Read - Talk - Do

READ: Researching Careers Using Print Materials or Websites

One of the fastest and low-risk ways to learn about careers and industries is by reading about them. There are several resources that can give you an idea about daily duties, skills needed, work environment, compensation, and employment trends.

Career Exploration Resources

  • OOH: Career library from the US Department of Labor.
  • O*Net: Interactive career search tool that can be used to search careers by interests, skills, and values.
  • Vault: Use the "Industry Guides" in over 40 career areas giving encyclopedic knowledgeof duties, types of positions, getting hired, and more
  • Wetfeet: A database of Industry and Career Information.
  • One Day, One Job: Job postings are a wonderful way to keep updated on what kinds of careers exist. This website has information on positions in specific companies.
  • Career Books: The UCS Career Information Center (620 Lincoln St.) has many books on careers and industries based on academic major, interests, and personality.

TALK: Finding and Meeting People

Informational interviewing is a great method for conducting career research to acquire information about a field, industry, or position. Informational interviews are particularly useful when you have very little awareness about a career field or limited work experience. Informational interviews can lead to other things such as additional networking contacts or internships. For examples of how to approach potential informational interviewees, see our networking page.

click to watch interview video

Resources for Informational Interviewing

  • Start with your family, friends, and peers. Chances are they know people working in many different fields. Get the word out to as many people as possible that you know that you are looking to talk with people in specific careers.
  • Northwestern CareerNet: An online database of Northwestern Alumni volunteers in a variety of careers 
  • Kellogg Mentors Program: A database of current Kellogg students who have agreed to mentor undergraduates interested in business careers. For more information please contact Adam Heeg, Assistant Director.
  • LinkedIn: use this resource to locate NU alumni in many different careers or in a specific company. For more information about Linkedin see our social networking page.

Sample Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview

  • What is your background?
  • Will you discuss your career path with me?
  • What are the major responsibilities of your position?
  • Do you use your academic major in this job, and if so, how?
  • If there is such a thing as an average week, what is it like for you?
  • What are the positive/negative aspects of working in this field?
  • What type of individual usually succeeds in this field/organization?
  • What are the "hot issues" in this field?
  • What trends/developments do you see affecting career opportunities?
  • How can I become a more competitive candidate for this industry?
  • What steps would you recommend I take in order to prepare to enter this field?
  • What professional associations do you recommend I join?
  • Can you recommend anyone else for me to contact?

DO: Testing Careers and Occupations

  • Job shadowing/externships: An externship is a 1-3 day experience where you "shadow" someone at their place of work. To job shadow NU alumni, sign up for the Northwestern Externship Program.
  • Internships/Summer/Part-time jobs are one way to get short-term exposure to a specific career area. Internships can be done during the summer or during the school year.  Even part-time or summer jobs such as waiting tables or office work can help you to gain skills and test out new roles.
  • Volunteer work and everyday summer jobs can also help you to discover and develop your skills and interests. There are many different types of volunteer opportunities: research, writing, counseling, marketing and event planning are just a few of the areas in which you can gain experience through volunteering. Volunteer positions are available locally, nationally,and internationally.

Resources for Volunteer Work