Explore Careers Through Experience
Internships, externships, part-time jobs, service learning, and participation in a Registered Student Organization (RSO) are great ways to develop professional skills and build your network. Opportunities are posted year round in Handshake.
An internship is the bridge between the classroom and your professional career— it offers you a chance to learn the skills and practice with the supervision of a more experienced professional. Complete at least one internship while at WMU.
Part job shadow, part informational interview, these one to three day site visits with employers can help you understand various work environments, corporate cultures and daily job tasks.
- 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. Work Study options may also be available based on your financial aid package.
- 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.
Service learning addresses community-identified needs, and it allows you to put 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; they add experiences and opportunities 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.
Informational interviewing is a way to gain first-hand knowledge about a career by speaking with someone who is in your position of interest or who is familiar with the industry. Family, friends, fellow students, faculty, WMU alumni and co-workers are great resources, and they can be experts themselves. If not, they may know someone who is and can make an introduction for you. You can make connections through social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter. LinkedIn groups 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.
- 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 you have made a connection with 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.
- Set the agenda and know what you want to ask.
- 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, and the person who granted the informational interview.
What questions should you ask?
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 job/occupation
- What is the preferred degree or major for entry into this field?
- Are there any entrance requirements?
- 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?
- What is the average starting salary for an entry level position at your organization?
- What is the advancement potential for your position?
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?
- Who would you recommend I talk with to further my knowledge?
- Can I tell them that you referred me?
- Would you look over my resume and let me know what you would recommend me adding, changing, or improving?
- What places would you recommend I observe, volunteer, or intern?
- What organizations would you recommend joining?
- What certifications do you recommend earning?
Networking is about getting to know people, and you are doing this every day 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. 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
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
Tips 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.
- Prepare questions. Networking is a conversation between two people, so it is best to have questions in mind when speaking with someone about their career.
- 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.