Career development is a lifelong process. Exploring your career options early will help you maximize your experiences and future career trajectory. Always embrace opportunities that help you explore your interests, values and skills.
When you understand your strengths and interests, you can identify industries, companies and roles that match your skills and values.
Changing interests, combined with the rapidly evolving economic landscape, will require you to remain flexible and make numerous career decisions throughout your lifetime.
As you progress in your education, it is perfectly okay not knowing exactly what you want to do later in life. Take time to learn as much as you can about your skills, interests and values. This information will help you explore the exciting world of career possibilities that await you. Here are some questions to help you identify your interests and values:
- What do you like to do?
- What experiences at UCLA have you enjoyed?
- What did you like about each experience?
- What challenges did each experience offer?
- What clubs and organizations have you enjoyed being involved with?
- What skills do you need to further develop for growth?
Continue to explore interests through general education and upper division courses in your chosen area of study. Develop your skills through student organizations, extracurricular activities, research and part-time work.
Talk about your career interests with family, friends, professors, UCLA alumni and other professionals through informational interviews and become comfortable talking about your interests.
The Informational Interview
An informational interview is a conversation with a professional in a career field you are considering, which will help you gather information to assist in your career planning process. One of the best ways to find out what an industry, company or role is really like is to speak with people in the careers you’re considering. No one else can give you a better sense of the real life experiences, the challenges and opportunities, hidden demands, and limitations of the career field. Informational interviews provide you many benefits including:
- Obtaining a realistic grasp of a career, industry or company.
- Evaluating whether your career of interest is compatible with who you are.
- Receiving specific suggestions and ideas on where to gain experience.
- Expanding your professional network for future opportunities
- Securing referrals to other professionals for additional perspectives.
An informational interview may even lead to an internship or volunteer opportunity where you can continue to explore the area, industry or role that you’re interested in. We also encourage you to continue maintaining communications with those that you have informational interviews with.
More than ever, employers today look at an entry-level job candidate’s track record of “real world” experiences and accomplishments before extending an offer for a permanent position. They rely heavily on internships and volunteer work to assess the skills, abilities, and qualifications of potential full time employees.
Internships and volunteer work provide prospective employers an opportunity to observe your content knowledge, initiative, creativity, skills, values, interests, and other personal attributes, which are a few of the intangible qualities that don’t come through on a resume and manifest themselves only briefly during an interview.
An internship or volunteer position gives you a chance to explore and test your career interests on a short-term basis. You’ll be able to get a realistic idea of what the industry is all about, decide whether the job is one you enjoy, and evaluate whether you “fit” into the company culture. It’s definitely a two-way street! Benefits of working as an intern include:
- Gain valuable real world experience and learn new skills.
- Explore and test different career possibilities before making a long-term commitment.
- Demonstrate to future employers your interest in your chosen career field.
- Make contacts and develop important networking and mentoring relationships.
- Prove yourself on a trial basis to a potential employer.
Remember that this is just the beginning and that you will continue to explore and develop your interests, skills and values throughout your professional life.