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Summer: a great time for career exploration

At the UC Davis Internship and Career Center (ICC), we encourage students to begin exploring options and goals for their careers as early as possible. However, some students find it challenging to make time for this during the academic year. Here are some strategies you can share with your students to help them take advantage of summer as a perfect time for career exploration!

Step 1: Self-Awareness

In order to make informed career decisions, students can start by learning more about their own interests, skills, and values.

  • Interests: Tools such as California Career Zone’s Interest Profiler can help students identify their top interest areas. They also provide a starting place for exploring possible occupations that align with those interests.
  • Skills: Employers consistently report that they value job seekers with strong “transferable skills” such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, and leadership. Students can take inventory of their own transferable skills gained from coursework, internships, volunteering, student organizations, and more.
  • Values: Values are one’s beliefs about what’s important in life. People whose career plans/goals align with their values often feel greater satisfaction and fulfillment in their work. Students can begin reflecting on their own values as they explore career options.

Step 2: Occupational Awareness

Another great way that students can take advantage of summer as a time for exploration is to examine what career options may meet their needs. We call this "Researching the World of Work".

  • Research: Although there are many places to research careers, it’s important to start with reliable sources. For example, the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) provides data on job titles, education requirements, and salaries across the U.S.
  • Informational Interviews: Talking to professionals in a field of interest, also known as informational interviews, can be one of the most powerful ways to learn about what it's like to work in a particular career field. These conversations can happen by video/phone or in person – so they’re perfect to do during summer, no matter where students are! The ICC has great tips on how to do informational interviews, including how to find people to talk to.
  • Gain Experience: There is often no better way to find out whether a career field is a good fit than to try it out first-hand. Many forms of experience – from part-time jobs to volunteering to internships – can help students clarify their career goals and interests. These experiences can also help them build their professional network.

With a combination of self-awareness and occupational awareness, students can make informed career decisions as they plan for the future. Of course, we know that career exploration doesn’t stop once students land that first post-grad job! It is a life-long process. Nonetheless, we encourage students to start as early as possible, and to use the strategies described above to set them up for success.

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