Learn by doing. Explore your industry of interest from the inside to see if it's a good fit.
You're interested in a certain field... now see if it's a good match for you. Below are different ways to test out an industry from the inside, all the while gaining exposure and practical experience in that area.
Campus organizations are not only a great way to meet people, but also a unique opportunity to learn more about different fields that might interest you. Colgate has hundreds of diverse and exciting clubs and organizations to join. Ideally, choose at least one related to an industry that you’d like to explore further, as your membership and leadership within such an organization will allow you to grow professionally and stay abreast of changes in your field of interest. Your active participation could also help you to develop the following marketable transferable skills (among others):
- Communication – written and oral
- Critical thinking and analyzing
- Problem solving
- Team orientation
In addition to campus organizations, consider volunteering your time to serve your community in some capacity. Exposing yourself to diverse people and experiences will help expand your understanding of “the real world” and further help you to clarify your values and interests. Depending on the focus of the experience, volunteering could also provide you with the opportunity to test your vocational skills in the workplace and add depth and breadth to your resume.
Having a part-time job while in school is not only a great way to earn a little spending money while padding your resume, it is also a great way to try out different industries. Pursue opportunities that relate in some way to your field of interest. For instance, if you are considering a career in Education, why not work at a daycare part-time or offer your services as a nanny? You’ll gain valuable experience engaging with children, planning their activities and managing their time (and sometimes even discipline). More importantly, you’ll learn be able to determine whether you can see yourself working with children long term or not.
Not everyone is able to hold a part-time position while carrying a full course load, which is all the more reason to maximize your summer months by participating in an internship. Though no two internships are alike (paid/unpaid, full time / part-time, etc.), most opportunities will allow you to acquire essential practical skills and expose you to the world of work. Pursue those opportunities that go beyond administrative work (making copies, filing, fetching coffee) and will challenge you professionally.
What are the benefits of an internship?
- Provides you with a competitive edge in today’s job-market
- Exposes you to an industry or career path of interest and helps you to make career decisions
- Allows you to develop a network of professionals (who might also serve as references)
- May lead to clearer career objectives and increased motivation for coursework
- Develops your professional and personal skills
- May lead to full time job offers upon completion of the internship program
Study abroad is much more than just an adventure in a foreign country. Even though your career might be the furthest thing from your mind when you are walking the streets of Rome, your experiences abroad offer unique opportunities to try out different career fields and to build marketable skills, including:
- Cross-cultural sensitivity
- Interpersonal and relationship skills
- Tolerance for diversity, and
- Other personal traits (i.e., confidence, dependability, maturity, character, etc.).
You might not be aware that there are many incredible career opportunities available to you while abroad. Why not find an internship, network with professionals in your field, conduct informational interviews, shadow a professional in your desired occupation, or volunteer your time at a local business or organization? These are all valuable experiences that will help you to learn more about your fields of interest so that you may further narrow down your choices.
An informational interview is a meeting where you ask others for career and industry advice. It is not about finding employment, but rather learning more about careers that may be a good fit for your personality and interests. Informational interviews provide an insider’s perspective into an industry or even a particular organization that you may want to work for in the future, and could provide you with information about:
- Career preparation and opportunities for specialization
- The truth about a profession – including the work culture
- The degree of fit to your personality, interests, skills, strengths and weaknesses
As an added bonus, informational interviews help you to expand your professional network and could also sharpen your interviewing skills!
Arranging the interview: Informational interviews should be kept brief (15-20 minutes) so as to be respectful of your interviewee’s time. Before arranging the interview, meet with a career advisor to help focus your efforts. We’d like to help you to:
- Identify a list of industries that you’d like to know more about based on your personality, interests, values, and skills
- Develop a list of professionals who might provide you with good insight into those industries – using Colgate’s alumni network (iCAN), LinkedIn, as well as your professional (instructors, past coworkers) and personal networks
- Prepare to reach out to potential contacts in a professional manner – either in person, by letter, e-mail, or phone call, or through mutual acquaintance
Conducting the interview: If you are able to arrange an in-person meeting, plan to arrive a few minutes early, dressed appropriately (business casual or business attire) and prepared adequately. Consider formulating about 10 questions that will help you to understand their career and organization better. Some questions worth asking:
- Why is a typical day or week like?
- What do you like most about your job? What excites you most?
- What are some of the more difficult or frustrating parts of this career?
- What qualifications and skills are most important to be successful in this career?
- What types of decisions do you make? Who do you report to?
- How does your work fit into the mission of the organization?
- What changes do you anticipate for the future of this career?
- Do you have any advice for me as someone considering the field?
- Are there others in the field with whom you think I should meet?
Make sure to take notes attentively and to express sincere interest. Their time is very valuable and you should treat it as such. Once you’ve completed the interview, thank them for their time before leaving and again with a thank you note or e-mail within 24 hours of the interview. If the person you interviewed suggested specific action items, update them on your progress as appropriate. If done effectively, informational interviews could help establish a professional relationship with someone who may one day become a mentor.