Identifying Potential Careers

Now that you have gathered information about yourself, you can begin exploring majors and career options - just what is out there?  At this point in the career planning process, you should not be too worried about making a decision; instead, you should simply be increasing your knowledge of  various academic disciplines and careers.  Use what you have learned about yourself to rule out the obvious choices that are not good for you. This is time consuming and may seem overwhelming, but the investment you make in gathering good information often aids good decision making. There are a number of methods for conducting research on your options:

Explore online
Use the Career Services Library
Utilize computer-assisted career guidance
Volunteer or pursue work experience
Consult with a career counselor
Talk to people about what they do

Then, when you're ready...




Explore online

The Web is a vast source of information that should be tapped when conducting research about careers.  Perform keyword searches, using job titles and industry names to gather information.

  • Occupational Outlook Handbook - The US Department of Labor Statistics compiles this extensive guide to careers, which contains profiles, training and education requirements, salary potential, and job outlook for the future.

  • O*Net Online - The O*NET program is the nation's primary source of occupational information.
  • Riley Guide - Several assessment tools available, along with employment opportunities and job resources on the Internet.
  • www.insidejobs.com - A wide variety of career profiles

  • MyIDP - A feature of the Science Careers AAAS website. myIDP provides PhD students and postdocs with exercises to help examine your skills, interests, and values along with a list of more than 20 scientific career paths that fit your skills and interests.

  • The Versatile PhD is a web-based community dedicated to helping PhDs, ABDs and MAs apply their skills and interests in a wide variety of fields. Career Services is a founding subscriber and pays for student access to The Versatile PhD's premium content (Career Autobiographies, Hiring Success Stories and Archived Career Panels). To access the site, click on the link and use your PennKey and password. You will find the Versatile PhD linked at the end of the alphabetical list of online subscriptions.
  • Industry specific tips and key resources from Career Services � Career Services' collection of information about several different industries and lines of work gleaned from advice given by alumni and speakers over the years.

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  • Glassdoor.com - Glassdoor is a free career resource where students have unlimited access to Salaries, Company Reviews, and Interview Questions. We are no longer able to offer unlimited access through Career Services, but you may sign up for your own free account and gain access.

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Visit the Career Services library

Nearly 2500 books, periodicals, and newsletters are available to help you explore careers, including those occupations requiring graduate and professional degrees.  You can usually find an overview of a profession, typical activities performed, qualifications required, job outlook for the future and salary potential. Be sure to also click on the Online Subscriptions link to gain access to a wide variety of online materials including the Vault and WetFeet Guides.

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Utilize computer-assisted career guidance

  • Sigi 3 is a comprehensive, free career exploration tool that prompts you to discover your skills, interests, and values and matches the resulting profile to career options and provides in-depth and up-to-date career information.

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Volunteer or pursue work experience

A valuable way to research careers is by getting involved in them early.  Volunteering, working part-time, conducting research with a professor, or securing an internship are all great ways to gain a deeper appreciation of day to day life in a particular field or industry.  Practical experiences help you evaluate and "reality test" your choices.




Consult with a career counselor

Exploring career options and examining your potential level of satisfaction with them requires you to manage a lot of information.  Consulting with a career counselor is a good way to develop strategies for managing your research and to learn about ways to research your career interests more productively. In order to get in touch with the appropriate career counselor, go to our staff list and call to make an appointment. External career coaches are also available for a fee and may be particularly helpful to alumni who would like to work with an individual in their local region.

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Talk to people about what they do

One of the best ways to research career fields of interest is by speaking with people who are working in the field. They can provide special insight into the rewards and rigors of a particular occupation, as well as tell you specific information about their organization.  People with the same job title, in the same type of industry, might perform very different functions depending on the culture, organization and size of the company.  This process may be referred to as informational interviewing. Start with friends, family and faculty.  Expand your network to include alumni and employers who recruit regularly on campus.  One place to check out is QuakerNet, a Penn alumni database.

An informational interview is an interview that you initiate - you are the one wanting to ask questions. Informational interviewing can be a valuable component of networking; the primary purpose is to gather information, however, and not to get a job.

Information interviews allow you to:

  • Explore career fields and industries of interest, to help clarify your goals
  • Discover employment opportunities that are not common knowledge
  • Get a sense of the corporate culture of a particular organization
  • Expand your network
  • Practice the skills utilized during job interviews
  • Access first-hand and up-to-date information about various careers

Always remember that each person you speak with is only one person. Do not form an opinion about a career after speaking with only one or two people. Speaking with a variety of people from a variety of organizations provides you with a much more three-dimensional image of what a potential career holds. For more detailed information on how to set up and conduct an information interview, go to our Informational Interviews page.