At the Center for Career Education, our team is here to support your journey.
We invite you to partner with us as you navigate your career path.
Finding a fulfilling career requires dedicating time and purposefully integrating career exploration into your life at Columbia. Just as you need to work toward good grades in your studies, it’s essential to put effort into planning your career to land the opportunities that are right for you.
We know that the job search process can be overwhelming at times so be sure to find time for yourself, and get support when you need it. We’re here to help you through every step!
Use the tabs below to select where to start, or jump to our frequently asked questions for a boost in the right direction.
Design Your Next Steps
CREATE A PLAN
The process of beginning your career exploration journey can take you through the various stages of our career model.
Developing a plan can support you in not only staying organized throughout your journey, but also provide you with a strong foundation to reflect on your values and skills, develop self-awareness of your strengths and interests, research and explore career opportunities, and create a timeline of action.
You may meet with a career counselor at any point during your career exploration journey. We can support you, help you identify your current needs, and assist as you design your next steps.
Below are some tips to guide you as you begin your journey:
- Reflect on your interests, strengths, values, and skills using any of these exercises.
- Use Vault, O*NET, our industry pages, and LionSHARE to research and identify job titles and career fields.
- Talk to professors, former supervisors, family, and classmates to learn more about industries that interest you or uncover industries and opportunities you might not have considered.
- Research the recruitment timelines of your industries of interest.
- Make a target list of the top 20 organizations you may like to work for using resources like LionSHARE, Glassdoor, GoinGlobal, UniWorld, Indeed, and professional association websites.
- Brainstorm connections you may have in your network that will help you learn more about these organizations.
- Develop a timeline. The search can take anywhere from 3–9 months, depending on the industry. Make sure to research the industry recruitment timelines and time your search accordingly.
- Carve out time regularly in your calendar (you can start with 10 minutes a day) to stay active in this process, while balancing your additional responsibilities.
- Create a Google or Excel spreadsheet, or another tracking document, to record contacts, positions, and target organizations.
- Build time in your routine to review our Weekly Roundup every Monday morning. You’ll learn all about upcoming career events and opportunities from CCE, as well as resources to support you on all things career.
BUILD SELF KNOWLEDGE
Generating self-knowledge about your identities, interests, values, personality traits, and skills can help you determine which career is right for you.
Research shows that the people most satisfied in their careers work in jobs that closely align with these areas. Through self-reflection, you can take steps towards understanding career options that may be the best fit for you. The more you understand yourself and your motivations, the more informed and productive your career search process can be.
You may use the following activities to think about these areas and how they connect to potential career options. Complete them on your own or discuss them with a career counselor.
Your identities may be closely tied to your values, interests, social contexts, and self-image. Knowing yourself and being confident in who you are will help you explore careers and life beyond Columbia. We are all defined by our unique personalities, which may include many identities and characteristics that intersect. Some of these identities may be based upon your communities and life experiences.
In this exercise try to reflect deeply on your core self, and not others’ perception of you or who you should be. Try using a mix of descriptors (age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, ethnicity, etc.), adjectives, or communities in which you consider yourself a member (first-generation college student, military veteran, etc.) in order to paint a full picture of who you are.
Your interests may offer clues to the kinds of jobs or industries you might like to explore. Use this exercise to reflect on the things you like to learn about, enjoy doing or are passionate about.
Your values are what you care about—your core beliefs, the qualities you consider most important and bring you meaning, and your current priorities in your career and life. Your values play an integral role in career satisfaction. Use this exercise to reflect on and prioritize your values.
Your personality influences how you see, experience, and interact with the world. Use this exercise to reflect on how you prefer to navigate the world: how you gain energy, perceive information, make decisions, and organize your external environments.
You’ve gained competencies (skills and knowledge) through your studies, extracurricular activities, internships or jobs, study abroad, and life experiences unique to you. Use this list to identify the transferable skills you’ve built and might like to use in a future job, as well as the skills you’d like to try out.
Likes and Dislikes
Use this activity to reflect on what you liked or disliked about each of your previous experiences. This process may provide you insights about what you’re looking for in future internships or jobs.
Now that you’ve done the work of developing your self-knowledge and clarifying your career direction, you can start taking steps toward those goals. Before you begin, assess where you are in your professional journey and how your target industry affects career growth.
When you know where you’re going you can start:
- Learning about the types of companies and career paths that may a great fit for your major or experience.
- Leveraging your professional network (remember this encompasses all of your connections: friends, family, academic circles, professional connections) and learning how to make the most of professional networking events.
- Developing your knowledge of your target industry or career field through informational interviews with professionals in the field.
- Connecting with alumni or professionals for short collaborations through job shadowing to enhance your industry knowledge.
- Building relevant experience and connections through CCE’s Internship Programs. Campus collaborations and learning opportunities are also great chances to gain insight into the inner workings of your future career path.
Career exploration is a continuous process. Throughout your journey, you will be constantly adapting your goals and expanding your knowledge.
Just remember, you don’t need to go through it alone; we’re here to help.
TELL YOUR STORY
So, you’ve found some employers or alumni you want to connect with—an internship you want to apply for, an alum who you’d like to meet, or a job you can’t wait to apply for. Now what?
More than ever, your ability to communicate your story will be an essential part of connecting with employers and alumni.
When you’re applying to internships or jobs, interviewing, creating a professional online presence, or introducing yourself to employers or alumni, what you’re really doing is sharing your story. Here, we’ll walk you through how to tell your story in each of these contexts.
Your Online Presence
When you apply to a job or message a Columbia alum to request an informational interview, chances are, the person you’re contacting will look you up online.
- Build or enhance your LinkedIn profile to serve as a professional online landing page, where you can tell your story to potential employers and alumni connections.
- Shape your story through thoughtful use of social media.
Most job or internship searches will require you to create a resume: a document that highlights recent experiences, skills, and accomplishments you have that are relevant to the type of opportunity you’re seeking. Your resume is often the first representation of your story that an employer will see.
- Watch our 3-minute video overview of resumes.
- Get started in creating or updating your resume.
- Strengthen your resume with strong bullet points and action verbs to highlight relevant transferable skills and accomplishments.
- Learn how to tailor your resume to specific opportunities, to enhance your chances of being called in for an interview.
- Optimize your resume for Applicant Tracking Systems, which many large companies use to review your resume.
- Use our resume checklist to create, update, and polish your resume.
- Check out our sample resumes for inspiration.
For some opportunities, you may have the option of submitting a cover letter, a 1-page business letter where you convey why you’d be a great candidate for the job.
- Watch our 3-minute video overview of cover letters.
- Learn about when to write a cover letter and how to brainstorm and draft your cover letter.
- Learn what a cover letter looks like with our outline.
- Use our checklist to create and revise your cover letter.
- Read through our sample cover letters for inspiration.
For academic research, fellowships, or research-focused graduate programs, you may need to create a CV that tells the story of who you are as a future scholar.
For writing-focused jobs, you may be asked to submit a writing sample. Learn how to select a writing sample that will show off your preparedness for the job.
Interviews are where you really get to share your story, beyond your application materials.
NEGOTIATION AND BEYOND
It’s important to remember that landing a job or internship isn’t the end of the road. Whether you’re embarking on a new job or internship, you need to spend some time evaluating the offer, its conditions, and how it aligns with your career goals and values.
Remember that negotiation transcends just salary negotiations. Professionals use negotiation skills and tactics in their everyday lives in professions such as sales, finance, consulting, laws, etc. When you build your negotiation skills, you’re developing a skill set that you will use for the rest of your life.
Review these resources to help ensure that you nail your negotiation:
- Define your Non-negotiables
- Best Negotiation Books for beginners
- Negotiations in Crisis
- Multicultural negotiation
- Evaluate the Offer
- Practice, practice, practice
- Accept or Decline with Class
At the end of the day, a negotiation occurs within a relationship that you want to maintain. Try to come up with solutions that feel like a win-win for both parties.
Once you’ve finalized the negotiation, the real work begins.
Now you’ll be going through the process of learning about your colleagues, job responsibilities, and workplace culture. Utilize some of the resources below to help you navigate and remember, our career counselors are always here to help you talk something through.