Undergraduate Career Planning Timeline
Smart career planning starts at the beginning of your first semester at Penn State—don't wait until your final year to get moving! Here is a suggested timeline to help you stay on track.
- Start your Penn State degree program off on the right foot—study hard! Some employers exclude students or recent graduates with GPAs below a certain level (often, 3.0) from consideration for co-op, internship, or full-time opportunities, so maintaining a good GPA will help you have access to the greatest number of opportunities. If you are thinking about going to graduate school eventually, a strong GPA will be essential.
- Learn about the resources offered through the Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations office, including the eCareer electronic job search system, which is available to engineering students at any Penn State campus and to students who intend to pursue an engineering major.
- Write a résumé, if you don't already have one. Don't worry if you don't have a lot of information to include yet—most first-year students don't. You will gradually add items to your résumé as you go through your degree program; as you do, you should remove high school information (ideally, after your first semester at Penn State).
- Learn how to put together an effective cover letter that will emphasize your strongest skills.
- Register for an eCareer account and create your profile—which will require you to submit a résumé—for approval, and apply for internship positions of interest. You may be able to secure an internship as early as the summer after your first year at Penn State.
- Purchase a good-quality interview suit that you can use throughout your college years.
- Attend engineering and University-wide career events, including employer information sessions, seminars, and career fairs. These events offer you a great opportunity to meet and network with employers, even if you aren't yet sure what kind of job you want or even what major you want to pursue. Even if you aren't a student at the University Park campus, you are always welcome to attend any of our career events; keep your eyes open for career events at your campus as well (if available).
- Look into the different kinds of engineering majors available at Penn State. Talk to an adviser if you have questions about the majors or your job prospects with one or more majors.
- Start building relationships with faculty and instructors. You may need their help with recommendations if you choose to go to graduate school.
- Look into the various professionally-oriented student organizations at Penn State. Getting involved with student organizations will help you to develop interpersonal and leadership skills, and may help you to make professional connections.
- Update your résumé with any career-related experience you have had so far.
- Use eCareer to look for co-op or internship opportunities and apply for positions of interest.
- Practice your networking skills at career events, seminars, and fairs. By this point, you probably know what you intend to major in, so you can focus your efforts on employers who are looking for those majors.
- Join a student organization related to your intended major.
- Continue to build relationships with faculty and instructors at Penn State.
- If possible, consider doing a mock interview to work on your interview skills. If you are not at the University Park campus, check with your campus career office to see what kinds of mock interview options may be available to you.
- If you're considering a number of different fields of interest, arrange some informational interviews with professionals in those fields.
- Make sure your voice mail message sounds professional once you start interviewing.
- Likewise, consider your social media presence and the type of message it could send to employers (note: they DO look!). Clean up your Facebook profile and any other sites, as needed, to make sure their content is appropriate. At the very least, make any controversial content private.
- Update your résumé. Add all professional positions you have held, including any volunteer or leadership positions.
- Use eCareer to look for co-op or internship opportunities. Apply for all positions of interest.
- Attend career events, networking events, and career fairs at Penn State. Research the employers who will be attending the events and focus your efforts on those of most interest to you.
- Join a professional organization in your intended field and use every opportunity to network with other professionals.
- If you're considering graduate or professional school, investigate your options and get information on entrance exams that may be required (e.g., GRE).
- Take graduate school entrance exams, if applicable.
- Update your résumé. Add all professional positions you have held, including any volunteer or leadership positions. In some cases, you may need to create targeted versions of your résumé for different positions or employers.
- If you're concerned about your interview skills, sign up for a mock interview and practice. If you are not at the University Park campus, check with your campus career office to see what kinds of mock interview options may be available to you.
- Ramp up your full-time job search, using eCareer and Nittany Lion Career Network (the University-wide electronic job search system managed by Career Services). Thoroughly research employers with open positions, and apply to all positions of interest.
- Attend career events, networking events, and career fairs at Penn State in order to meet employers who are hiring.
- Sign up for interviews with employers who are interviewing at Penn State; on-campus interviewing is common around the time of large career events, but recruiters may also visit the University at other times during the year. If you are not at the University Park campus but you are planning an interview, talk to the recruiter about your options for a telephone interview if you are not able to make it to University Park.
- Contact people in your professional network—including professors, instructors, and former employers—to request references.
- If you have had successful co-op or internship experiences, you may already have one or more full-time job offers from employers with whom you have already worked. Weigh the pros and cons of your options before you accept any offer.
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