Step 1: Explore

StrengthsQuest and Coaching

As part of our Sophomore Success Program, every student gets the chance to learn more about themselves through the free personality and trait assessment, StrengthsQuest. This 25-35 minute online test allows you to discover your top 5 traits or strengths. Everyone has strengths that relate to our future careers, and by focusing on those strengths, we learn to understand ourselves better and excel at the things we do best. Out staff will walk you through the assessment, and especially through what these insights mean for you. 

Email Todd Nolan to find out more information on the Sophomore Success Program, or to take a StrengthsQuest assessment and discuss with a faculty coach. 

Discover New Occupations

The biggest reason that college students do not know what they want to do for a living is because they do not know what occupations are "out there." Spend some time becoming familiar with various fields of employment you could enter. There are three main tools in your belt to research job titles.

  1. The Occupational Information Network, or O*Net, is your primary resource for finding different job titles within an occupation. Here you can search for jobs based on your interests, your skills, your abilities, and even categories like work values and activities.

  2. The Occupational Outlook Handbook provides you with brief explanations on job duties, education requirements, salaries, occupation growth rate, and other important factors in evaluating careers. This is a good overview of broad groups of jobs all at once.

  3. The CareerOneStop provides you with a detailed overview of occupation types, as well as similar titles, career videos, state and national trends, and training. It also provides access to many other resources around the web for you to read. You can compare different occupations as well as find information on

Appointments are available to discuss job titles, and we provide you with a number of personal exercises to help brainstorm possible career options.

Write a Resume

The resume is the most commonly understood and the most basic component of career exploration. It is the document which describes your skills and experiences to a potential employer. You will constantly be updating it as you gain new experiences and skills, and you will also revise it for every new position to which you apply. This makes the resume the ultimate in career exploration.

The resume should be brief and precise, and highlight the important parts of your history. Add your most recent educational experience, any prior work experience, relevant volunteer projects or community service, extracurricular activities, internships, awards, special projects, transferable skills, and hobbies or interests.

Next, take your resume from good to great.

  1. We have partnered with Resume Targets to provide you with hundreds of resume templates and suggestions. Access the Ave Maria portal here: Ave Maria University's Resume Target Templates

  2. Use our Resume Guide to give you general advice, lists of action verbs, etc.

  3. Refer to our Resume Grading Rubric to check your own resume.

  4. Set up an appointment with the Career Office to get personalized feedback on your resume.

Once your resume is completed, use it! A summer internship would be an ideal opportunity, and ideally you should target a company that gets you close to the type of work you have considered. That is the hallmark of the next step.


Step 2: Prepare

Build a LinkedIn to Network

Did you know that 80% of all jobs are never posted on any job site? Not on any website, not on any newspaper…not anywhere. Yet somehow, these jobs are filled with good candidates. That’s because recruiters and executives choose to use their network meaning they hire internally, or depend on referrals from employees, or reach out to people they know and trust. We call this the hidden job market.

The job market is like an iceberg. Most candidates will spend their time looking at the tip of the iceberg, occupying their time with what is visible. In fact, they are only looking at 20% of the job market. The hidden job market is not only much bigger, but most people don’t go looking for it.

Enter LinkedIn, AKA the professional social network. It can be your most powerful resource in building your network and accessing the hidden job market. Start by putting your resume onto LinkedIn and connect with friends family and professors. Then use it to build your network—find people with jobs that interest you and who work at companies that interest you. You can also join groups (like the Finance Club or the Psychology Student Network) to meet like-minded individuals, contribute to discussions, and learn about new opportunities.

You can set up an appointment to build your LinkedIn profile with a member of our staff today.

Read more: LinkedIn Guide

Read more: Build a LinkedIn Worksheet

Get to Know Companies

Once you have determined your top occupations, your next goal is to find companies where that work is done. The purpose of this is two-fold: 1) to engage with professionals who do the work that interests you, and 2) to compare and contrast different work environments

A good place to start is the company websites. Become familiar with their mission statements, their company size, organizational charts, their company values, work environment, typical work days, products and services, etc. 

The best tools for researching companies are:

  • LinkedIn: Type in a company name or industry type into the search bar, and read different profiles on individual companies. You can sort your search by location, job opportunities, industry, company size, number of followers, and fortune list. You can also use the company pages to find information about people that work at these companies.

  • CareerOneStop’s Business Finder: Allows you to search by business name, industry, or occupation and filter by location, number of employees, and distance.

  • Buzzfile: This interactive database pulls descriptions for thousands of companies in various industries around the country. If you're looking for internships, researching for interviews, or want to learn about businesses in your area, this is a great tool.

  • AMU Career Expo: The spring expo provides you the chance to interact with our partner organizations and dialogue with them about potential opportunities. We encourage all class levels to attend the expo, but especially juniors and seniors who are preparing to enter the workforce.

  • Vault: Lists of rankings and reviews on top companies, graduate programs, and internships.

  • Wetfeet: Featured companies, along with career success stories and useful articles.

  • SEC Filings: Allows you to research corporate information, financial information, and registration.

  • Business Directories: A list of major city business directories. You should also feel free to Google business directories in your hometown or the place you want to live.

  • Follow your companies on their social media channels (especially on LinkedIn).

  • Sign up for email alerts from the company's website where possible.

A Note on Interning and Shadowing

In the course of your research, some organizations will offer opportunities for interning or shadowing to provide experiential learning. There are many benefits to interning and shadowing, but primarily their goal is to provide an up-close perspective of an organization in which you have interest.

We highly recommend that students pursue and complete between 1-3 internships before they graduate. For more information, check out the page on internships.

Read more: Job Search Guide

Read more: Researching Companies Worksheet

Informational Interviews:

There are two types of interviews you should conduct. The first are informational interviews, and are the easiest interviews to conduct because you are the interviewer. Once you find people with jobs that interest you, reach out to them for a 15-20 minute conversation surrounding the nature of their work. Ask questions about how they started, the greatest challenges in their work, what a typical day looks like, etc.

Refer to the Informational Interviewing handout for a list of informational interview questions, a sample email message for first connections, and other important rules for informational interviewing.

A Note on Mock Interviews

Juniors are advised to begin the process of preparing for interviews, especially if you expect to have an interview for an upcoming summer position or internship. A mock interview is a simulation of a real interview environment and allows you to work on interview techniques, like body language, rate of speech, and thinking on the spot. However, a mock interview is a risk-free environment which allows you to learn the mistakes and nuances of interviewing through our immediate, individualized feedback. It will also help you to become an expert in asking questions and performing informational interviews.

There is no better way to become comfortable with an interview than to practice it 3-5 times over the course of your last two years. Set up your appointment with the Career Office to practice today!

Read more: Informational Interview Guide

Read more: Informational Interview Worksheet


Step 3: Apply

Apply to 3 Jobs

You have spent the last couple of years building your network, getting to know experts in the field, and becoming familiar with people and companies who can help you achieve your dreams. Now it’s time to put all that preparation in to action.

Senior year is about unearthing the best opportunities for you by making active use of your network:

  • Review your materials. Now is the time to revise your resume and to begin drafting cover letters. Practice writing three of four drafts of a cover letter before sending to employers. Read more…

  • Get Letters of Recommendation. It is a good idea to ask professors and colleagues for letters of recommendation early if possible. Allow them at least 2-4 weeks to write a letter for you. Try to get at least 3 letters and from professors and non-academic sources. Read more…

  • Make the Ask. Speak about your interests with former and current colleagues, professionals you have gotten to know, or family and friends. Be specific; become familiar with real jobs or open positions that you’d like to apply to. Then ask your network for a referral for that specific job, as candidates who come with referrals (especially employee referrals) are much more successful at securing employment with their target companies.

  • Be Grateful. When someone gives you a referral, they stake their professional reputation on your worth. They have much more to risk than you do. Thank them promptly for any help they provide, and live up to their good opinion by conducting yourself honorably and professionally throughout the application process.

A Note on Graduate School

If you are considering graduate school, you will need to start the process of applying early. In fact, it is best to start considering options and reviewing an application timeline in your junior year. Talk to professors and the Career Office staff about possible programs, schools, and careers.

Read more: Job Search Guide

Use this: Job Search Worksheet

Read more: Applying to Graduate School Guide

Use this: Grad School Application Worksheet

Mock Interviews

Mock interviewing should begin in the Junior year, however it is important to practice throughout the Senior year as well. Practice for an interview by running through a simulation with our staff. Each mock interview is conducted over a period of 30 minutes, where we will practice your answers to basic and specific interview questions. We will work on your body language and non-verbal cues. And we can train you to handle any format (panel interviews, group interviews, phone interviews, video interviews) or type of questions (behavioral, brainteasers, situational).

The more you practice, the better prepared you will be for your interview and the more comfortable you will be in an interview setting. Arranging for a mock interview is as simple as sending your resume and the job for which you’re preparing to our staff. Setup your appointment today!

Read more: Interviewing Guide

Use this: Mock Interview Worksheet

Choose Offer and Write a 3-Year Plan

Congratulations! If you have gotten this far then you have just been offered a job. Congratulations on this milestone, and well done to put in all the time and effort necessary to get this far.

There are a few steps to consider when evaluating a job offer.

  • Review the paperwork. Make sure you have been sent a formal offer letter before accepting any offer. Make sure than any offer includes position title, start date, salary, benefits, relocation expenses (if applicable), and a date to accept the offer. If one or more of these details are not included, circle back with the company to clarify.

  • Be Grateful. It is a common theme—express your thanks for having been offered the position and feel free to express your enthusiasm as well. Use the first communication to ask any questions you may have.

  • Evaluate the Offer. Analyze all aspects of the job. Consider whether the job fits with your short-term and long-term goals. Decide whether the job provides meaningful employment and allows you to gain skills beneficial for your future. Consider whether the salary is sufficient, and analyze cost-of-living in the area and assemble a basic budget to determine if you will have enough money (after taxes) to cover your needs. Negotiating the terms of a job offer may be necessary before you can accept.

  • Accept or Decline. When you accept a position, you must stop interviewing for other positions. You may not accept a job unless you are committed to honoring that acceptance, and you may not accept a job to “fall back” on it if nothing else pans out. However, you may ask for more time to evaluate a job offer. If you need to decline a job offer, do it politely and leave the channels of communication open. Especially if you decline a job because you are unhappy with the terms, leaving the door open to re-negotiation may resolve your problem.

Read more: Negotiating and Evaluating Offers

Use this: 3-Year Goal Planning Worksheet