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Career Exploration

Exploration is a cyclical process without a defined beginning and end. If you don’t know where to start, you can always lead with self-reflection. Each new experience presents you with the opportunity to assess yourself, discover options, build skills, and prioritize goals.

Each part of the career exploration cycle is important, with the goal typically being decision-making. There are many ways to make confident, informed career decisions. When discovering options, many students start in one of three basic areas: job function—what skills you want to use daily, industry—what type of organization or field interests you most, or academic courses of interest. Your values, interests, personality, and skills can influence all of these.

The Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement has a variety of programs, resources, and events to help guide you through each part of this process no matter your starting point.

Career Exploration Cycle
Assess Self
  • Awareness of your VIPS (Values, Interests, Personality, and Skills) is important in the exploration process as you evaluate potential options. As you explore and gain experience, your VIPS, as well as your goals and priorities, may change.
  • Focus 2 is an online, self-paced assessment resource provided by the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement that can help you identify your VIPS.
Discover Options

The Career Center offers a variety of programs for you to listen to, learn from, observe, and ask questions of recruiters, alumni, parents and family members, and partners of William & Mary. (Note: You can find more information about these programs in TribeCareers.) They include, but are not limited to:

  • Externship Program
  • Fairs (Career & Internship, Graduate School, Industry-Specific)
  • Information Sessions
  • Meet Ups
  • Panels
Build Experiences

Each experience you have helps you develop skills, test out possible options, and expand your network. These experiences can provide valuable lessons, as well as marketable skills, to include on your resume:

  • Academic coursework
  • Athletics
  • Clubs/Organizations
  • Externships
  • Internships
  • Part-time jobs
  • Research
  • Community service
Prioritize Goals
  • Making a decision does not mean you have to decide on the one career you will pursue from graduation to retirement. Instead, prioritize your options to create strategies for pursuing your goals.
  • Priorities can depend on strong interests, upcoming deadlines, availability of opportunities, and more.
  • Recruitment schedules vary by industry; while some industries recruit year-round, typically hiring just before a position will begin, others have early deadlines and hire a semester or two prior to the position beginning.

Explore By

Exploration Exercises

Exploration Exercises
Wanderings Map

The Career Wanderings Map, adapted from You Majored in What? Mapping your Path from Chaos to Career by Dr. Katherine Brooks, is a guided, reflective exercise that takes you through a series of prompts to mine your past experiences for themes and patterns that may not yet be obvious to you. These themes can help you explore what kinds of positions, industries, and experiences might be a great next step.

So get a blank piece of paper, a couple of markers, and watch this video tutorial on creating your own Wanderings Map. Once you’ve drawn your map, schedule an appointment with an advisor to review it and explore possible next steps for you.

Watch How To Create A Wanderings Map

Skills Inventory

The Skills Inventory (PDF) is a reflective exercise that helps you identify what skills you have used to achieve previous accomplishments or impact you had made throughout an experience. This worksheet helps you find active language to demonstrate your skills rather than just listing the tasks when talking about yourself. It also helps you see where you might have some skill gaps. These gaps, if relevant to future interests, can assist in narrowing down what type of role or position you could take on next to begin building those skills. Feel free to bring this with you to an appointment to discuss how to use this when developing your resume or preparing for an interview or networking conversation.

Download the Skills Inventory Handout

Perfect World Scenario

The Perfect World Scenario (PDF) is a guided activity to get you thinking about all aspects of work in your perfect world, from attire and commute time, to your supervisor and what success means to you. Grab a notepad and jot down your thoughts to the 12 questions listed on the worksheet. Keep in mind, they don’t all have to connect with each other because you won’t typically have all 12 perfect choices at one time. Instead, after answering all of the questions, pick a few to prioritize for your next step.

Download the Perfect World Scenario Prompts

Values Inventory

Values are an important part of the career decision-making process. The Work Values Inventory (PDF) exercise will help you identify and prioritize your core values as they relate to how you value your work environment, your work interactions, and your work activities.

Download the Work Values Inventory

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Contact Us

Located in the Cohen Career Center, our office is between the Sadler Center and Zable Stadium on Stadium Drive.

We are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Career Development & Professional Engagement
Street Address

Cohen Career Center 180 Stadium Drive Williamsburg, VA 23186

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Mailing Address

Cohen Career Center P.O. Box 8795 Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795

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