“Spend time searching for fellowships, scholarships, and opportunities in line with your interests. Keep a text file of opportunities and deadlines. Reach out to professors, other graduate students, and mentors to ask about opportunities.” – Doctoral Candidate
The Center for Career Development (CCD) encourages graduate students, when time permits, to pursue experiential learning opportunities. These opportunities provide graduate students with professional development, invaluable work experience, and the ability to explore careers in business, government, non-profit organizations, and within various other employment sectors.
Value of Engaging in Experiential Learning
Having experience both inside and outside of your academic pursuit often makes you a more marketable candidate, depending on the career field and employment sector you seek to enter. By building and enhancing your résumé and professional portfolio, you are increasing your competitiveness with potential future employers.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), one of the largest professional organizations dedicated to career development, surveyed employers in 2015 and 91.2% of respondents indicated a preference to hire a candidate with previous work experience.
Common Experiential Learning Opportunities
Internships: Internships are work and learning experiences that provide a hands-on way for you to explore and/or confirm your choice of field and/or career. Quality internships include structured learning experiences. An internship typically lasts between two and four months, and may be part-time or full-time. Some are paid while others are not.
Community-based volunteering: Service or community-based volunteer positions are generally short-term, unpaid, experiences that provide a way to connect to the community and with a cause of your choice. These typically occur in the non-profit sector.
Clinicals, field work & practicums: Some graduate programs include clinical, field work, and practicum experiences in their academic curriculum; providing students an out-of-classroom experience under the guidance and supervision of a qualified professional.
Research: Some graduate programs incorporate a research component. Even students not seeking to pursue research or academia as a profession, can share their research experience with potential employers and feature the developed skillset.
Education abroad: While traveling on its own is a worthwhile practice, education abroad encompasses a larger experience set. This may include conducting research in a lab abroad, interning in a foreign country, and taking skills-based coursework in a University abroad. The CCD, The Graduate School, and Education Abroad can help you navigate options abroad.
Job Shadow & Informational Interviews
Short-term experiences can be beneficial in supporting your career exploration. These experiences may include job shadowing, informational interviews, and site visits to companies and organizations, which are outlined below, and present opportunities to engage in networking.
“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to intern at a pharmaceutical company. I now have first-hand experience in both the industry and academia research settings, which has dramatically strengthened my collection of professional skills and allowed me to recognize my most significant talents and interests.” – Doctoral Program Graduate
Job shadow: Job shadows typically last for a few hours or can take place over a full work day. During the visit to the workplace, you will follow a professional in your occupation of interest to get an inside look at an average day on the job. It presents a great opportunity to ask questions about the skills, education, and experience necessary to be successful in that occupation.
Informational interview: Informational interviews typically last 30-60 minutes and can be done in person or over the phone. An information interview consists of speaking with in a particular field of interest to gain a better understanding of the profession, day-to-day responsibilities, and skills necessary for success. The purpose of informational interviewing is to gather information and determine if a career may be a good fit; this is not a job interview. One should not expect to be offered a position or an internship, but should go into the experience with the goal of gaining an inside view of the occupation and the company culture.
Uncovering Opportunities and Self-Designing
Graduate students are in a unique position to research, network, and design their own experiential learning opportunities. Here are some tips to facilitate this process:
- Form a basic idea of the type of position you would like, including the skills and experiences you hope to obtain. Meet with a career consultant in the CCD to brainstorm possibilities. You may also want to connect with faculty members and mentors to brainstorm additional opportunities.
- Research the company and/or the broader industry by reviewing online or print resources – or by reaching out to individuals in your network. Determine who hires interns and who decision-makers are and develop a list of contacts for each organization or department that interests you.
- Contact individuals in your network and ask if the organization has an internship policy. Depending on the company culture, an email or phone call would suffice. Ask if they hire or have hired interns in the past, or if they might consider hiring one. If they have never utilized interns or are unfamiliar with the benefits of employing graduate students, your thoughtful and professional inquiry could plant the idea. Keep in mind that not all organizations will be interested or able to hire you – do not get discouraged.
- Prepare a written proposal for the work you hope to do as an intern based on the information you gathered. This proposal should include a specific project you know the organization wants/needs completed, or a particular role you know the organization has/would benefit from.
- Share your proposal with the contact you have developed at the organization. Consider that self-designing may take time; even if your contact is interested in offering you an internship, they first may need to connect with other departments, such as human resources. Be patient with the employer, allow yourself plenty of time, and explore other opportunities as well – just in case it does not come to fruition.
National Search Engines is a web page managed by the Center for Career Development, featuring online search engines. Such engines may be useful in finding internships, part-time or full-time positions.
Going Global features over 80,000 pages pf career and employment resources, country career guides, corporate profiles, and worldwide job/internship postings. This site may be especially helpful for you if you hope to work abroad or the United States is not your permanent home.
Big Interview allows you to create your own practice interview or start a customized video interview. When finished, review yourself or share your interview with a consultant or friend to get their feedback on your performance.
HuskyCareerLink is a web-based recruiting system which allows the Center for Career Development (CCD) to manage many of the recruiting-related activities we offer to you. Students interested in participating in on-campus interviews and/or viewing electronic job postings must register in HuskyCareerLink and utilize the system to view job openings, apply for positions, and sign up for interview times.