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Career Exploration and Research

After self-assessment, you will enter the exploration stage, where you can put your excellent research skills to good use exploring your options and the types of industries and jobs that align with your skills, values, interests, and goals. There are three primary ways to research careers: Read-Talk-Do.

Reading about careers is a fast and low-risk way to gain information about typical responsibilities, required skills, work culture, compensation, and employment trends.

Career Exploration Resources

In addition to the self-assessment resources mentioned above, these resources can help you focus your search:

  • Firsthand (formerly Vault): This provides rankings and reviews of thousands of top employers and publishes numerous employer, career, internship, résumé, and interviewing guidebooks for all industries.
  • Goin Global: If you are an international scholar or conducting an international job search, this resource helps new and experienced job seekers find opportunities across the globe. 
  • LinkedIn: Review company pages—how do they talk about their work and their employees? Do their mission and values align with yours? Are there current job openings? If so, reviewing job postings can be useful as they will provide insight into the necessary skills and qualifications and the vocabulary used in that industry.

Informational interviewing is a great way to conduct career research and learn about a field, industry, or position. Informational interviews are particularly useful when you are unfamiliar with a career path as you can gain insider insight on the advantages and challenges of a particular industry. As an added benefit, informational interviews can sometimes lead to additional networking contacts, internships, and/or referrals.

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 are looking to talk with people in specific careers.
  • Our Northwestern: Browse this online database of Northwestern alumni volunteers in a variety of careers.
  • LinkedIn: Use this resource to locate Northwestern alumni in many different careers or in a specific company.

For more information on networking and informational interviewing, see our Networking webpage.

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 or speak with a Career Counselor on how to create your own shadowing experience.

Assistantships and Internships

Assistantships and internships enable you to gain short-term exposure to a specific career area. They can be done during the summer or the academic year.

  • Interdisciplinary Graduate Assistantships and TGS Internships
    Interdisciplinary Graduate Assistantships offer the chance for PhD and MFA students to obtain academic and professional development experience, and to explore special interests in other areas. They are opportunities for students through their 5th year that do not count toward a student’s 20 quarters of funding.
  • INVO Practicum
    The INVO Practicum is an unpaid eight-month internship program (October through May) open to all Northwestern students and senior scientists who are interested in learning about the university technology transfer process. Interns are exposed to vast areas of innovation and gain hands-on experience in evaluating technologies for patentability, marketability and commercialization readiness. They are expected to manage the analysis of multiple technologies that fall in and outside of their wheelhouse and communicate their findings with INVO staff and faculty inventors.