As a first-year student at Columbia, you may be wondering how CCE can help you launch your career journey.

Once you get settled into your semester, two of the main topics that you can engage with CCE about are Career Exploration and Relationship-Building.

Read on for some of the benefits of engaging with career services, the ways you can maximize your networking event experience, and how you can personalize your career resources. 

Career Exploration

Benefit from Career Services:

Start where you are.

  • Do you think you know what you want to do after college and yet still want to keep your options open?

  • Do you have many interests and are wondering how you are going to choose just one or even two to focus on?

  • Are you interested in understanding how to find out what careers are possible to launch at this time?

  • Are you curious about how specific majors translate into career paths?

You can schedule an appointment with a career counselor and share your particular goal for the session. We will partner with you at whatever point you are at in your career exploration process. 

During a career counseling appointment, we will listen to you and guide the conversation, provide you with ideas, support, and resources, and encourage you to think critically.

Reflect on what matters most.

One way for you to prepare for a career exploration conversation is to review the self-reflection activities in Design Your Next Steps, our online career planning guide.

These activities invite you to identify your interests, values, personality traits, and skills and how they relate to career options. You can complete them on your own or discuss them with a career counselor.

Create or update your resume.

Develop your Master Resume, a summary of your education, experiences, and skills that evolves as you gain academic and professional experience.

Check out our tip sheet, Writing a Resume: Getting Started, for more information.

Start by brainstorming your past and present accomplishments. Remember that everything counts—work experience, volunteer work, leadership, and extracurricular activities, and academic and independent projects.

We can help you to identify your transferrable skills. Once you have developed and updated your Master Resume, we can explore themes together that can inform your career exploration process now and your tailored, industry-specific resume later.

Document your career exploration strategy.

The career exploration process is not necessarily linear. You may be simultaneously reflecting, researching, and discussing information about your preferences, industries, and roles.

It’s helpful for you to take notes both during and in between career counseling appointments on ideas, resources, and next steps. We will also follow up with you as needed regarding questions and additional resources.

Maximize Career Fairs & Networking Events:

Check the Events calendar on a regular basis.

We feature our upcoming events, including our career fairs and networking events, on our website and in LionSHARE. You can also find employer events, including information sessions, in the events section of LionSHARE.

If you have any questions about events, feel free to schedule a career counseling appointment, or come to our Drop-in Hours for Quick Questions.

Approach these events as a learning experience.

As a first-year student, it’s your chance to learn about different careers and organizations.

We can help you prepare for your first career fair. Here are useful tips for Making the Most of a Virtual Career Fair.

Reflect on your alignment.

Attending career events is a way to learn current information about different industries, functions, and organizations.

After the events, consider to what extent these industries, functions, and organizations align with your values, interests, skills, and personality traits. 

Ask yourself: How can this information direct my career exploration?

Personalize Career Resources

Explore relevant competencies related to potential majors.

Wondering how your chosen major may relate to your future career? Check out some of the competencies you can develop from completing a particular major on our Major Tip Sheets.

In addition to any needed technical skills, most of the skills and qualities sought by employers are transferable skills, skills you gain over time from coursework, projects, volunteering, part-time jobs, internships, or student organizations.

These skills can be applied to or transferred across a wide range of different jobs and industries.

Personalize Career Resources:

Explore relevant competencies related to potential majors.

Wondering how your chosen major may relate to your future career? Check out some of the competencies you can develop from completing a particular major on our Major Tip Sheets.

In addition to any needed technical skills, most of the skills and qualities sought by employers are transferable skills, skills you gain over time from coursework, projects, volunteering, part-time jobs, internships, or student organizations.

These skills can be applied to or transferred across a wide range of different jobs and industries.

Consider a range of job titles, organizations, and industries.

  • See samples of what recent grads in specific majors are doing on our Major Tip Sheets.

  • Research careers on Firsthand.

  • Read the descriptions of interesting jobs in LionSHARE or other job boards like LinkedIn or Indeed.

  • Ask yourself: What do the employers list as their major requirements? What are the top skills/qualifications they expect?

Dive deep into Columbia University resources and job/internship boards.

Our Industry Pages are a great resource for exploring careers.

  • One helpful section of each of these pages is Columbia University Resources. You can review this section to find ways to connect with an industry while at Columbia.
  • In addition, the Job and Internship Search Resources section is a focused way to learn more about opportunities in an industry.


Ways to Gain Experience as a First-Year (and beyond) highlights the many ways you can build skills through internships and work experiences, volunteering, research, and student club activities.

Opportunities for First and Second Year Students provides a list of selected programs to gain insight into a career or industry of interest. This resource includes program links, typical application timelines, and qualifications.

Check back on this page for more ways for first-year students to gain experience and additional opportunites for first and second year students coming soon.

Relationship Building

Benefit from Career Services:

Consider an Alumni mentor.

As an undergraduate at CC, SEAS, and GS, you can apply to the CCE Alumni Mentoring Program (CAMP).

As an undergrad at CC, you can apply to the CCE Navab Fellowship Program and the Odyssey Mentoring Program.

Expand your network.

Networking in a group or one-on-one setting is the process of making connections and building relationships that provide you with information, advice, and further contacts.

Members of your network can include parents, parents’ friends, former supervisors, friends, classmates, club/organization members, coaches, and former teachers. As a Columbia student, you can expand your network to include professors, peers, advisers, and Columbia alumni.

Brainstorming people who are in your network or potential network is a good place to start. You may want to create a networking mind map (see Design Your Next Steps) or a list of who your connections are and who they may know.

During a career counseling appointment, we can discuss your network and how to grow it with you.

Learn about informational interviewing.

Informational interviewing is a type of networking that can help you to learn about career paths, industry insights, organizational cultures,and additional relevant contacts.

We can share strategies with you for preparing for, conducting, and expressing thanks after informational Interviews as part of a career counseling conversation.

Maintain your network.

“How can I maintain my network?” is a frequently asked question.

You can maintain your professional relationships by initiating contact every few months.

Some topics you can focus on during your follow-ups include reporting progress or sharing information in which your contacts may be interested, like an article or upcoming event.

Focus on developing professional relationships as your primary goal of networking, rather than on getting a job.

We can help guide you about how to maintain your network in a way that feels most comfortable for you.

Maximize Career Fairs & Networking Events:

Research organizations in advance.  

Your research will help you identify which employers you want to meet at events and to demonstrate your interest in these employers.  

Check out our tip sheet, What to Know Before You Go: Researching Organizations for key topics as well as resources and strategies for researching organizations.

Develop your introduction and questions.  

In advance of the event, it’s important to craft your 30-second introduction.

This introduction will include who you are, a couple of comments about your relevant interests and academic/extracurricular/work experiences, and your interest in the organization’s work. 

We can advise you on how to use the Present-Past-Future framework to develop your introduction and how to ask open-ended questions.

Write thank you notes.

After the event, if a professional has shared their contact information, you should send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the event.

Try to reference something specific in your conversation.

If you ask a follow-up question in your thank you note and don’t hear back, it’s appropriate to send a follow-up email after two weeks. Even if you don’t receive a response, sending a thank-you message is an important part of your interaction.


Personalize Career Resources

Consider various ways to connect with Columbia alumni.

Find Columbia alumni of interest who graduated from CC, SEAS, and GS through Alumni Profiles, LinkedIn Groups, the  Columbia Alumni Association Directory and your school’s alumni association. You can reach out to these alums to request informational interviews.

Expect that not everyone will respond to your request to network.

If two weeks pass from your initial contact with no response, then you can follow up on your request once via email or by phone.  However, many Columbia alumni feel a strong association with their alma mater and would be happy to speak with you and provide career advice.

Craft individualized messages to alumni.

When you reach out to alumni on Linked In or by email, it’s important to write a tailored message.

Check out our In the Know post on Writing a Standout Networking Message Right Now for a sample outreach outline, tips, and a link to a sample networking tracker that you can adapt to keep your messages organized. You can also check out our messaging template in our career planning guide, Design Your Next Steps.

Connect with a Columbia peer with similar interests.

If you choose to participate in the Community section of LionSHARE, you have the option to connect with Columbia students and alums with common interests.

Finally, Get to Know CCE

We’re here to help! Please feel free to schedule an appointment in LionSHARE or to come to our Drop-In Hours for Quick Questions.

We can’t wait to get to know you and help you navigate the next steps in your career. We’re also here to answer any questions you have about career exploration and relationship-building, both during your first year and beyond.