How will you spend winter break?

Guest blogger Holly Meyer, Assistant Director of the Cohen Career Center, offers insights on two great ways to make use of your winter break.

Finals are finally done and you must be ready for a break. The staff at the Career Center hopes that winter break will provide the rest and relaxation you need! We also hope, however, that you will use some of your upcoming break to work toward your internship or job search goals. A component of your internship or job search goals is likely exploration. You might be feeling unsure about what you’d like to do. If so, we’d like to encourage you to try informational interviewing or job shadowing, two very useful exploration activities.

Informational interviews are one of the most valuable sources of information about occupations and industries. When completing an informational interview, YOU are in control! You will first identify and reach out to alumni or personal connections who are working in fields that interest you. We recommend using LinkedIn to identify possible informational interviewees. Once you have created a LinkedIn profile page highlighting your work, volunteer, and campus experiences, you can connect to alumni by joining the College of William and Mary Alumni Network under the Groups tab. You’ll be able to browse through more than 7,700 alumni profiles to identify people whose career paths interest you and reach out to them to request an interview. (Note: If you’re a LinkedIn novice and nervous about making these connections, you can also ask friends and family if they can connect you to professionals over the break.)

After identifying and connecting with contacts, set up a time to speak with your informational interviewee for about 30 minutes. Informational interviews can take place in person or over the phone, but we recommend trying to meet face to face with your interviewee if possible. You can ask questions regarding their day-to-day responsibilities, challenges of the job, company culture, or how your coursework might help you prepare for the occupation. For more resources on informational interviews, including a script to get you started and a list of in-depth questions, visit the Career Center website.

It can be hard to truly gauge if an occupation is right for you until you talk to someone who is living it every day. Informational interviewing allows you to meet and build relationships with professionals. You’ll build confidence as you gain knowledge about the career options available to you. Treat this experience like a real interview; you’ll need to dress professionally and be prepared!

You may also engage in job shadowing over winter break. Job shadowing involves spending anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks in a workplace, observing the day-to-day responsibilities of a particular occupation. It’s a change to see what it’s really like to work in an industry or company you might be considering. Often, students who job shadow are able to observe meetings, interact with customers or patients, and understand the pace of a position. You’ll have the opportunities to ask questions and determine how you feel about a job or work setting. You can also learn about the culture of the workplace. How do co-workers interact with each other? Would you spend a large part of your day in meetings? Is the environment what you expected?

Similar to informational interviews, participating in job shadowing allows you to build relationships with professionals in an industry or career field. We encourage you to use LinkedIn and personal contacts when seeking job shadowing opportunities as well. Before participating in job shadowing, you’ll want to confirm the dress code before arriving. It’s also helpful to prepare a list of questions you have in order to engage in conversation with professionals you’ll meet throughout the day.

With both informational interviewing and job shadowing, it is important to follow up with your contact(s) and send a thank-you note and request to connect on LinkedIn. Highlight what you learned from the experience and convey your appreciation for the time and information shared. Throughout the process, remain professional and courteous, even if you ultimately decide not to pursue the paths you explored; you never know who your interview or shadowing contact may be able to connect  you to in the future!

To discuss either of these activities in detail, contact the Career Center to schedule a phone appointment over break. Our office is open until December 23, and reopens on January 3, 2012. Have a safe, restful, and productive break!

Categories: Careers, Faculty & Staff Blogs

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