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Know Yourself and the Field

Know Yourself

The job and internship search process is more than just searching for job or internship openings. However, this is how most people get started. Before you begin your actual search, take time for self-exploration. This helps you to narrow your search more quickly and learn how to best market yourself to potential employers. Not taking time for self-exploration can more for a difficult job search or poor career choice. Self-exploration includes identifying, examining, and understanding your interests, personality, skills, and work values to make meaningful job and internship choices.

A thorough self-assessment should enable you to answer the following questions:

  • What are your career goals and objectives?
  • What are your educational experiences?
  • What are your skills and abilities? How do they relate to the position? When did you use particular skills or abilities?
  • What are your personal strengths and weaknesses?
  • What work and co-curricular experiences do you have?
  • Where do you want to work and what types of positions interest you?
  • What is your preferred starting salary?  
  • What variables you are willing to negotiate (i.e. salary for geographical location)?
  • What are the problem areas in your background (i.e. poor grades)? Are you prepared to address them and offer a strong case for them in the interview?

Knowing yourself helps you better answer questions that employers will ask you. It also helps you better create questions to ask the employer. Schedule a practice interview to practice articulating your qualifications.

Know the Career Field

After you consider what matters to you, make a list of possible careers, so you can learn relevant information to target the way you market yourself. Information you want to gather about careers includes (1) the career fields or industries that recruit the types of jobs you want; (2) the different ways employers write job titles that describe the same job; (3) the stated job responsibilities, training/education requirements, and skills desired in the job description; and (4) the salary ranges and compensation. You can find this information utilizing the following resources.

FOCUS: the Online Career Planning Program

FOCUS provides a self-paced, online format for exploring careers that could be compatible for you. You can save your information and come back as often as you like. We recommend you schedule an appointment with an academic or career advisor to help make meaning of your results.

Resource Center

Come to the CAP Resource Center to explore majors and careers as well as resources for conducting an internship, job, or graduate school search. Career educators, who are trained peer assistants, are available to assist you. You can also schedule a time to tour the Resource Center or browse our complete collection of books available in the Resource Center.

More Research Tools

O*Net: Search for careers that fit with your personal characteristics, such as interests, values, and skills.

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Search for descriptions of careers to identify necessary training and education, earnings, job prospects, work tasks, and work conditions.

Job and Internship Postings: Research actual job and internship titles and descriptions by searching current postings.

Talk to a Professional in the Field

Talk directly with people through informational interviews to learn more about the careers you are exploring.

Skills Employers Are Seeking

According to surveys (here and here) with hundreds of hiring managers, the following skills and competencies are most highly sought after when interviewing job applicants:

  • Communications Skills (listening, verbal, written)
  • Analytical & Research Skills
  • Computer & Technical Literacy
  • Flexibility/Adaptability/Managing Multiple Priorities
  • Interpersonal Abilities
  • Leadership / Management Skills
  • Multicultural sensitivity
  • Planning / Organizing
  • Problem-Solving
  • Teamwork

What connection do you see between the skills you’ve gained from your experience, and this list?

Have you had experience overseas? If so, visit our page on Marketing Your International Experience to explore how to best communicate your experience in an interview or resume.