Career Exploration


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Career Exploration

  1. 1. Discover OpportunitiesEXPLORATION Be a savvy information consumer and research careers while approaching information critically. Embrace a variety of sources and exploration methods to gain deeper insight into new possibilities. Like your academic coursework, you must continuously assess the reliability, validity, and bias of your sources. As your perspective widens, so do your choices. Be sure to take stock of your impressions as you • Did you discover something that interested you make new career discoveries. in some ways but not in others? • What are you motivated to explore further and • What aspects of the experience were you drawn why? to, and what aspects were unappealing, and why? • Are you learning things that are different than • What else do you want and need to know? you expected, and how do you feel about this • Are there obvious things to learn next that will new picture? help you understand other components? Here are some suggested strategies with increasing levels of risk and reward. Be sure to employ all three categories to be comprehensive. READ Look through a professional lens. Some ideas for information sources: You can learn a lot about your areas of interest from • Websites your computer screen or a print publication. • Blogs Some key patterns you’ll want to narrow in on include: • Discussion Boards • Where do people in this field go for professional news • Trade Journals and updates? For jobs and internships? • Reference Books • What memberships, affiliations, or certifications are • Memoirs and Biographies common or relevant? • What qualities or experiences are (in)consistent in the Words of warning! Do not get stuck here. A good histories or profiles of the people who impress you? exploration strategy will get you talking and doing, too. TALK Learn through others’ experiences. Ask for 30 minutes to speak with them about it at a Explore fields of interest through conversations with time and location convenient for them (a phone call people whose work intrigues you. Put yourself in is also an option, but an online conversation is not). their shoes and see how well they fit! Be punctual, prepared, and professional in your Consider any encounter a chance to have such dress and demeanor for the meeting. See below a conversation. No need to wait for the perfect for suggested questions. situation or a formal career-related event. A Take notes while being sure to focus on building waiting room, grocery store line, or a family rapport and making eye contact. gathering are all great places to gain insight from Request referrals to others who would be willing others about their careers. to share information. Keep the conversation on schedule to take it to the next level: informational acknowledge that their time is valuable! interviewing Express your gratitude at the conclusion of the Informational interviewing is a great conversation and through a thoughtful thank-you conversational tool for gaining a personal and note afterwards. practical perspective on your career interests and building relationships with individuals in fields you Great Questions for Any Career Conversation: may choose to pursue. • How did you get started in this field? Are there With informational interviewing, the ball is in your other entry points as well? court. Here are the basics: • Will I need more formal training to apply for Identify individuals whose personal career path, positions in this field? What organizations organization, or broader field of work interests provide training on the job? you. Feel free to start with people in your inner • What do you like most/least about your work? circle. After all, do you really know what your uncle • What qualities and skills are needed? does at his cool sounding job everyday or why • What are the possibilities for advancement? your favorite professor chose her field of research? • What new developments are expected in the Introduce yourself or ask a mutual acquaintance to field in the next three to five years? make an introduction to someone you do not know. • What do you read to keep informed of events, Email is one appropriate way to do this. Consider friends’ issues, and openings in your field? parents, Duke alums, or professionals in your community. • What does a typical day look like for you?14 Briefly explain your curiosity about their work.
  2. 2. The Graduate School OptionDO! You may be considering graduate school because you are passionate about a particular intellectual endeavor or because you know you need a certain set of credentials to move forward in your career development. Depending on your goals and interests, an advanced degree mayYou define experience. be an option to consider. BeforeYour opportunity to reality-test some of the thing you have learned from others is now! taking this step for granted, takeThink broadly and creatively about what defines experience and you will discover ways time to think about the reasonsthat you can dabble in new realms or continue to build your expertise. For example, many you would pursue graduatewriters build and maintain a topical blog to develop their craft, as well as display passion and school, what you would expect toknowledge on a defined topic. gain, whether it is the best way to achieve your goals, and when you would be ready to make theHere are some other ideas: commitment of time and financial • Ask to shadow and observe someone during a normal workday. resources. • Offer to volunteer for an organization, an event, or a person to develop specific abilities. The following are some important • Develop your experience in a club to showcase your strengths. factors to account for when • Invent a project and offer to do it for someone, or do it for you. considering this weighty decision: • Create ways you can contribute to research or work that intrigues you. • The clarity of your short- and • Secure an internship during the school year. long-term career goals • Your expectations around how a graduate education would help you advance some of“I don’t need to explore… I already know what I want!” your goalsAre you sure? We bet you’re not done yet—exploration builds upon itself, so this might be • Whether graduate educationyour opportunity to become more refined in your professional and personal knowledge. is the best way to achieve your desired outcomes andYou may use these questions to guide your learning in order become the most competitive whether there are strongcandidate possible: alternatives, e.g., licensures • Your ability and willingness to take on associated financialWho burdens• Create a detailed profile of the person Where • Your comfort with putting who would thrive in the role(s) to • Where are the areas of change and other interests and goals on which you aspire? Can you do this yet? excitement? Where do experts hold to meet the demands of your program• Are there areas for your own predict the field will be in the next five • Kinds of programs that would improvement? years, 10 years, 20 years? best meet your goals • How do I position myself to be part ofWhat this? Whether you seek to practice a profession that requires a specific• What sources of information and advanced degree or are interested relationships do the professionals in Why in a path where there is a less this field use to keep up with news, • Why do people go into this field, definitive need for such, the issues above are critical. While the trends, and colleagues? Are you initially? Does it remain the same or majority of Duke undergraduates paying attention to these, regularly? change over time? eventually go on to pursue• What are the strategies used in this field • Why do people leave or come back? advanced degrees, such a decision to identify and bring on new talent? Are there patterns to notice here? should be based on individual circumstances, interests, and goals. What are there motivators, timelines, If you have decided that an resources, strategies, or techniques How advanced degree is right for you, that you need to be aware of? • How did you decide that this was your the next step is to contact the best option? appropriate resource at Duke to assist you:When • How have you challenged or tested •• When are important events that I this choice? advising/preprofessional should make myself aware of, e.g., a • Office of Health Professions Advising conference? • Prelaw Advising Office• When is the typical hiring cycle? Are • PreBusiness Advising Office there things that I should prepare for? • Pregraduate Advising
  3. 3. Next Steps and Selected Resources: Exploration Use a career counseling appointment to devise a research game plan. Work with a counselor to identify the best resources to use first. Participate in the Expert-in-Residence Program (year-round) and The Fannie Mitchell event (early spring semester) to learn from Duke alums visiting campus. Use the Occupational Network (, especially the “skills search” to match job titles to your interests. Identify and reach out to a variety of professionals using DukeConnect ( and by joining the “Duke University Alumni Network” group after making a profile on LinkedIn ( Familiarize yourself with the variety of information resources available to you as a Duke student. A few to get you started: Career Insider by Vault ( Access profiles of professions, companies, and industries. Content ranges from a few paragraphs to book length and also includes videos. Job & Career Research Library Guide ( A thorough overview of the best research tools available across Duke. GoingGlobal ( Essential insights and resources for exploring by location; domestically or abroad eRecruiting ( Register for Career News and email lists that match your interests Advice for Graduate Students: Exploration Having enrolled in a specific program of study, you become an explorer discovering new knowledge through research. But you shouldn’t neglect to use your research skills to discover and explore career op- tions that were initially off your map. If historical research is your forte, investigate the career of a business historian. If teaching about the envi- ronment commands your energy and creativity, explore the advantages of teaching for special programs that offer undergrads hands-on fieldwork experience. If you’ve discovered that you’re good at coordinating large-scale events/conferences, scout out career opportunities with academic associations or job announce- ments in trade magazines for event planners. Explore the requirements for positions in more than one kind of organization and be open to new avenues to exercise your particular abilities. Every sector of the economy has a place for someone with your developing interests—whether they will be fulfilled through the traditional academic research, teaching, and administrative roles or through others com- mon to the business, governmental, and nonprofit sectors. Our distinguished faculty and staff working in the Graduate School, the offices of Student Affairs (including the Career Center), the Duke libraries, the research centers, and our alumni are ready to point you in the right direction when you are ready to ask.1616
  4. 4. your Board of advisorsAs you learn and build your career path, meeting new people and“enlisting” them to your personal Board of Advisors is a key strategy forsuccess. Think about the many people who have had (or could have!) apositive influence in your life.Look into the future and consider whom you might strategically seek out toadd to your board, in addition to staying in touch with those you alreadyknow. Every person you encounter over time gets to see a different pieceof you at your best (and possibly worst) and can be called upon for insightsinto significant aspects of who you have been and who you are becoming.Build and use your Board of Advisors to learn about yourself and to imagine and discover Here are someYOUR possibilities. The benefits include: suggestions for • Feedback on habits, patterns, and strengths that you haven’t noticed about yourself insight you • Advice on steps to take, people to meet, and resources or strategies to consider could gain: • Insight into how your advisors have made decisions in the past and what other options they considered Family—know you • Inside information about what a typical day is like • Suggestions for opportunities that might excite you deeply and over time • And more Friends—see where you thrive and struggleEnlist a supervisorYour supervisors are great advisors, even when you no longer work at the organization. Many Professors—havewill suggest you stay in touch, or you could ask if they are open to the possibility. insight into yourStaying in touch doesn’t mean having to request something every time you talk. If you come academic mindacross information or do something that might be interesting to the person, share it! Thesentiment, “thinking of you”, goes a long way and can be a great reason to send an email or Coaches—challengepick up the phone. you to overcome obstaclesHere are some great updates to share. I thought of you when: I learned something in class. Advisors—contribute I saw something in the news. to your decision-making I used something I learned when working with you. process I followed your advice. I mentioned you (or your organization) to someone. Community Leaders—see yourEnlist a professor passions engagedFind something you’re genuinely curious about as a reason to talk. People, even professors (!),tend to be flattered when others express interest in something that is important to them. Peers—have workedYou can use the words, “I’m trying to understand…” as a way to start these conversations. alongside youSome other examples might include: You mentioned… in your lecture. I’m trying to better understand how this connects Supervisors—have to… had to give you We worked on… in the problem set. I’m trying to understand why this technique is constructive feedback preferred over… Being a professor seems interesting to me. I’m trying to better understand what it Duke Alums—have a is like. Can you tell me about what you do? How you decided to do this? What else common experience you have considered? Who you work with? This topic is very interesting to me. I’m trying to better understand the ways that it connects to opportunities outside of academic work. Do you know about this or anyone who might? I learned a bit about your research and am intrigued by… Can you tell me more 99 about…