Today more than ever before, you need to take responsibility for your own career s and take the time to find and explore career options and plan for the future. Besides your knowledge in doing research, publishing, presenting at conferences, you need to be constantly assessing yourself and your career goals. Following are the 10 most important things you should prepare yourself for the best possible position for getting a job.


Always keep in mind that it is NEVER TOO EARLY to begin planning your career. You need to be thinking critically about your future. What do you want to be doing in 10 years? How are you going to get there? We tend to think that career planning is the same as job hunting. It is not. In fact, career planning is a host of professional and personal actions people take to educate themselves and the outside world about their unique talents and capabilities. It is not an activity you start only when you are looking for a job. As you go through the active career planning process, you will become a better job seeker.

JL: Planning your career means having your goals and finding the ways to achieve them. When you set your goals, it is easier to maintain supports and efforts to achieve, including difficult time when you have to make decision to change career or jobs. Do it the earlier the better. And you must review it from time to time to see if you are on the right track.


Self-assessment is the cornerstone of successful career development. It is the process of evaluating your own skills, interests, and values. Ask yourself these critical questions.

              Questions               Answers:

How do I define success? _________________________________
What are my interests? _________________________________
What kind of skills do I have? __________________________________
What are my work related values? __________________________________
What is my work style? __________________________________

Some excellent books for self-assessment questions are: "Outside the Ivory Tower" by Margaret Newhouse, "Wishcraft" by Barbara Sher and "What Color is Your Parachute" by Richard Bolles.

JL: Questions are broken down and blank lines are added for you to fill in answers yourself.


It is critical to identify a mentor and it is preferable that s/he does not have to be your advisor. This person needs to be someone who you feel comfortable with and who is going to take an interest in you and your progress. The key is to identify someone who can "show you the ropes."

JL: A mentor is your role model, i.e. somebody you admire, trust and look up to. Not only does s/he have knowledge, but s/he also is successful in life. S/he is someone you dream to be.


Conferences are your opportunity to practice making presentations and networking . One way to make networking easier at conferences is to get the programs ahead of time and take time to look it over and pick out the posters and talks you want to attend. Also, make a list of important people you would like to meet and make a point to find them and talk to them. Don't be shy about this. Most people will be flattered that you take the initiative to come up to them and want to talk about their field. You may also let them know what you have accomplished and what you are capable of doing.

JL: This is a chance for you to apply "Market Thyself" in real life. VTIC (VACETS Technical International Conference) is another opportunity for VACETS members to meet each other and expand your network. Remember to have your resume ready to pass out or in case you are asked.


They can be the best and most valuable source of information about various career fields. Think of as many different people you can talk to about careers. Her e are some possible suggestions of who might comprise your network: fellow class mates, colleagues, your friends and their parents, your own parents' friends, past employers, former teachers, scientists and engineers you meet at seminars, conferences, and workshops, and alumni or others.

JL: In real estate business people talk about location, location, and location. In career planning and real life you need CONNECTION, CONNECTION, and CONNECTION. Yes, networking is very important in your career and life.


These activities can be valuable ways to meet different people. Involvement in community activities also demonstrates to others that you are able to take on several tasks at once, a skill valued by many employers. These activities may also provide opportunities for you to present information in front of other people.

JL: Extra curriculum and community activities are chances for you to learn and improve leadership skill. If you have spare time, you can join VACETS AdCom (Administrative Committees) to gain some experience of real and/or cyber community.


Learning about careers outside of academia means you must look to "the real worl d." Newspapers are source of information on non-traditional careers. The radio, especially, National Public Radio, can also provide information about unique careers. The Internet, as you know, can also be a great source for jobs. Subscribe or get access to as many association mailings or letters, or publications in your area as possible. Keep an ongoing file of interesting job opportunities you come across. Having the knowledge of the types of jobs available and where they are is beneficial.


If you want more in-depth, current, first-hand information about a career field or even a particular position, nothing beats an informational interview. It is a way to do research and learn about a job, not to get a job offer, at least not directly. The advantage of an informational interview are that you can ask questions that might not be appropriate to ask in a job interview, you get to see people in their actual work environment, and you can also get feedback and advice. Come prepared with questions and do your homework so the interviewer knows you have thought about what you want to know.

JL: The good time to do this kind of information interviews is when you do not need a job. You do it just to see what the market is about and what kind of jobs available out there. There are two advantages. First, you feel more confident to ask whatever you want to know. Secondly, you always force yourself to update your resume.


Look for small awards or grants that you may apply for. These are great things to do in order to begin to establish a funding track record. Think about addres sing important issues in your field not just in your own specific area. You also need to try to establish your own research niche.

JL: This is more appropriate for academic.


Ask to see other people's curriculum vitae or resumes to see how they organized their material and highlighted their strengths. Have a brainstorming session with yourself or someone you feel comfortable with about your strengths and talents. For some non-academic jobs, it might be important to include a skills section of techniques or training that you have had that the potential employer might be interested in. Once your curriculum vitae or resume is prepared, always keep it updated!

JL: Even though you do not need to change job, always update your resume every six months. So, you can see clearer your profession or career move.

(Hendree E. Jones)

This page is maintained by VACETS.