Start Planning Your Career
This resource guide can help you determine what job roles and industries you’re interested in, how to create and achieve your goals, and steps you can take to create a resume and cover letter, attend a job fair, and prepare for an interview. There’s no need to start from the beginning — jump around as it suits your individual needs. You can also print all or part of the Career Planner by downloading the PDF.
Keys to Career Success
Career planning can feel stressful, messy, and undefined. At the Walter Center, we help you navigate this process by showing you how to…
Pursue Impactful Experiences
|Even if you don’t know what you want, start getting experience! You’ll develop self-knowledge about your likes, dislikes, and “must-haves” in the world of work. You’ll acquire marketable skills, too. It can be low commitment, like a job shadow, or more involved, like an internship.|
Design Your Life
What about your experiences engaged and energized you? What themes emerged? How do they impact what you want to do after graduation? It may be tempting to settle on one answer, but because the future is unpredictable, we encourage you to be flexible and develop multiple plans.
Share Your Story
Connect the dots between the experiences you’ve gained and the places you want to go. You’ll tell your liberal arts story — how you came to your major, what you learned from your experiences, and why you’ve decided on a particular destination — through application materials, networking and interviewing.
Build Meaningful Connections
You want to keep in touch with people like the faculty you speak with during office hours or staff (like career coaches!) who help you make decisions or most importantly, IU alumni you reach out to for guidance and employers you meet on campus. These individuals are transformative to your success.
Pursue Impactful Experiences
Even if you don’t know what you want, start getting experience! You’ll develop self-knowledge about your likes, dislikes, and “must-haves” in the world of work (you’ll acquire marketable skills, too). It can be low commitment, like a job shadow, or more involved, like an internship, depending on your confidence and preparation.
How Confident Are You?
Think about the potential field in which you would like to gain experience. How confident are you in pursuing this field post-graduation? How you answer this scaling question may help determine the level of commitment you are seeking with this experience.
What are these Experiences?
A job shadow is the opportunity to spend time observing someone working in a field you find interesting. While you won’t be doing hands-on work, you’ll get a chance to preview the work and see what a day in the life of the career looks like.
Whereas a job shadow is a chance to follow someone around while they do their job, an informational interview is an opportunity to ask someone a list of questions and have a conversation about their work. This is a good chance to ask specific questions you have about a career field and how to best enter the field, as well as information about the tasks, duties, perks, and challenges of working in the field.
Find Someone to Job Shadow or Interview
- Asking people you know. Do you have any personal connections to this industry? If not, ask your friends, family, and faculty — you’ll be surprised how easy it is to find someone working in your industry of interest!
- Using LinkedIn or the Walter Center Success Network to discover IU alumni. Learn more about this in the “Build Meaningful Connections” section.
Don’t Forget to Do Your Research
It’s important to prepare for your informational interview by writing out specific questions you’d like to ask. Ask whatever you are curious about, but don’t ask about anything too personal, such as compensation.
Where Do You Find Opportunities?
Volunteer Positions 🔗
The City of Bloomington Volunteer Network posts a variety of volunteer opportunities all year long. If you’re looking to volunteer in a different city, search for a similar network for that area.
IU Corps is a network of IU Bloomington students, campus stakeholders, and community partners who have joined forces to create positive social change in local neighborhoods and around the world.
Student Organizations 🔗
|Each fall semester, the Student Involvement Fair brings together the hundreds of student organizations on campus, but you can see the complete list of IU student organizations through BeInvolved.This fair a great time to check out all of the opportunities at once and talk to other students who’ve been involved in the groups before committing to one organization. Many departments have student organizations under their umbrella — ask your academic advisor and faculty for organizations in your major.|
Part-time Work 🔗
Fall Part-Time Jobs Fair
Jobs at IU
Research Positions 🔗
|Start with an IU Department or Office
Start by asking the academic advisors and faculty in your department about potential opportunities. Departments may have different timelines, so know when applications are accepted and how to apply. Don’t hesitate to reach out to faculty in other departments and majors, especially if you are interested in their research. Many offices on campus not affiliated with an academic department also offer research opportunities.
Jobs at IU
Hutton Honors College and the Office of Scholarships
Handshake the #1 career site for college students. You can discover jobs and internships for students at your IU, receive direct messages from employers about new jobs and events, connect with alumni and other employees at organizations that interest you, and you can get an inside look at employers and jobs with student reviews. To access Handshake at IU, just log in with your IU username and passphrase. View our Start Using Handshake page for more tips and tricks.
Attend a Career Fair
Find a Paid, Remote Micro-Internship The Walter Center launched a partnership with Parker Dewey to provide opportunities for paid, remote, short-term, project-based micro-internships.
LinkedIn for Students
Have an internship? Apply for our scholarships!
Full-Time Jobs 🔗
The resources below are designed to help you prepare to find full-time work opportunities in a variety of industries and fields.
Resources for Students of Diverse Backgrounds
African-American Students 🔗
|Job, Internship, Fellowship & Networking Opportunities
American Indian & Indigenous Students 🔗
International Students 🔗
|These resources are designed to help students research and explore international careers – both U.S. students seeking opportunities abroad and international students seeking opportunities in the U.S.|
Latinx Students 🔗
|Job, Internship, Fellowship & Networking Opportunities
LGBTQ+ Students 🔗
Students with Criminal Records 🔗
Students with Disabilities 🔗
United States Military & Veteran Students 🔗
Design Your Life
Before you know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been. It’s important to examine and reflect on your past experiences, both professional and personal. What about your experiences engaged and energized you? What themes emerged from your various experiences? How do they impact what you want to do after graduation?
It may be tempting to settle on one answer, but because the future is unpredictable, we encourage you to be flexible and develop multiple plans. You’ve probably figured out by now that the best way to plan for unpredictability to embrace flexibility and adaptability.
Additional Career Exploration Resources
|The resources below are designed to help you explore and narrow down the massive variety of career options available to you as a liberal arts and sciences student.
The activities outlined below and on the following pages are designed to help you reflect on your past and brainstorm for your future.
What’s this for?
This journal activity will help you process your current experiences to find patterns and think about next steps. Perfect for: Students who need direction and aren’t sure what comes next.
Have you ever had your phone or car GPS fail while you were driving somewhere unfamiliar? What did you do? Maybe you pulled into a gas station to ask for directions (or get a phone charger) or maybe you just kept moving toward your destination by following roadsigns and trusting your sense of direction.
We can use these same ideas to navigate our lives. Paying attention to the times in your daily life in which you are engaged and energized can help lead you in a direction that brings you closer to your goals.
Starting Your Journal
By completing the exercise below and tracking your activities for a week, you can narrow in on a direction you’d like to take in order to get closer to a destination in your career development. Trust your internal compass to help you steer yourself and consider meeting with a career coach to share your reflections.
Journal Entry Example:
After you complete the week, take some time to review your journal and answer these questions:
What’s this for?
This planning activity encourages you to think about alternative career goals and stretch beyond a singular post-graduation plan. Perfect For: Everyone – life can throw curveballs to us all and it’s always good to be nimble and flexible with our career (and life) plans!
We sometimes think about our life plan in a singular, linear way. We often think about our “Plan A” as being the absolute goal and our “Plan B” as a back-up if things don’t go according to plan. In reality, life doesn’t often unfold in such a neat, orderly way. As someone on the cusp of beginning a post-college career journey, it’s important to keep an open mind and brainstorm multiple plans for the future – not just committing to one path forward.
In their book Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett & Dave Evans introduce the idea of Odyssey Planning, which requires readers to create three separate versions of their lives for the next five years. Get the worksheet. (Burnett, B., Evans, D. (2016) Designing Your Life. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knop)
Odyssey Planning 101
Create three alternative versions of the next five years of your life. Each one must include:
What’s this for?
It can be hard to trust our own judgment and weigh our options objectively when making big decisions. You may have used a pro-and-con list in the past — this can be helpful, but it doesn’t tell you how positive a pro is or how negative a con is. Using a weighted decision-making matrix is the best way to make a distinction between those elements.
This decision-making activity allows you to rank and analyze your potential choices to gain clarity around the next steps in your career plan. It’s perfect for students who are stuck in the decision-making phase of career planning and have a hard time making big decisions.
How Does this Help Me Make a Choice?
When you complete your chart, you aren’t locked into choosing the highest scoring option. This strategy allows you to think strategically about what you want and value. We hope thinking through these scores gives you clarity about the option that’s right for you. It’s possible you’ll see the scores and be disappointed that option 2 scored higher than option 3 and decide to follow your gut.
This tool will help you look at your options from multiple angles and help you feel more informed about why you think a certain way about a choice and why you are leaning a certain way. You may want to use it when deciding which course to register for, or what internship or job offer to accept. It can be applied to many scenarios.
In this example, a student is trying to decide what institution they want to attend for graduate school. The student knows that faculty, location, cost, graduate assistantship options, courses offered, and program prestige are important.
You can either sketch out your own Decision Matrix, or print out this worksheet.
Share Your Story
Once you’ve designed a few potential plans for the future, it’s time to connect the dots between the experiences you’ve gained and the places you want to go. How do you do this? You tell your liberal arts story: how you came to your college major, what you learned from your experiences, and why you’ve decided on a particular destination. We’ll help you tell this story through the job search process, which is outlined below.
What makes a job search sucessful?
As you continue through this section, you’ll learn step-by-step what materials you need for a successful job search, how to create them from scratch, and how to present them effectively to an interviewer, recruiter or potential employer.
- Create a Cover Letter: A successful cover letter conveys your unique voice to employers and adds context to your resume.
- Create a Resume: A successful resume strengthens your chances of securing an interview.
- Attend a Career Fair: On-campus events like career fairs provide a great opportunity to meet potential employers and share your story.
- Interview Successfully: Interviewing is one of the most stressful parts of the job search for many students, but a few simple steps can greatly improve your chances of getting an offer.
Where should I start?
Many students think the best way to find opportunities is to continuously apply for many different jobs and internships over and over again. In reality, job and internship seekers should divide their time between researching opportunities (30%), Networking with colleagues or potential employers (60%), and applying for opportunities (10%). The job and internship search process is generally nonlinear and you may revisit these three steps multiple times during your search.
How to Research Effectively
You will need to do some research to make sure an organization is a good fit for your needs and experience. You also need to be informed about the company in order to prepare your application materials.
|Most organizations have an official website where you can find mission statements, statistics, current initiatives and other useful information.|
|See if there are news stories about the organization. Did they do anything newsworthy lately? It is important to be aware of both positive and negative news stories related to organizations.|
|It’s good to know average salaries in your industry and, if possible, your organization of interest. Look at Onetonline.org for nationwide salary statistics and sites such as glassdoor.com for specific company statistics.|
If you can find someone, an informational interview can help you learn about the inner workings of a company through someone who already works there — and you’ll gain a new contact!
Creating Application Materials
For most applications, you’ll need at least a cover letter and a resume. Each job posting will list additional content you may need, such as a letter of recommendation or a portfolio. You can always ask a career coach for help tailoring your application materials to your specific industry. A cover letter allows you to express your interest in and enthusiasm for the position and the organization. It also allows you to highlight skills or experiences that are especially relevant to the position, demonstrate your written communication skills and strengthens your chances of securing an interview.
✍️ Activity: Build Your Cover Letter
Additional Tips and Questions to Answer
|You’ll want to answer these questions:
And remember to do these things:
✍️ Activity: Create a Master Resume
When creating a master resume, you want to write down everything you have done since coming to IU. If you are a freshman or sophomore, you can still include experience from high school (only very relevant high school info should be used after sophomore year). List everything, including volunteer experience, internships, jobs, relevant coursework, student clubs or groups, and study abroad. You will tailor this master resume to a specific position.
When you’ve finished creating your resume, use the Walter Center’s Resume Upload Tool to recieve a critique on your resume.
Tailor your Experience Blocks Headings:
Including Research Experience
Including Education and Honors
Including Study Abroad Experiences
|Sample Experience BlocksUniversidad de Sevilla, Seville, Spain | Jan.-May 2017
Paul Valéry University, Montpellier III, Montpellier, France | May-Dec. 2017
Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand | July-Oct. 2016
How to Articulate Language Proficiency According to Linkedin
Sample Skills + Abilities Gained
How to Write Accomplishment Statements
|Use the formula Skill Verb + How + Why
An example of a completed accomplishment statement would be “Plan educational experiences such as museum trips for group of five to increase cultural engagement.”
Adding the Skills Section
|Should you include a skills section?
In the resume examples, we have included the technical skills this student has gained through
her science major and experiences. Employers will often reference this section to learn about your technical skills.
Your transferable skills, such as written communication, teamwork, and leadership skills should be highlighted in your
accomplishment statements. By including them in your accomplishment statements, you have more space to expand on and
demonstrate those non-technical skills.How to Explain Language Skills
Make a good impression, ace the interview, and secure an offer by following these four steps:
|By investigating potential employers, you can discover details about the employer that will help prepare you for an interview. You’ll be able to learn about what qualities they look for in their employees to better present yourself as the best candidate. Learn as much as possible about the organization:
Talk to anyone you know who works at the organization/company or check the Walter Center Success Network or LinkedIn to see if there are any alums working for the company you could speak with to learn more.
Prepare + Rehearse
|Prepare to Answer Questions
With the skills and important aspects of the job description in mind, use the SPAR acronym (Situation, Problem, Action, Result) to develop examples that illustrate those skills. You can use SPARs to answer interview questions. When you use SPAR, you can develop a few examples that can be used to answer multiple possible questions.Situation: I was participating in a research project in the Cognition and Action Neuroimaging lab where we manage toddlers’ interactions and behaviors.
Problem: One of the children got really sick during one of our sessions.
Action: I took initiative and went to our emergency contact information database to contact the child’s parent.
Result: I was able to calm the child down without upsetting the other children and her father was really thankful for the way I handled the situation. He ensured us his daughter would be back to participate as soon as she was feeling better.It’s best to prepare for an interview by compiling your list of SPARs so you’re ready for whatever might come your way. However, here are a few typical interview questions:
The example above relates to the following questions: Tell me about a time you had to handle a difficult situation? Describe a situation in which you worked as part of a team and what role you had within the team. Can you give me an example of your problem-solving capabilities?
Prepare to Ask Questions
The formula for brainstorming questions is what I know + why I care + tell me more about:
Before Going to the Interview:
Your best outfit + your confidence = a great first impression. These tips outline commonly accepted attire for interviewing. However, you may want to tailor your outfit depending on what industry you hope to be working in and your personal style.
Say ‘Thank You’
|By sending a thank you note, you show your interviewer common courtesy and respect for their time. Since so few applicants send a thank you note, you’ll automatically stand out if you do.Example
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,I enjoyed speaking with you about the research position. I’m excited about the potential opportunity to work with such an excellent company.
As you recall, we talked about how I worked on similar research projects while studying for my master’s degree at Indiana University, as well as my suggestions for statistical analysis that proved to be valuable.
Thank you again for taking the time to interview me. If you have any questions or need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 812-123-4567.
Thank You Note Tips
Attend a Career Fair
Regardless of your major, year in school or future goals, there are many benefits to attending a career fair. At our Career + Internship Fair, which happens each fall and spring semester, you can:
- Investigate positions and career fields you could pursue with your major and background
- Meet representatives from organizations for whom you are interested in working
- Get more information about specific companies and organizations
- Gain valuable interview experience
- Increase your chances of interviewing with an employer
- Receive sound job search advice from seasoned company recruiters
- Develop your network of contacts
What to Ask a Recruiter
|Do your homework before you attend the fair and find answers to as many of these questions as possible — it shows the employer you are serious about your candidacy.Internship Seeking:
Questions a Recruiter Might Ask You
Follow Up Within Two Weeks
|Follow up with the representatives you spoke to unless you have discussed an alternative arrangement. Employers may leave a fair with hundreds of resumes, and they report that less than 5 percent of students follow up after a fair. This simple step can give you a big advantage!|
Developing Your ‘Pitch’
|Don’t ask what positions the employers have; tell them what you’re seeking. The best way to do this is with a prepared “pitch” or elevator speech. Your pitch is a 10-to 15-second introduction that includes:
Try Writing Your Own Pitch:
Negotiating a Job Offer
Negotiation is a process during which you and an employer come to a mutual agreement about the terms of your employment or your compensation package. Every job seeker can negotiate, but not every job seeker should negotiate. When deciding what is right for you, it is important to first have a clear understanding of your “market value.” Consider what skills, knowledge, and experience you offer an employer, then consider how your profile satisfies the needs of the organization.
Step 1: Research
|First, you want to determine what your offer is worth, and any additional expenses you might have. Knowledge of the position, its requirements, and the organization will help you place value on the offer. The following resources can assist you with researching aspects of an offer:|
Step 2: Evaluate
|Many organizations do not negotiate entry salaries. However, negotiations can focus on many aspects of an offer. Health and retirement plans are usually standard for all employees, but (generally speaking) the following aspects of an offer are potentially negotiable:
Step 3: It’s Time to Negotiate!
How you negotiate, rather than simply what you say when you negotiate, may make the difference when an employer decides on a final job offer. If you conduct yourself with confidence, realism, and grace as you present your research, you will be far more persuasive than if you lacked an understanding of industry standards and organizational resources. Simple and direct inquiries tend to yield the best results.
The employer should be the first to introduce the topic of compensation. Once this topic is broached, however, you should feel free to inquire about various aspects of the compensation package. These tips can help you prepare your negotiation delivery:
Example Negotiation Topic: Relocation Costs
Example Negotiation Topic: Starting Salary
Considering Graduate School
Before starting your application, talk with professors, academic and career advisors, professionals in the field, and current graduate students. Consider these questions:
- Why are you interested in going to graduate school?
- What are your career goals?
- How will an advanced degree help you attain these goals? Is an advanced degree required?
- Do you have the academic stamina to continue your education or do you need time off?
- Do you have the grades and test scores needed for admittance? (Most programs require a 3.0 GPA)
- Will full-time work experience enhance your candidacy for graduate school admittance?
Choosing a Program
|Now that you’ve decided that graduate school is the next step for you, it’s time to begin looking for programs. Your professors and advisors are great resources. Also, try looking at graduate school directories and websites to explore programs.
Some industries prefer graduates from accredited programs, so be sure to check on hiring practices in your industry before choosing programs.
|Use this list to make sure you have these materials ready for your applications. Be sure to carefully review the application checklist for each of the programs to which you are applying (the examples below are general guidelines). You should carefully devise a system of record-keeping, maintain copies of everything, and begin talking to your professors, requesting letters of recommendation, and researching programs during your junior year.
|Opportunities for financing your graduate school education vary greatly, depending on the program and the field of study. While working on your application materials for graduate school, you should be asking the specific programs about potential merit-based scholarships, graduate student loan programs, and graduate assistantships, which include research, teaching, and administrative positions. Sites such as U.S. News and Petersons have additional information on types of aid and how to finance your graduate school education. Be sure to ask the program you plan to attend about options for paying for graduate school.|
Don’t Go to Graduate School Just Because…
Writing a Personal Statement
|There are two types of personal statements (statement of purpose): those that require you to answer prompts and those that provide few or no directions. If not specified, your personal statement should be approximately 1.5 to 2 pages in length. Before you begin writing your personal statement, take time to reflect on your past experiences, reasons for applying to graduate school, and what makes you stand out from the other applicants. Answering the questions below will provide a strong foundation for writing your personal statement.
Personal Statement Formula:
Build Meaningful Connections
While pursuing experiences, designing plans for the future, and sharing your story, you’ll also want to keep in touch with the connections you make along the way – these can be faculty you engage during office hours, staff (like career coaches) who help you make decisions, and – most importantly – employers you meet on campus and alumni you reach out to for guidance. These individuals will be transformative to your future success!
Networking Relationship Building
For those of you who get chills at just the thought of networking, fear not, your day has come. We want to help you use your natural skills of building meaningful relationships to help you in your career development process.We’re not talking about asking someone for a job, or introducing yourself with the hopes of getting a business card. We are talking about getting to know people and letting them get to know you. Don’t worry about how much or where you do it – whether one-on-one or in groups, it is more important just to start.
As Lindsay Pollack, author of Getting from College to Career explains, “I encourage you to drop any negative connotations you associate with networking – images of schmoozy guys shaking dozens of hands and giving out their business cards like free samples at a supermarket. In my definition, networking is about building and maintaining relationships. (p.89)” You’ll be able to rely on the connections you build for company, emotional support, to obtain help, gain and share information, and form alliances to better your life.
Why should I build relationships?
On top of that, did you know that most jobs are not posted or advertised publicly? According to Matt Youngquist, the president of Career Horizons, “At least 70 percent, if not 80 percent, of jobs are not published. And yet most people — they are spending 70 or 80 percent of their time surfing the net versus getting out there, talking to employers, taking some chances [and] realizing that the vast majority of hiring is friends and acquaintances hiring other trusted friends and acquaintances.” [Relationship building] is not contacting everyone you know when you are seeking a new job and asking if they know of any job openings. Instead, it is an exchange of information. When you develop a career networking contact, you may not have any pertinent information to share immediately; however, you can always be available to help in the future.
Where can I do it?
When should I do it?
Who’s in My Network?
There’s a little bit of prep work to do in order to find out who’s already in your network. These are probably people you see quite often. Let’s get started.
1. Brainstorm Your Relationship Circles
Note: The Mind Map is courtesy of Indiana University Edge.
2. Find People
3. Now You’ve Find People. What’s Next?
4. Remember the Golden Rule
Relationship building “is not just about who you know; it’s about who knows you. You’ve got to get out there, introduce yourself, and become known and respected.” (Pollack, p.89)
5. THANK YOU!
Expand Your Search:
In a Club or Student Organization:
In an Advising Appointment:
At a Panel or Workshop:
Note: This section is courtesy of Indiana University Edge.
Informational interviewing is one of the best ways to make your growing community work for you. It is your opportunity to begin building your community with professionals in your field and learn about what the work is really like. An informational interview is not an opportunity to ask for an internship or a job. Rather, it is a fact-finding mission about the career, industry, or company you are interested in. Talk to as many people as you can – there is always more to be learned about your chosen field based on the diversity of work settings, different organizational structures, and visions and missions that drive different organizations. Many professionals are happy to share information on their jobs or the industry. You just have to ask!
What Does it Look Like?
Joining a professional association is a great step toward developing a large network of potential colleagues. Here are some resources that can help you learn about associations related to your career goals:
I Found Someone. Now What?
Don’t Forget to Stay in Contact
You should track the date of your last contact with each person. You could use LinkedIn to manage your connections. You should periodically connect with important members of your established network – such as former supervisors or professors. You never know when you might want to ask them for a letter of recommendation or reference!
I Did It, Now What?
In your follow-up thank-you note, acknowledge how appreciative you are of their time and help and share how the information helped you make any decisions or take further actions on your own career path.
Example Request Email 1
My name is Katherine Taylor. I’m a Psychology and International Studies major at IU researching a possible career in healthcare. I found your name using the IU Alumni Directory. If you have the time, I would like to meet with you for 20 minutes to discuss your field. If you’re unable to meet, perhaps you could suggest a co-worker or someone you know for me to contact. I appreciate your time.
Example Request Email 2
I’ve been researching public relations professionals on LinkedIn who have experience in campaign planning, and your profile caught my attention because we both studied at Indiana University and have similar interests. Would you have a few minutes that I could talk to you more about your experiences in campaign planning?
Example Follow Up Email
Dear Ms. Smith: