Career Planning & Exploration

There are over 190,000 alumni from Pitt on LinkedIn and if you were to look at each one of their profiles, you’d see their career paths are all very different. You’d also see they evolved over time and most likely did not spend their entire careers in the same role or even at the same company.  

It is up to you how you will spend your time in college and how you will apply the knowledge you learned while in SCI. Due to the sheer number of options available to students in such a growing discipline, half of the challenge will be deciding where you want to work and the type of work you’ll be doing after graduation. While exciting, rapid changes in technology will make it almost impossible to plan out your entire career now. Please keep this in mind and be reasonable when developing a career plan, preferably for no more than 3-5 years in the future.  

Developing a Plan

While you may come across a variety of articles and videos regarding career planning, the five steps outlined below are consistently a part of those plans and can help you get started without feeling too overwhelmed. Feel free to revisit these steps as you move throughout your career.

Step 1: Explore your career options

It’s helpful when developing a career plan to fully grasp what you can do with your degree and experience. Here are some helpful resources to explore technical, as well as more general, career options:

Step 2: Better understand yourself

Did you happen to notice as you were exploring the various career options, that some professions stood out more than others or some did not sound interesting at all? That’s because everyone has their own unique personality, strengths, skills, and values. Better understanding what those are will not only help you be more effective in your career planning but will increase the odds you will land in an organization or role that’s best suited for you. 

There are several career assessments that you can take for free as a student. One of those is YouScience, which takes into consideration your unique interests and values, as well as your aptitude, in relation to occupations. It is especially useful for SCI students because it doesn’t just tell you that you’d be suited for a job in the tech industry, but it breaks it down into the types of roles within it (developer, analyst, product manager, etc.). To take YouScience for free, please request an invitation from your SCI Career Consultant. Undergraduate students can also request one from their academic advisor.  

Here are some additional online assessments: 

Once you better understand yourself, you can begin to answer questions, such as: 

  • What strengths do I bring to the tech industry?
  • What motivates me to do great work?
  • What values are most important to me?
  • What do you want your life post-graduation to look like (where you will be living, how much you will be making, how many hours do you want to be working)?

These findings will also influence how you write your resume, how you interview for opportunities, advocate for yourself, and more. Please note that most of the Fortune 500 companies utilize either CliftonStrengths or the Big Five Personality Test in some aspects of the hiring and onboarding process, as well as ongoing professional development for staff.   

Step 3: Do your research

Now that you have a better understanding of yourself and the options you may have, it’s time to delve into what it would be like to work for specific companies or industries. At this point it can be helpful to create a spreadsheet where you can keep track of them. You could organize companies by location (pick 5-6 places you’d like to live), by industry or type of setting (corporate, academic, government, non-profit, start-up, etc.). Buzzfile is great for curating company lists based on location and both Firsthand and Handshake provide extensive details regarding types of industries.   

You can later use this document to track your progress with each option by noting whether you’ve interacted with anyone from their company, applied to jobs, interviewed, or received any offers. Be sure to use your values to help steer you in the right direction, so for instance if you determined that earning a lot of money was important, be sure to check out sites like Glassdoor to review salary information. Or if you want to be sure that a company stands behind its diversity statements, check out a list of questions you could ask them here. However, to really understand how it’d be like to work for a company you have to go straight to the source.  

Since Pitt alumni have been in your shoes before, they can be an excellent source for what’s referred to as informational interviews. These are brief conversations where you can ask a professional what it’s like to work in their role/company/industry, as well as learn more about the company culture, also known as what they value and how they treat their employees. Check out Pitt Commons, as well as the alumni page on LinkedIn to identify relevant professionals.  

Be sure to take advantage of employer information sessions, workshops, site visits, and more that are frequently posted on this site, Handshake, and the SCI event calendar. You can also delve into more information regarding building connections here.  

Step 4: Create measurable goals

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by taking classes and trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, so try to break down your career planning into what’s called SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) goals. Some examples would be:  

  • In September, I will schedule an appointment with my Career Consultant in the Career Center to review my resume and how to best optimize it for summer internship applications.
  • I will conduct company research on (name of company) a week before they will be at the fall career fair so I can feel prepared to talk to them about summer internships.
  • In October, I will message two Pitt alumni on LinkedIn who are working in the robotics industry so I can learn more about the work that they do in Pittsburgh.

Try not to compare yourself to others and how far along they are in their planning but be advised that most college internship and job recruitment occurs in the fall for summer opportunities, so keep that in mind when scheduling these career goals. 

Step 5: Take action

There’s a saying that ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish,’ so now that you’ve done all the planning, it’s time to take action. Aim to complete 1-2 SMART career goals a semester or check out some of these activities to get started: 

  • Join a student organization – a great way to meet others and hear from career professionals 
  • Attend an employer information session – learn more about what they do and how to follow-up on future applications 
  • Apply to be in the iServe program – build confidence in your abilities while assisting a local non-profit and learning project management skills 
  • Work on a personal project – employers don’t necessarily care where you obtained your experience, but that you can demonstrate your skill set 
  • Make an appointment with your SCI Career Consultant – discuss your plan, get your resume reviewed, and more 

If you’re really feeling stuck, there’s a career planning book offered for free through Vanderbilt University that goes into more detail regarding some of the steps above. Check it out here.  

Please do not hesitate to reach out to your SCI Career Consultant or Student Success Team if you’re feeling overwhelmed. The Wellness Center can also assist if there are other factors getting in the way of thinking clearly about your career. Know that it is natural that your plan changes over time – the important thing is to cycle through the steps with your new interests and ask for assistance as needed.