Career exploration is about gathering quality information as ingredients of good decision-making resulting in a good fit. If you are unclear about your career it usually means that you just don't have enough information. The more knowledge you have, both about yourself and about the opportunities in the world of work, the more focused you become and the better your decisions will be.
One of the best ways to start researching potential majors or careers is to speak with people you know, and with people who they know — in other words, networking. Hearing firsthand about others' professional experiences is very helpful in clarifying potential options for you.
The CEC follows a 5 Step Career Development Model that can serve as a useful guide, now and in the future, in the journey down your career path. It's all about discovering what you love to do and where you can be successful. Before you begin your research and exploration, however, it is important to really know yourself. After all, if you don't know who you are, how can you know what career path is a good fit for you?
Step 1 in the career development process, therefore, is Assessment. Self-assessment is a process that leads you to discover or clarify your "VIPS": Values, Interests, Personality preferences, and Skills. Assessment also helps establish career goals. It plays an important role in career decision-making, and a CEC career coach can help guide you in this process.
Step 2 in the process is Exploration. Once you know your "VIPS," it's time to research and explore the multitude of career options that exist. While it's not unusual for people to be aware of only a limited number of professional roles, there are actually thousands! But how should one go about this exploration process?
- Explore Academic Programs - The best place to start is to familiarize yourself with the programs available at Simmons. Think about which majors you are attracted to, which ones would hold your interest, and which ones you feel might be a good match with your strengths and interests.
- Test it Out! - Seek internships, part-time/temporary positions, or summer jobs that give you the opportunity to try something new, experience a work environment that you are curious about. This may affirm an interest or show you that it’s not a good fit.
- Attend Events - Seek campus and/or local events such as employer information tables, career fairs, conferences, organizational open houses, and networking socials. Use these opportunities to speak with people about your interests, various job roles and industries, and practice your networking skills.
- Be Engaged in Class - Is there an inspirational guest speaker that you want to talk to this semester? Is your classmate an intern at a hospital, company, or school or organization you’re interested in working for? Make it a point to ask about their experience and the steps they took to get that role. Your classroom is a room full of people with whom you might collaborate with in the future. Let your career interests be known as you engage with the class topics.
- Join a Professional Organization - Professional meetings and events are good sources for learning about careers and meeting professionals with whom to set up an informational interview. Often associations have special student membership fees. See the Library Career Guide on Professional Organizations.
- Meet Simmons Alumnae/i - Attending campus events with alumnae/i panels, speakers, or networking programs creates opportunities for valuable exchanges and contacts. Seniors can register for Simmons Network, an active, Simmons-maintained online database of over 8,000 Simmons alumnae/i.
- Volunteer - Whether through Simmons Community Engagement or the myriad of organizations on and off campus, you can give back to the community while also connecting with people in organizations you are exploring. You also learn more about yourself and your interests along the way.
- Join a Student Organization - By joining student organizations at Simmons and getting involved in extracurricular activities you will gain exposure to other students with similar interests. For example, writing for The Simmons Voice is a great to see if you might be interested in a journalism career or writing professionally.
- Broadcast your Interest - Tell everyone you know and meet what it is you are exploring and intending to do. You never know who might share a good information source or introduce you to a helpful resource person! Follow these guideline for introducing yourself.
- Talk to People - One of the best ways to start researching potential careers and your potential fit is networking, which is nothing more than initiating conversations with people you know, and with people who they know. Hearing first-hand about others' professional experiences is very helpful in generating or clarifying potential options for you.
- Shadow a Professional - With someone in your network, you might be able to "shadow" (i.e., follow) a professional for a day or two to observe what it's like working in that industry and role. Set up an informational interview with them first. Use your network to identify and contact professionals in areas of interest to you.
- Leverage Social Media - Whether you search Twitter or Instagram using a #hashtag or the “Upcoming Events” feature on Facebook, social media can help you locate events, blogs, business accounts, or people you’re interested in. As you are exploring, always make sure your social media presence is presentable for future employers!
As you explore different pathways, here are some important resources to consider:
- Beatley Library's Career Guides - the Library carries in-depth online guides on a range of career-related subjects, including Career Exploration and Careers by Discipline. The breadth and depth of resources and links listed in these guides will allow you to explore all potential Simmons majors and related career opportunities.
- Review recent Simmons Graduate Survey Results to get an idea of where recent Simmons alumnae/i are employed, including top industries, employers, and more.
- What Can I Do With this Major? - You can use this resource if you’re exploring majors or if you’d like to brainstorm new possible career pathways based on what you’ve studied in the past. This website provides detailed employment information for over 75 different interest areas (majors) -- and includes potential areas of employment, types of employers and occupations, and strategies to pursue and obtain those jobs.
In addition to these resources on the Simmons website, some other popular career and major exploration sites include the following:
- Quintessential Careers - read the article "Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path" for step by step guidance.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook - Published by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the OOH is considered the source of occupational information. You'll find a plethora of information about nearly 1,000 occupations, including the nature of the work, working conditions, training and educational requirements, career advancement, job outlook over the next ten years, earnings potential, and more.
- O*NET - Created and maintained for the U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET provides comprehensive information about thousands of professions, with detailed descriptions of job responsibilities, required skills, preferred interests, general work styles and environments, and more.
- Massachusetts Career Information System (MASSCIS) - The Massachusetts Division of Career Services' MassCIS system provides occupational and educational information to help individuals make better-informed career and school choices. There are also several assessment tools. Login required but it is free.
If you're still deciding on a career direction, a career coach can guide you with:
- Understanding how the career decision-making process works
- Assessing your values, interests, personality preferences and skills (VIPS)
- Learning about different majors, academic programs and careers
- Exploring your options
- Identifying and referring you to additional helpful resources
Contact the CEC to set up an appointment with a career coach. We're here to help!