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How to Find Out if Your Field of Interest is a Match for You

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  • 0:01 Career Field
  • 1:09 Exploring Careers
  • 3:44 How to Get an Internship
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

How can you know if the career you've chosen is the right one for you? In this lesson, we'll examine ways to explore careers and areas of interest, including through informational interviews, job shadowing, and internships.

Career Field

Geordie is in college, and he thinks he knows what he wants to do afterwards. He's pretty sure that he wants to become a lawyer. After all, he loves debate and thinks it would be a lot of fun to be in court all day, arguing his side in front of the judge. And he knows that lawyers make good money, so that's another bonus.

Geordie is thinking about his career, or occupational field. There are many, many careers out there. Geordie is thinking about becoming a lawyer, but he could also work in business, medicine, the arts, education, or many other areas. He could be a writer, economist, salesman, IT guy, or any number of other careers.

Many people have an idea of what types of careers they are interested in. Geordie, for example, knows that he is interested in becoming a lawyer. But is he sure that the law is the right field for him? What does he really know about what it's like to be a lawyer day in and day out?

Let's look at three ways that Geordie can find out if law is right for him: internships, job shadowing, and informational interviews.

Exploring Careers

So, Geordie thinks that being a lawyer might be the right career for him. But he's not really sure what it would be like to be a lawyer. He thinks being in court would be fun, and he knows that lawyers make good money, but he's kind of fuzzy on the details of being a lawyer.

Geordie needs to find a way to explore his career choice. The best way to do that is through either an internship, job shadowing, or an informational interview. An informational interview is a conversation with someone who is in a career you are interested in. It's a chance to ask questions about what it's really like to be in that position.

For example, Geordie might want to set up an informational interview with a lawyer at a local firm or at the district attorney's office. He can ask questions, like, 'What's a typical day like at your job?' or 'What skills are important for this job?' He could even ask about salary, though he'll want to ask that in a general way, like, 'What range of salaries can a lawyer expect to make?' instead of 'What do you make?'

An informational interview is a good first step in finding out more information about a career. But to get an even more in-depth look at a day in the life of an attorney, Geordie might want to set up a day of job shadowing, which allows a person to follow someone around for a day or a few days to see what their job is like.

Geordie, for example, could shadow a lawyer. He might be surprised to find that very little time is spent in court. Instead, he might discover that a lawyer spends long hours doing research and writing motions and briefs. If research and writing aren't enjoyable to Geordie, he might figure out during job shadowing that the law is not right for him.

But let's say that he does like those things, and he believes that he'd make a good lawyer. The next thing that Geordie might want to do is to get an internship, or on-the-job training. Internships might be paid or unpaid, and they might offer college credit.

At his internship, Geordie will be able to work in a law firm and really get an inside look at what it's like to work there for months on end. Unlike an informational interview, which lasts a short amount of time, or job shadowing, which might last a day or a few days at most, an internship will last for months. During that time, Geordie might discover that he doesn't really like the long hours required of lawyers. Or he might discover that he thrives in the legal world. Either way, he'll have an in-depth idea of whether this is the right career for him.

How to Get an Internship

Okay, so how can Geordie land an internship at a legal firm or district attorney's office? The first place that Geordie should go, whether he wants an informational interview, job shadowing opportunity, or an internship, is his school's career center. There, they have access to many different local companies and alumni to help him on his search. They can also give him advice as to where else he might find those things.

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