Career Exploration

Career Exploration

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

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 the world of work, while also 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 proactive 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, explorationconnection, and development.

Reflect: 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 feel more confident about your career and education decisions, it helps to spend time to reflect on and clarify your strengths, interests, skills, experiences, and career values.

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 Assessments

We offer career assessments to help you evaluate and recognize your personal strengths, interests, and skills. Take advantage of the professional tools to help you clarify what you want for yourself and your future career.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®: The MBTI is helpful for understanding your natural strengths and preferred work environments so you can explore career paths that fit with you. The MBTI also provides a framework to understand others for effective communication, teamwork and leadership development.

Strong Interest Inventory®: This career assessment helps you evaluate your interests and connect them to career and education options. Evaluating your interests through a standardized tool helps you to recognize your interests in an objective manner so you can direct your career exploration or education decisions with more confidence.

SkillScan: This assessment will help you recognize and evaluate the skills you have and want to use in a future career. The Skills Scan online version or card sort can also be used to help you consider the skills you would like to develop further.

CareerStorm Navigator™: This self-directed career and life planning tool helps you reflect on and clarify your past experiences, future goals as well as your interests, skills, strengths and values. This tool is best suited to students and alumni who have already begun the exploration process and would like support in clarifying their thoughts and evaluating their options.

If you are interested in these career assessments to help you navigate your career, our tip sheet provides more details on how you can get started.

Workshops

Many students are wondering what they want to do and what career paths are best for them – the benefit of attending a workshop is that you realize that you are not alone! Our sessions are facilitated by career professionals who create a friendly, supportive and informative session to help you navigate your career.

Some sessions of interest to help you reflect on yourself and your career goals are:

  • Discover Your Skills: You’ll be amazed at how many more skills you have! This skills assessment workshop will use a skills assessment activity (SkillScan™) to help you identify your transferable skills and the skills you want to use in your future career.  This a 1 ½ hour session.
  • Life After Mac: Graduating this year and wondering what your next steps after Mac will be? In this interactive session you will explore your options and develop a plan. This a 1 ½ hour session
  • Career Planning Group:  A full-day interactive career exploration workshop that uses the industry standard career assessments Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Strong Interest Inventory, and SkillsScan. The Career Planning Group will help you develop a stronger understanding of your interests, career values, transferable skills and personal strengths. Sessions are held once a month on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. in GH 110. There is a $35 subsidized fee for this workshop.

Self-Reflection Activities

Taking the time to reflect on your experiences and what you want is invaluable! Some thoughtful self-reflection activities can help you notice the important ingredients to a satisfying career. These self-reflection activity sheets are a great place to start.

Pondering My Life (PDF download): This activity provides thoughtful questions to help you reflect on your experiences. Write in a journal, discuss with trusted friends or family, or meet with a career professional to help you make meaning of your reflections.

Career Values (PDF download): This activity is straightforward but incredibly effective for helping you clarify what you want from a career.

Planned Happenstance (PDF download): Career paths are not linear – this activity will help you reflect on how “chance events” have shaped your education and career journey so far.

Decision Making (PDF download): This activity will help you evaluate the education or career decisions to help you narrow down your options.

Want help making sense of these activities? Meet with a Career Counsellor.

Career Tests

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 recommended by our career experts:

Want help making sense of the results? Meet with one of our career professionals to help you explore your 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 Development 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 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).

The Career Planning Group was incredibly valuable; it helped me reflect, understand and strategize for the future.

Career Planning Group Participant

Explore – What are my career and education options?

Picture of two students speaking with a professional.

Wondering what you can do with your degree? You have a wide variety of career paths open to you – your program does not dictate your career. Trying to sort that out and finding the right information can be confusing and frustrating. We know. It’s a lot to think about. There are tools and processes that can help you.

To start your career researchtry career information databases and then talk to professionals in the field to provide a more personalized look at the occupation or industry. 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 an applied workplace 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.

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? Our Informational Interview Tip Sheet can guide you.

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 or need some help? Meet with our career professional to ask how we can help you set up your next career conversation.  

Choosing Your Major

There are often a range of possibilities when it comes to considering your program options. Your major is only one part of that decision. You may find that there are many open elective courses and minor options that can help shape your degree and learning, ones that offer a different kind of skill set you can add to your resume. Visit your Faculty office or web page to uncover opportunities for practicum, independent study, or research courses.

Careers By Major

Your program represents the knowledge you learned and just as important, it represents the skills you developed throughout your degree. Employers want to know you have skills in collaborative work, written and verbal communication, critical thinking, and most importantly the ability to learn! Your degree, whatever program you are in, will showcase that.

To learn more about the skills, industries and occupations relevant to your program, here are a few recommended sites that explore majors and careers: 

To learn more about the skills in demand:

Further Education

Enhancing your education through further studies can come in many forms and time frames. Finding the right program depends on your career interests and your personal preferences. The timing is up to you! When exploring your options, there is a range of graduate level programs, professionally focused programs, post-graduate certificates, continuing education certificates, graduate level certificates and self-directed learning.

We offer workshops, fairs, and individual services to help you explore further education options that meet your personal, academic and professional goals.

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.

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.

Connect – How do I find a job?

Photo of students speaking with an employer

Job searching is not just a process; it is also an essential life skill. From crafting a well-written cover letter to practicing your elevator pitch and interview answers, job searching has many different parts that will challenge you and also help you develop skills you can bring with you to your next opportunity. Many people come out of a big job search with stronger communication, organizational, and time-management skills.

Knowing where to look is one way you can make your job search a little easier. That’s where our career experts offer invaluable insight and expertise. Our career experts can help you feel more in control of finding the right opportunities for your interests and goals.

Job Search Strategies

Having goals and a plan of action is one way you can feel more in control of your job search, and an important part of developing your job search strategy. If you have not done so already, polishing your “marketing materials” is a strong first step: update your resume and LinkedIn profile, write a cover letter that caters to your industry of-interest, and create a portfolio of work you can share. If you are active on social media, following organizations that you might want to work for can help you stay on top of their brand mission and ongoing opportunities.

Other things to consider as you build out your job search strategy include making a list of contacts and a list of networking events you are able to attend. Remember, asking for a job is not the most effective approach. Consider engaging with your contacts via informational interviews or coffee chats. Show your interest in the industry by asking questions and connect with your contacts to learn more about how you can locate opportunities to network and grow.

Above all, remember that job searching involves flexbility, persistence, risk-taking, curiosity, and optimism.

Job Search Skill Sessions

Develop those job search life skills through short Q & A style sessions on topics essential to your job search: resume and cover letter writing, networking, job search with social media, summer job search, decoding job postings, and interview tips. Longer sessions provide the opportunity to put your skills into practice include Mock Interview, Networking Practice and Career Fair Prep.

Download this handout for more information.

Dates and times can be found on the Student Success Centre events calendar in OSCARplus.

Tip Sheets

Our Tip Sheets are developed by our career professionals to provide you with the information you need to be a savvy job searcher! Keep building those life long job search skills.

Job Postings

Job postings are just one way to access opportunities – incorporate networking into your job search strategy to tap into the hidden job market!

  • OSCARplus: McMaster’s online career portal for summer, part-time, new grad recruitment, and full time positions.
  • Mosaic: Work Study and on-campus summer positions.
  • McMaster Hospitality Services: Part-time positions on-campus.
  • McMaster Athletics: Part-time, summer and full-time positions within Athletics and Recreation.
  • McMaster Students Union: Opportunities to work in student governance or in service areas operated by the MSU.
  • Indeed.ca: General job posting site. Try different key word searches to maximize options
  • Eluta.ca – new-grad-jobs: Directory of companies that hire new graduates.
  • Talentegg.ca: Job posting site for students and new graduates
  • Magnet. ca: A Canadian initiative helping students connect to employers through matching of skills and experiences.
  • Internship programs: A directory of national and international internship programs
  • International Experience Canada: A program to help you work and travel globally.
  • Federal Government internships: Lists youth jobs and internships programs
  • Company websites: Check career sections for postings.
  • Professional association or industry websites: Many will have postings for the field and are a great source for networking opportunities.

McMaster Library also has a selection of directories for company research to target your job search.

Be Your Own Boss

Interested in starting your own business or starting a side- gig? There are many opportunities for entrepreneurship. Here are some worth considering:

  • The Forge@Mac: Provides programming to encourage, develop, and support all McMaster entrepreneurs, including students at all levels of learning.
  • Summer Company: Financial and professional support to run your own business over the summer.
  • Hamilton Business Enterprise: Appointments with an Advisor available once a month  and workshops available each term – schedule through OSCARplus.

Individual Coaching

Individual supports through our career professionals include job search coaching, individualized employment action plans, feedback on tailoring your resume and cover letter, interview preparation practice, and how to build your brand on LinkedIn.

I found the Summer Job Search workshop very useful and plan on attending some more!

McMaster University Student

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.
  • 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.
  • Charity Village: Check out this website for volunteer postings.
  • Visit OSCARplus for volunteer postings.

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:

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.