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Why try out a career?

It can help you to:

  • Continue to explore and narrow down your list of potential career options.
  • Gain first-hand experience which can develop skills needed for any profession.   
  • Develop personal and professional contacts

Getting Started

  • Decide what your goal is for getting hands-on experience.
  • Match opportunities (outlined below) with your goals.
  • Learn the process for obtaining the opportunity.  A resume may be required.
  • You can always discuss ways to accomplish your goals further with a career advisor, faculty member, or personal mentor.


There are many ways to explore a career field. If you need help identifying your own opportunity, please schedule an appointment with an advisor. 

  • Definition: An observation experience where you can learn about a job by walking through the work day with a professional in the field. This can include conducting an informational interview. (Sometimes the terms shadowing and externships are used interchangeably.)
  • Duration: 1 day – 1 week
  • How to Find:  Most anyone is willing to speak to potential new professionals.  All you need to do is identify places and people of interest and make contact to introduce yourself and talk about your interest in shadowing.
  • Definition: Typically externships are more active and lengthier than shadowing experiences.  In addition to observing and informational interviewing, you may be participating in day-to-day activities and projects.  (Sometimes the terms shadowing, externships, and internships are used interchangeably.)
  • Duration: 1 week – 8 weeks
  • How to Find: There are multiple ways of setting up these opportunities.  One option is to identify places and people of interest and make contact to introduce yourself and your interest in an externship.  Another option is to search for posted externship opportunities.
  • Definition and How to Find: See our section on Internships for more information.
  • Duration: 8 weeks – 3 months
  • Definition: Off- campus opportunities where you can contribute your knowledge and skills, give your time without pay, and simultaneously gain experience in a field of interest. 
  • Duration: 1 day – unspecified
  • How to Find: Community Service Learning is a great place for JMU students to identify volunteer opportunities.
Undergraduate Research
  • Definition: Assisting with student or faculty-initiated research to supplement what you’re learning in your classes.
  • Duration: at least 1 semester
  • How to Find: Talk to academic departments, individual professors, or your academic advisor about identifying specific research opportunities.  You may want to explore the Honors College for additional opportunities.
Student Organizations/Peer Education
Part-Time Jobs
  • Definition: Part-time jobs can be on-campus or off-campus and are paid opportunities that provide experience in a professional setting.
  • Duration: at least 1 semester
  • How to Find: Start by visiting the Student Work Experience Center for on and off-campus job postings.

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