There may be many jobs you will enjoy, and your career will be made up of different jobs over your lifetime. Learn as much as you can about yourself and the world of work to make knowledgeable decisions about your future. Talk with families, advisors, faculty, and others who want to help you determine the best direction for you.
FOCUS 2.0 is a self-guided career and education planning tool which will help you:
- Identify WMU majors that fit with your interests
- Make informed career decisions
This site will only work if you access it through this page
- Connect your major to careers
- See sample employers who hire your major
- Research careers by skills or interests
- Learn about growing occupations and research salaries
- Hear students discuss their experiences in their chosen majors
- “More than 75% of employers prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience,” according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers*.
- When deciding between two equally qualified candidates, an employer is likely to select the candidate who has held a leadership position.
- Don’t graduate from WMU without at least one, hopefully two, of the following experiences on your resume.
An internship is considered educational—a chance to learn the skills and practice with the supervision of a more experienced professional. Most internships are paid experiences, where students are performing work for the benefit of the employer. A few exceptions exist; for example, intern teaching is non-paid and required prior to earning teaching certification. In these cases, the University is closely involved in the internship, and the student must complete the experience satisfactorily to receive credit.
Service learning is a mutually beneficial endeavor in which course learning objectives are met by addressing community-identified needs--putting academics into practice. Service learning always includes critical reflection of the work, interactions, and learning regarding the service. It is a collaboration among community partners, students, and professors/instructors/staff.
Leadership programs are co-curricular, meaning that the purpose is to add experiences, opportunities, and an added dimension to your life outside of the classroom. The ultimate goal is for you develop into a well-rounded leader and be able to transfer the leadership skills that you acquire to life beyond and outside of WMU.
- On-Campus - Consider working in academics, the Library, Dining Services, or program offices throughout campus. Campus contacts can serve as references for internships and professional employment after graduation.
- Off-Campus - Many area retail stores, restaurants, and non-profit organizations seek student employees each year. In addition to references, you will build skills to use in future positions.
Informational interviews are a process for gathering career information from reliable, “inside” sources. They are a way to gain firsthand knowledge about a career by speaking with someone who is in your position of interest or who is familiar with the industry.
Who can you ask for an informational interview?
You can ask anyone you know to help you connect with someone who is knowledgeable about the career in which you are interested. Family, friends, fellow students, faculty, WMU alumni, and co-workers are great resources and they can be experts themselves or they may know someone who is and can make an introduction for you. Social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter is another source for making connections. LinkedIn groups like WMU Career Mentors will help you find alumni who are working in the industry and may be willing to talk with you (in person, by phone, or through email) and share their perspective.
Tips for informational interviews
- Think about the connection as a way to build a relationship and expand your network
- Informational interviews are not about asking for a job or a job lead; the point is to learn something
- The person with whom you have made a connection is doing you a favor – follow their lead on whether meetings should take place in person, by phone or by email. It is about what is convenient for them
- Do your homework before the meeting – try to learn more about the person with whom you are meeting
- Know what you want to ask and set the agenda yourself
- Be respectful and do not overstay your welcome. Ask the person how much time they have
- Always send a thank you note or email to the person who made the connection for you, as well as the person who granted the informational interview. These people are part of your network now
Sample questions for informational interviews
Create a list of your own questions to ask during an informational interview, and make sure to tailor them to the person and/or organization with whom you are speaking.
About the interviewee:
- How did you get into this field/position? What is a typical day like for you?
- What professional organizations, books, journals, or writers have had the greatest influence on your work?
About the industry:
- What are the typical issues faced in the work/industry? What are the best ways to learn more about the industry?
- If you could improve one thing in the industry, your workplace, or your department, what would it be?
About the job:
- What is the preferred degree or major for entry into this field? Are there any entrance requirements?
- What is the average starting salary for someone in your position?What is the advancement potential for your position?
- What are the most rewarding and least rewarding aspects of the job/occupation?
- What qualities and skills do you feel a person in this field should have/demonstrate?
- Who would you recommend I talk with to further my knowledge? Can I tell him/her that you referred me?
- Would you look over my resume and let me know what you would recommend me adding, changing, or improving?
- At what places would you recommend I observe, volunteer or intern? Why?
- What organizations would you recommend joining? What certifications do you recommend earning?
Networking is about getting to know people, and you are doing this everyday as you chat with someone in line at the store or meet someone at a school event or when you are visiting with a family friend. Building your network is a valuable job search resource. To be successful at networking you must learn to form mutually beneficial relationships with others and it involves both give and take. Some day, you may be contacted as a networking connection for someone else. The number one way to secure employment in today’s competitive market is through networking. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) estimates that 75–80% of available positions are never advertised but are filled through word-of-mouth or networking.
Who belongs in my network?
Everyone! Networking means developing a broad list of contacts. Initially, you will utilize your existing resources for contacts to spread the word that you are looking for a job. For college students and new grads, the best networking contacts are:
- LinkedIn contacts and groups such as WMU Career Mentors
- Relatives, friends and acquaintances
- Classmates and former classmates
- Alumni, including recent grads
- Parents of classmates
- Professors, instructors and advisors
- Professional student organization members and members of other groups you belong to
- Coaches and administrators
- Current and former co-workers
How do I get started?
Brainstorm for contacts
There are three different types of contacts, and while you may begin with those contacts closest to you, eventually you will include all three types of contacts in your network.
- Hot contact: A person you know well and with whom you have a direct connection
- Warm contact: A person with whom you have a connection, but you may not know them personally
- Cold contact: A person with whom you have no connection
Prepare questions to ask
Networking is a conversation between two people, so it is best to have questions in mind when speaking with someone about their career.
Tips and tools for networking
- Networking is often about first impressions. Dress well, polish how you speak, make eye contact, and present yourself to impress others. Practice your personal introduction and be prepared to use it.
- Follow up with every person you meet. A short note telling someone that you enjoyed meeting them will solidify your initial impression and help them remember you.
- Stay Connected. Networking will be an ongoing part of how you manage your career, so stay in touch with your contacts. When someone helps you, make sure you thank them.
- Stay organized, in a notebook, or in a database file on your computer. You can also use a contact management application if you have a smartphone. It is important to keep track of your contacts and your communication with them.
There is a wealth of information available to convince you of the value and importance of graduate school, only you can decide if it is right for you and when. Graduate level education allows you to focus in on a passion, or an area of study, that you just touched on in your undergraduate work. It can provide you with a deeper understanding of a field, help you develop more powerful professional relationships, and increase your marketability in certain fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that over a lifetime, professionals with a master’s degree, or a doctoral degree, earn more and have a lower level of unemployment than the general population. However, graduate school requires significant resources; time, money, energy, and patience, to name a few. If you decide to seek a graduate degree, consider how it will help you in your specific industry or profession. Talk with people, ask your professors, visit with an academic advisor, and shop around for the best fit for you.
Suggested Tasks Specific to Graduate School Preparation
- List prospective schools
- Talk to faculty/staff in your field for suggestions on the appropriate number of schools to which you should apply
- Take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
- Take a practice GRE test or GMAT. GRE test and GMAT preparation courses are also available. Make sure you check to see if your program requires a subject test.
- Write your Statement of Purpose (also called “personal statement”). This is usually 1-2 pages long and is an opportunity for you to discuss in more detail how you are distinctive from other applicants. It often includes why you are interested in the field, previous relevant academic/professional/personal experiences, career goals, and your personal characteristics/strengths that would be an asset to the program. Check to see if your program has specific questions for you to answer.
- Contact the professors of interest at your prospective schools. This early networking shows interest in the program and professor, and helps to make you distinctive when the graduate college is looking through piles of applicants.
- Request official transcripts from your undergraduate/graduate institution to be sent to your prospective schools
- Polish your curriculum vitae (CV) or resume. Check to see what your school/program prefers. Remember that these are different documents.
- Request Letters of Recommendation from your professional contacts. Usually 2-3 recommenders are required. Check to see if your school/program has specifications for their qualifications (i.e. faculty). Be sure to provide your recommenders with a copy of your Statement of Purpose and CV/resume.
- Double check the application requirements. Some schools/programs require other materials such as a writing sample, personal essays, or portfolio
- Keep a record of all of your sent materials
- Fill out the FAFSA online and look into private loans, grants, and fellowships
- Check out Peterson's to help you develop personal statements for graduate schools, navigate financial aid, and prepare for the GRE, GMAT, LSAT and MCAT