University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Connecting UW Students and Employers

Explore Majors & Careers

Please note: If you are already in a major, your home career services office may have major-specific career resources to aid you in your search.

The Career Exploration Center

The Career Exploration Center (CEC) part of the Cross-College Advising Service (CCAS), is designed to assist students exploring their options for majors and careers. Since UW-Madison offers so many options (over 150 academic majors), the CEC is a great place to learn about your interests, skills, and personality, and how they can guide you as you make important life decisions.

The CEC offers a variety of resources and tools to help you in your major and career exploration process:

One-on-one Career Advising Appointments

Meet with a professional career advisor for a one-on-one appointment to:

Assessments

Library

Workshops

The CEC is located in 6 Ingraham Hall & is available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Stop by or call 608-265-4497 to schedule an appointment and learn more about how the CEC can help you! You can also contact us via e-mail at cec@ccas.wisc.edu.

Questions the CEC can help you answer:

How do I combine my different interests into a career?
What careers may be a good fit for me?
What careers go well with the major or majors I am considering?
If I am not accepted by my desired college/school how can I prepare myself for a career in that field?
What skills do employers look for in employees?
Do I need to change my major because my career goals have changed?
What are employers looking for in job applicants?
What “tests” may help me figure out what career path is best for me?

Informational Interviewing

Once you have narrowed down your career and/or major options, the next step is to "interview" people working in that field. An informational interview, or informational meeting is an interview that you initiate - you ask the questions. The purpose is to obtain information and get job-search advice from people working in the field (not to get a job).

Reasons to conduct an informational meeting:

A few guidelines:

Schedule meetings:

Before the meeting:

Hello, my name is ____________. I was referred by ______________. I am investigating career opportunities and trying to make some good decisions. I thought you might be able to answer a few questions. I would like to meet with you. Would you have 20- 30 minutes sometime to talk with me so I can find out more about your organization and how someone with my background and skills can fit into this field?

The day of the meeting:

During the meeting

After the meeting

Suggested questions for an informational meeting:

About the person and their present job:

  • What is your educational background? How did you get started in this field?
  • What was your career path like? How did you get your present job?
  • What do you like most and least about your job?
  • What do you wish you would have known prior to entering this field?
  • What would you change about your job/career path if you could?
  • Where do you see yourself going from here?

Work activities:

  • What do you do during a typical work day/ week?
  • What are some of the problems/ decisions you are likely to face in a day?
  • What do you spend most of your time doing?
  • How much paperwork? Interaction with others? Do you have frequent contact with people/customers/co-workers/supervisors/general public? What is the nature of those contacts?

Lifestyle:

  • How does your job affect your general lifestyle? What is your schedule generally like?
  • How many hours to you generally work in any given week?
  • What obligation does your work place upon you, outside of the ordinary work week?
  • How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, work hours, vacation, etc.?

Work setting / culture / climate:

  • Do you determine what tasks you will work on and how to structure your time? Or is that determined for you?
  • How would you characterize your working relations or work environment (formal, informal, etc.)?
  • Do you work primarily alone or in collaboration with others? With whom? How are decisions made? What is the company’s management philosophy?

About the career field / industry:

  • What are the employment trends and how rapidly is your present career field growing?
  • What specific jobs are in demand and which are being cut back?
  • Is relocation to another state or company necessary? What is the turnover rate like?
  • What is the salary range for the various levels in this field?
  • What type of professional development or training opportunities are there?

Preparation / qualifications:

  • What credentials, educational degrees, licenses, etc. are required for entry into this field? What kind of prior experiences would be good background for the position?
  • How do college majors fit in?
  • What specific skills are required? What are some additional skills that will be helpful?
  • What qualities / qualifications do you look for in an ideal candidate?
  • What is the profile of someone who is successful in this field?
  • How are hiring decisions made?
  • How did the last few people you hired obtain the position? What were their backgrounds?
  • How do people find out about these jobs? Are they advertised? If so, where? How else does one hear about openings?

Advice to you:

  • Is this a realistic goal? Am I in the ballpark?
  • How does someone with my background and skills fit the needs of an organization in this industry?
  • Do I have to develop some skills or gain some experiences to make myself more competitive?
  • What professional associations or organizations do you think might be useful to contact for information or to belong to?

Next steps:

  • How do people break into the field? What is my next best step?
  • What advice do you have for me as I try to break into this field?
  • What entry level jobs are best for learning as much as possible?
  • Are there people you think I would benefit from talking to?
  • Can I use your name when I contact them?
  • If I have any further questions could I stay in contact with you?

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