Career Learning: A Four-Year Road Map to Students’ Future

CareerFair.jpg A successful career begins with careful and dedicated planning, and the SMU Hegi Family Career Development Center has developed a road map to help SMU students in their journey.

The career center’s four-year plan outlines steps students should consider as they prepare to choose a major, a career and a job. The guide, which begins in the fall of a student’s first year, shows it is never too early to begin preparing for a career.

“As with any big undertaking, making decisions about your area of study and ultimately your career takes planning, dedication and time,” says Caryn Statman, assistant director at the career center. “And all of these things are much easier to do when you are not rushed or under a fast-approaching deadline of graduation. So first-year students are highly encouraged to get engaged in the career planning process early.”

Statman said the plan is not necessarily a rigid set of guidelines, but a model for students to build on as they assess their individual needs. She says, for example, that some students are relatively certain of the career they will choose, while others are searching – and they are likely to take different paths.

An important part of the career plan is attending SMU’s fall and spring career fair prep days and career fairs. This fall, the fair is set for noon to 4 p.m. Thursday, September 16, in the Hughes-Trigg lower level, and more than 80 employers are expected to attend. The event is open to all SMU students and alumni.

Below is the career center’s four-year plan:


First year: fall term

Meet with a career counselor at the career center and explore potential majors and careers.
• Complete SMU’s online career tutorial, Saddle Up, the orientation program for the jobs database MustangTrak.
• Visit the career center and take various assessments at MyPlan.com. MyPlan offers assessments of values, skills, interests and personality, which can be accessed through an appointment at the career center.
• Meet with your academic adviser to explore courses and majors.
• Enroll in EDU 2308: Career Development Theory and Practice. The course is listed in the SMU course catalog.
• Establish a high GPA. Visit the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center for tutoring and writing help.

First year: spring term

Network with family, friends and other professionals in your field of interest.
• Attend career fairs and career center events.
• Join a campus organization. A list of more than 200 organizations is available from Student Activities and Multicultural Student Affairs.
• Create your resume.
• Using MustangTrak and the University Career Action Network, apply for a summer internship in an area of interest.
• Volunteer, intern or work part-time over the summer. Learn about volunteer opportunities at SMU’s Office of Leadership and Community Involvement.

Second year: fall term

Meet with a career counselor for further exploration.
• Attend the career fair and career center events.
• Research majors and career fields online at MyPlan.com.
• Talk with professors, advisers, employers and others about potential career choices.
• Choose your major, with assistance from an academic adviser.

Second year: spring term

• Meet with a career counselor to update your resume and discuss internship opportunities.
• Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, expand your knowledge of the career field you’re considering.
• Write a cover letter and polish your interviewing skills.
• Using MustangTrak and UCAN as resources, apply for a summer internship.
• Apply to become a Career Center Advocate.
• Build soft skills by becoming a leader of a campus organization.

Third year: fall term

• Meet with a career counselor to build your career plan.
• Take a career skills assessment at MyPlan.com
• Using MustangTrak, research work settings and job descriptions.
• Network with employers and recruiters by participating in speed networking at Career Fair Prep Day.
• Hold informational interviews with professors and advisers.

Third year: spring term

• Meet with a career counselor to discuss internship opportunities.
• Prepare a professional cover letter and resume.
• Research graduate schools, if you plan to attend.
• Study for the Graduate Records Examination by taking courses offered by SMU Continuing and Professional Education.
• Continue to network with professors to develop references.
Study abroad to develop needed global skills.

Fourth year: fall term

• Meet with a career counselor to define your career path.
• Attend the career fair and other career center events.
• Select a career path and apply for a job.
• Further develop your job skills through practice interviews, and network online with other professionals on LinkedIn.

Fourth Year: spring term

• Meet with a career counselor to discuss new employee success strategies.
• Attend the career fair and other career center events.
• Attend company information sessions, which are posted on MustangTrak.
• Apply and interview for jobs.
• Remember, you can visit the career center after you graduate and use its resources at no charge.

- Chris Dell ’11

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