirements of a wide variety of job positions, sorted by industry.

Phase 3: Researching Companies & Organizations

Click here to look at specific organizations.  This research can help you deepen your understanding of the missions and goals typically held by employers within your field or industry.  Can you see yourself working at places like this?

Phase 4: Researching Salary & Compensation

Your potential salary and compensation!  What kind of lifestyle do you enjoy now, and what do you aspire to after college?  Where does money rank on your values list?  Consider it carefully and do your research to avoid a rude awakening later.

Phase 5: Informational Interviews & Job Shadowing

When researching careers, arranging informational interviews, i.e., gathering career data directly from people doing the work, and job shadow experiences are like finding the holy grail because they provide you first-hand experience and perspective that you then filter through all your previous research.  If, for example, your self-assessment confirms that you place high value on helping people directly for most of your work day, you want to be sure to ask lawyers if that's what they do.  It's easy to do this, because most professionals like to talk about their jobs.  Just be sure to get several points of view, for objectivity and balance.

Career Outlook Job Shadowing Program
The Career Center's Career Outlook Job Shadowing Program goes one step further than an informational interview by enabling you to visit the work environment and observe the work being done.  Click the link for application details. 

Learning how to network with alumni and other professionals is essential for setting up informational interviews.

Diversity Resources

These resources relate to the unique needs of students/alumni of color, women, GLBTQQ students/alumni and students/alumni with a disability.

For International Students

International students should be fully informed about the issues and regulations regarding employment in the United States for non-citizens.  This section provides you a full array of online resources.

Career Center Print Library

In addition to the online resources we provide, the Career Center has a wide selection of book and other print materials that cover everything from general job search tips to case interviews to career information to resources on post-college financial aid.  Drop by the Career Center, pour a cup of coffee, pull out a book, have a seat and find your niche!

Proceed to Step 4: Test Careers Through Experience.