Getting Started with Career Exploration

By Sarah Hildebrand

Getting Started with Career Exploration

Photo by Muhammad Haikal Sjukri on Unsplash

As they near graduation, many graduate students are left wondering, “What can I do with my degree?” While it may be hard to come up with an immediate answer, there are steps you can take to begin exploring the types of careers you might enjoy. This blog post will provide suggestions for how to get started.

6 Ways to Begin Your Career Exploration

1. Assess Your Values

It’s important to know what your values are when beginning a job search. What is it you care about in the workplace? For example, is it important to have flexible hours or to live in a specific location? Do you want to do something that helps people? There are many different values to assess regarding your career—both in terms of logistics, such as having steady employment or a specific salary range, and regarding what you value in a position, perhaps in terms of working independently or how challenging you’d like your job to be.

A helpful way to identify what values are most important to you is to complete the work values matcher exercise, which asks you to arrange a series of values from most to least important and then reveals the larger patterns that emerge from your selections. Knowing what you value will help you read job ads in a more targeted way by ruling out jobs that don’t meet your criteria.

2. Assess Your Skills

What skills do you have and which would you like to continue using? Throughout your graduate studies, you’ve likely identified types of work that you do or don’t like doing, such as teaching, researching, writing, or advising. This is important information when it comes to figuring out what you might want to do next. You could also take a look at your resume and go through the skills or tasks associated with each position. Which did you enjoy and which would you like to never do again? Come up with a list of each.

You might also consider completing a skills matcher exercise, which will assess your strengths and generate a list of careers to match. This is particularly useful in that it suggests job titles you might want to search for later. Once you’ve identified the skills you’d like to employ, you can begin reading job ads with those in mind, too.

3. Assess Your Interests

Are you still interested in what you researched during graduate school or are you looking for something new? What were you interested in before graduate school? Interests can change over time and that’s okay. Think about topics, industries, or organizations you might have an interest in now. Research the types of jobs available in those places and reflect on whether they also match your values and skills.

4. Visit ImaginePhD or MyIDP

ImaginePhD and MyIDP are career exploration websites. Though designed for PhDs, they will be of equal interest to master’s students. These websites are particularly helpful if you’re unsure what industries you might be interested in or what job titles fit your degree. ImaginePhD is for graduate students in the humanities and social sciences, while MyIDP is designed for those in STEM fields. ImaginePhD allows you to explore different “job families,” read sample job descriptions, and even complete job simulation exercises. MyIDP has similar functions, helping to identify different career paths for scientists. On both ImaginePhD and MyIDP you can take values, skills, and interests assessments and develop career exploration plans. Both are free to use!

5. Begin Searching for Jobs

Now that you’ve identified what you want out of a job, and hopefully some search terms such as company names or job titles, it’s time to begin the hunt. Our office has put together a Job Boards and Search Engines Database where you can select the right job board or search engine based on the industry sector in which you’d like to work. When reading job ads, don’t forget to compare them with the sets of values, skills, and interests you identified at the start of your career exploration.

6. Visit Our Office

Are you still feeling lost in the job search? The Office of Career Planning & Professional Development is here to help. We can provide you with formal career assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Strong Interest Inventory, and SkillScan. We also offer individual career planning advisement, as well as help throughout your job search such as resume or cover letter review and interview preparation. Sign up for an appointment using GC Connect.

Also, be on the lookout for career exploration workshops on our events page; we sponsor these events annually.