Career Planning Strategy for UndergraduatesAs you begin planning your career, use these lists to identify the items that make sense for your unique situation (not every item may apply). Consider working with a Northwestern Career Advancement team member to adapt the plan for your goals.
Reflect on which activities and experiences you’ve enjoyed in the past and why.
Identify your interests, values, and skills by taking the career and personality assessments offered at NCA.
Learn about the many opportunities, programs, and organizations Northwestern has to offer.
Explore your interests by getting involved in student organizations or volunteer opportunities.
Enroll in classes that allow you to learn about fields that interest you.
Research multiple careers and industries using resources on the NCA website, including Vault and the Occupational Outlook Handbook .
Attend programs and events sponsored by NCA, academic departments, and student organizations.
Prioritize your goals, time, and commitments as you adjust to life as a first-year student. Decide
Meet with an NCA team member to create a personalized career plan.
Complete the NCA Career Competencies Assessment to determine what skills you have to offer and which skills you want to develop.
Consider opportunities to gain experience, such as research, study abroad, internships, part-time jobs, and volunteer work.
International students: Attend international office walk-in hours to understand Curricular Practical Training (CPT) procedures
Convert your high school résumé into a professional document and enhance it using
Activate your Handshake account and choose your profile preferences. Create a LinkedIn profile and begin to build your network by con-necting with academic and personal contacts and joining groups.
Request informational interviews with people you know whose careers interest you.
Pursue summer opportunities that align with your skills and with experiences you want to explore.
Talk with family and friends and keep them informed of your experiences
Reflect on your first year of college, specifically on what you learned about yourself.
Meet with an NCA team member to clarify your career interests.
Think about how your skills, values, interests, and experiences intersect to shape your professional narrative—the story you want others to know about your career pursuits.
Conduct informational interviews with alumni, industry professionals, and personal contacts.
Create a profile in the
Northwestern Network Mentorship Program and cultivate a relationship with an alumni mentor. Enhance your leadership experience in student organizations by chairing a committee, initiating a project, or running for a position.
Narrow the range of opportunities you want to pursue.
Research industries and learn about their recruitment processes and timelines.
Develop a search strategy with an NCA team member and explore opportunities (internships, jobs, volunteering).
Declare a major and meet with your academic adviser if you’re considering changing your major or school.
Update your résumé, LinkedIn profile, and
Handshake account to include first and second year experiences. Establish new contacts using
LinkedIn and Our Northwestern. Participate in career fairs, career treks, and employer/alumni events to learn about different industries, jobs, and internships.
Apply for opportunities using targeted résumés and cover letters.
Seek guidance from family and friends as you navigate the search process.
Connect with your professors to establish strong relationships, especially if you’re considering graduate school.
Identify what you’ve learned from each internship, job, and student experience thus far.
Enhance your awareness of your skills and values by completing a
Motivated Skills or Values Card Sort with an NCA team member. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and how they impact your career goals
Research industries, positions, and employers of interest using Vault, LinkedIn, and company websites.
Identify the skills you want to develop and use in your upcoming internships and jobs.
Connect with an NCA team member to evaluate opportunities for gaining experience.
Talk with alumni and other contacts to learn about their career experiences.
Determine “must-haves” and “must-not-haves” as they relate to opportunities you’re exploring.
Select an experience that will provide relevant skill development for your desired career path.
Identify two or three industries to consider for full-time employment after graduation and learn about their recruiting timelines and processes.
International students: Meet with an international office adviser to understand Optional Practical Training (OPT), the STEM extension, and H-1B visa considerations.
Reflect on how your values and interests might determine your choice of work setting.
Think about your college experience—both the defining moments you’ve had and the additional experiences you want to have before graduation.
If you don’t have a clear career focus, meet with an NCA team member. Explore
Research positions and employers of interest in your target industries.
Network at employer information sessions, alumni events, coffee chats, and career fairs to expand your knowledge of job opportunities.
Talk with peers about how they are balancing their search process with academics and extracurricular activities.
Learn about and implement search techniques for your industry by meeting with an NCA team member.
Give yourself permission to pursue what most interests you.
Narrow your employment pursuits to one or two industries.
Reach out to alumni and your contacts to inform them of your search, even if they work outside your target industries.
Develop a list of alternatives should you need to consider options other than your top-choice career field or graduate program.
Tailor your résumé and LinkedIn profile to the industries and employers you’re considering.
If you’re considering graduate school, complete required admissions tests and begin preparing applications.
Apply for positions before their deadlines, and be prepared for rejection—a common occurrence in the search process.
Strengthen your interviewing skills through a mock interview with an NCA team member.
Identify references and request permission to use them in applications for jobs or graduate programs.
Accept an offer for full-time employment or graduate school.
Provide updates to your network contacts.