September 21, 2016

Students know they will need many resources for a successful career search, ranging from a strong résumé and letters of recommendation to a support network of career counselors, mentors and peers.

One critical resource they might not realize they are missing? Time to reflect.

“It is so important that students give themselves time to really think about what they care about, what their interests are and how they make decisions, especially because choosing a major and thinking about career paths are such big decisions,” said Hannah Guffey, a career counselor with the University of Virginia’s Career Center. 

Guffey is one of several career counselors running Career Exploration Workshops that meet one hour per week for four weeks. Geared to first- and second-year students, the workshops encourage younger students to take time out of often-packed schedules to think carefully about their future. They typically include 10 to 12 students and use small-group discussions, self-evaluation and group activities to help students identify their interests and the majors that best align with their goals.

“It encourages them to think more in-depth about what is influencing their decisions,” Guffey said. “If they start that process earlier on, it makes the actual job search so much easier.”

For third-year student Bhakti Raval, the workshops worked exactly as planned. She completed a Career Exploration Workshop as a second-year student and decided to enter UVA’s Political and Social Thought program soon after.

“Through the workshop, I realized that I have a lot of broad interests and I did not want to be limited by choosing just one,” Raval said. “Studying political and social thought allows me to pull from all of my different interests and take classes across disciplines.”

The workshop also convinced Raval to become more involved with the Career Center. Now, she is a career peer educator for the Public Service & Government Career Community, designed to bring together students, faculty and employers working in those fields.

“During my workshop, I realized that I had a passion for community service and for helping my peers,” Raval said. “As a peer educator, I get to help other students and hone my own skills. I have done a lot of public speaking, as well as creative writing and marketing.”

Looking back, Raval has one key recommendation for first- and second-year students.

“Really utilize these resources early on,” she said. “Many first-year students do not realize that they can start using the Career Center as soon as they get here.”

UVA’s Career Center offers numerous resources to help students develop the skills they need for every stage of their career search, from choosing a major to landing a postgraduate job. This can include everything from one-on-one career counseling sessions to résumé and cover letter review workshops to connections with internships or research opportunities. 

“I think it is very important for students to connect with the Career Center and start asking these questions earlier in their time at UVA,” Guffey said. “If they gain confidence in the things they care about early on, it will lessen the anxiety that comes during their fourth year.”

In addition to Career Exploration Workshops, students can sign up for one of UVA’s six Career Communities based around different interest areas. Each community has a dedicated career adviser who alerts students to handpicked job and internship opportunities and facilitates workshops with alumni and employers working in the field.

Students can also pursue experiential learning opportunities through the UVA Internship Center opened last year, or connect with alumni through the Virginia Alumni Mentoring program, which pairs students with alumni who can provide firsthand insight on their field of interest.

Everette Fortner, UVA’s associate vice president of career and professional development, shared information about these and other resources at the Career Center in a recent Facebook Live chat. Hear what he has to say in the video below.

Students interested in attending Career Exploration Workshops this fall or in the spring can sign up here.

Media Contact

Caroline Newman

Senior Writer and Assistant Editor of Illimitable Office of University Communications