Career Exploration

Career Exploration

Career Exploration is a process that requires reflection, exploration, development, connection, and learning.

Navigate your own path

In this section, you will find information and resources that will help you explore and navigate on your career journey. It is a process of learning more about yourself in relationship to the world of work as well as clarifying your interests and skills to help you explore the career options suitable for you. The resources and supports will help guide you in the process of self-reflection, researching career options, and developing job search skills.

Critical to this process is recognizing that opportunities are created rather than found. Navigating your career journey is a pro-active process that you will engage in throughout your life as you continue to connect to people and opportunities and learn more about yourself. Incorporating flexibility, curiosity, optimism, persistence and a bit of risk-taking will help you navigate your career successfully.

Career Exploration is a process that involves reflection, exploration, development, connection, and learning.

Reflection: How do I figure it out?

Photo of a student completing a worksheet

We all have strengths and skills we bring to the table; but figuring out career paths that bring together your strengths and interests can take time and can feel daunting. Many students don’t have a firm sense of what they want to do and that’s okay.

To help you navigate the uncertainty, it is a good idea to reflect on and validate your strengths, interests, skills, experiences, and career values, so you can feel more confident about your career and education decisions.

We are here to support you during this process from your first semester to up until 10 years after you graduate! Here are some of the resources that will help you figure it all out.

Career Counselling

What makes our career counselling different from other career services is that our career professionals can support you with your career concerns regardless of your faculty or program of choice. We support all McMaster undergraduate students and alumni.

Wondering what career counselling is all about? Career Counselling is a conversation where you can express your questions, worries, concerns, or goals with a professional counsellor in a safe and welcoming space. The confidential conversations can provide clarity and confidence as you make career, educational, and life decisions

A career counsellor will help you:

  • Process your thoughts, ideas, and concerns about your career and educational choices in safe, supportive and objective manner.
  • Develop clarity and understanding of your interests, skill sets, personal strengths and career values.
  • Expand your career options by looking beyond your degree and exploring skills, interests, and experiences
  • Develop a strategic plan or approach for furthering your career or further education goals.

Career Counselling appointments are 50 minutes and are scheduled through OSCARplus (under Appointments).

Career Planning Group

The Career Planning Group will help you understand yourself and develop a broader understanding of career and education options suited for you. It’s an informal and supportive environment to reflect on your strengths, skills, interests, and potential pathways with like-minded peers.  A professional career counsellor experienced in helping students work through decision-making will guide you through the career assessments (Myers-Briggs Type IndicatorR, Strong Interest Inventory and SkillScan) to help you build clarity on your next steps.

The assessments used in the Career Planning Group are offered to McMaster undergraduate students and recent alumni for $35. The fee is subsidized to help you take advantage of these effective and professional career tools. The sessions are typically offered once a month on Saturdays and registration is through OSCARplus (under special events). For more info please see our one page info sheet.

Workshops

Got time to spare between classes? Our short career sessions are a great way to enhance self-understanding for personal and career development in a quick and casual way. The sessions are offered throughout the academic year and for a full listing please click here (link to pdf with full descriptions). Some sessions of interest as you reflect on your self and your career goals are:

  • Discover your Skills
  • Understanding your MBTIR type ($25): Team Work, Learning and Managing Stress
  • Understanding Yourself and Others with Personality DimensionsR
  • Who You Are Matters a Career Game
  • Design your Life

Download this handout for more information.

Reflection Questions

What do I want my life to be about? What am I meant to do? What will make me happy? These are not easy questions to answer, but we’ve put together some questions to help get you started. Print off the list and get some friends together or buy a journal book, these questions will get you thinking.

You can also find similar questions in the Pondering My Life templates in PebblePad.

Career Tests

Can’t attend one of our Career Planning Groups? Searching for “career tests” online and getting thousands of results? To help you avoid spending endless hours sifting through the good from the bad, here are a few sites that our career professionals would recommend:

We recommend booking an appointment with one of our career professionals to help you make sense of the results and connect the results to education or career options.

Career Development Advising

Unsure of what resources and services are best for you? Book a 25-minute appointment with our Career Advisor to connect you to the tools, resources and support best suited to your needs and concerns and create an action plan to help you figure out your next steps.

Career Planning Group was really informative, helpful and great experience. It is great to know that my concerns and questions are shared by others.

Career Planning Group Participant

Explore – What are my career options?

Picture of two students speaking with a professional.

Wondering what you can do with your degree? While it may seem like programs should lead to a specific job or career path, your program does not dictate your career. You will have a wide variety of career paths open to you. In fact, even if your program does have specific training, you may choose to pursue a different career than the one traditionally associated with your program. What you do with your degree is up to you. We know. It’s a lot to think about.

To help you sort it out, try the career information databases to start your career research and then talk to professionals in the field or mentors to provide a more personalized look at the occupation or industry of interest. You can explore with your strengths and interests to guide you or you can explore with curiosity and learn from others’ career stories. You might also find it helpful to set up an informational interview or take part in a work-integrated learning experience to explore and learn more about your options with your degree.

Career Information

Getting lost in Google? Go beyond Google and use focused and reliable career information databases to learn about occupations and education paths.

  • Career Cruising: Canadian career and education database
  • ALIS: Occupations database (Alberta)
  • NOC: National Occupational Classification System (Canadian)
  • BC Career Trek: Videos of people in various occupational fields
  • O*Net: National Occupational database (American)
  • US Bureau of Labour: Provides occupational information and labour trends

Visit our External Resources page for more information.

Informational Interviews

One of the best ways to gather information is to go to the source. For career exploration, that often means speaking with someone who has been there and really understands the excitement and challenges associated with an industry. These conversations can also help develop your understanding of what employers look for and gather useful resources for getting started.

This process of speaking with someone to gather information is known as an “informational interview,” and it is not as intimidating as it sounds. Informational interviews are usually an informal conversation with someone who has insight related to your career or field of interest. Not sure what you’d ask or how to go about it?

The Alumni & Partners Advisors Network is a great place to start. This is a network of alumni who are interested in giving back to students and recent alumni, which means, they want to meet you and provide insight. Explore available profiles and set-up an informational interview from your computer. It’s that simple.

Not sure what to ask? Our tip sheet – Networking- Informational Interview can help.

Job Shadow

Finding a career you love takes time, which is why job shadows are a great opportunity. Job shadowing a professional in your industry of-interest can help you get a preview of what a profession is like without making a long-term commitment.

Setting up a Job Shadow opportunity can be tricky but extremely worthwhile in helping you gain a realistic look at a potential job. Talk to one of our career professionals to help guide you in the process or schedule a Job Shadow appointment.

Mentoring

Most of us have a mentor. Whether it is a family member, friend, or a memorable teacher, mentors are the people in your lives who help you find direction and clarity. As you continue to grow with our community, the mentors you gain can play a very helpful role in working through your academic, career, and personal pathways.

A mentor can help you:

  • Gain personal and professional development
  • Build your professional network
  • Develop your skills
  • Find connections between your skills and work
  • Get career advice
  • Receive encouragement and guidance

If you are looking for a mentor, we can help. Visit our mentoring page for more information.

Career Field Externship

Did you know we host Career Field Externships throughout the year? These short-term opportunities typically take place for two-days and give you the chance to:

  • Experience workplace culture
  • Reassure your career path
  • Develop professional connections
  • Clarify your personal interests
  • Learn new skills

This is a great opportunity, especially if you do not have co-op or internships available with your program. Visit our Work Integrated Learning page for more information.

Networking Events

We hear a lot about the value of networking, but setting up a networking opportunity can sometimes be challenging. We offer lots of networking opportunities throughout the year for you to connect with professionals and learn more about opportunities, including:

  • Career Fairs
  • Company Information Sessions
  • Career Nights

Check OSCARplus for a calendar of opportunities.

Develop – How do I gain experiences and skills?

Photo of a student and employer shaking hands.

Gaining skills and experiences is an important part of your career development. Coming to University is one way in which you have already made the choice to invest in your skills and future. The skills and experiences you develop at McMaster, whether through course work, extra-curriculars, volunteer or summer jobs, can contribute greatly to your career path and future decisions.

Take advantage of all the opportunities that come with being part of our community and build your resume in a way that helps you explore interests, develop skills and make connections.

Work Opportunities

Finding a job while you are a student is one way you can develop your skills, not just within the role, but also outside of it. Having a job while you are a student can develop your time-management and organizational skills, as you have to learn to balance multiple commitments.

Here are some options to get you started:

  • Summer Jobs: Did you know some companies start posting summer job opportunities as early as December? Attend a summer job search workshop or come to a Career fair to learn more about the opportunities to gain experience, develop skills, and make connections. Visit OSCARplus to sign-up.
  • Work-Study Positions: These are on-campus work experiences available part-time through the academic school or full time over the summer. There is a wealth of opportunity in various departments throughout campus. Jobs are in August for p/t academic year positions and early March for summer opportunities on Mosaic.
  • On-Campus Work: In addition to work-study, there are also job opportunities available through the McMaster Student Union, McMaster Hospitality Services and Marauders – check out their website directly for postings throughout the year.

Volunteer

There are many great organizations out there that are looking for passionate, hard-working volunteers to make their goals a reality. Organizations that recruit volunteers often provide some kind of support to the community, which means, there is often an impact associated with the work they do.

Being able to take on experiences that have an impact can help bring meaning and purpose to your resume and job application(s). Your volunteer experiences often tell an employer more about your desired professional development and can provide employers with a glimpse of whether or not you are a good fit for their organization. Volunteer experiences are also a way of gaining work experience when you have no work experience.

Here are some options to get you started:

  • Volunteer Connections: Meet with a Student Success Leader to find the right volunteer opportunity. Appointments are available on OSCARplus.
  • Volunteer Hamilton: non-profit organizations in the Hamilton area share their volunteer postings. Visit the website to search the database for opportunities or review their directory to find the organization of interest for you.
  • Peer Language Facilitators: These on-campus volunteers provide English language support to an English-as-an-Additional-Language (EAL) student through friendship and a comfortable environment for learning. Visit the Speakeasy page for more information.
  • Community Engagement & Volunteer Fair: This is a yearly on-campus event that features organizations recruiting volunteers. Visit the event page for more information.

Practicums/Co-op/Field Placements/Externships

Securing a job directly related to your field of-interest is not always a realistic option if you have little to no experience, which is why it is important to pursue all available opportunities. Practicums, co-ops, field placements, and externships are short-term opportunities that can give you exposure to the career path of your choice while also allowing you to develop meaningful connections. The connections you build during these experiences can be integral in your future job search.

Here are some options to get started:

Extra-Curricular Activities

Did you know we have over 300 clubs on-campus? Check out the opportunities below:

Career Exploration involves reflection, exploration, development, connection, and learning.

We recommend visiting our Career Planning page to continue this process.

I strongly recommend the Networking 101 workshop. It has opened my view of networking!

McMaster University Student

Support – How can I get help?

We’ve got your back. Whether it’s individual support, group sessions, or career and education events, or a quick question – there are a variety of ways we strive to help you with your career and education journey.

  • Attend a career and employment session.
  • Book an appointment through OscarPlus – Appointments.
  • Attend drop-in clinics available Tuesday to Thursday from 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Email us at careers@mcmaster.ca with your questions.
  • Keep up-to-date with all the information, events and offerings with #MacTalksCareers
  • Join our LinkedIn Group to connect with peers, alumni, employers and career professionals.