FAQ: Career Exploration & Planning

Career Exploration and Planning

The career development process is brand-new to most Princeton students when they arrive on campus, although an increasing number are aware of its importance even during their first years. As your student begins to define their goals and career interests, here is what you should know.

Early Career Development

When should my son or daughter start visiting Career Services?

We recommend that students visit us at least once during their first semester. Career counselors can discuss their interests, coursework and majors when there is still time to plan the next few years. From there, we encourage ongoing engagement:

  • Workshops and Panels: Career Services holds programs throughout the year in various campus locations, including the residential colleges. Topics are relevant to all students, and some are conveniently held within the residential colleges.
  • Internship and Job Search: By the end of the fall semester or beginning of spring of a student's freshman year, they can begin to search for summer opportunities. Career Services is a great place to begin.

What should my son or daughter major in?

College majors often do not translate into specific career fields. All Princeton graduates bring fundamental analytical, critical-thinking, problem-solving and writing skills to the market. This qualifies them for variety of professional positions, regardless of their majors.

Career Services encourages students to take a wide range of courses and then select a major that they find intriguing. This increases the chance that they will uncover topics for independent research in which they are truly interested. 

  • Consult faculty: Faculty and Directors of Studies are the primary advising contacts for students so it is critical that students speak to them.
  • Seek additional insight: Students are also encouraged to speak with Department Representatives and current upperclass students.
  • Attend the Majors Fair: This is held each fall and offers an efficient way for students to investigate their interests.

What if my son or daughter does not know what he or she wants to do?

This is normal. Many college students do not know what they truly want to do during college or even as they prepare to graduate. If a student is unsure about his or her interests and options:

  • Encourage a visit to Career Services: Our career counselors are available to help. If the student and career counselor agree that it would be helpful, the student can take a career assessment that we will review with the student.
  • Have them mine the Alumni Careers Network: Approximately 5,200 Princeton alumni have volunteered to speak with students about the choices they made in terms of majors, careers and professional schools. This gives students the opportunity to learn about a variety of career opportunities while making valuable connections with Princeton alumni.

Ways Family Members Can Help

What are specific ways parents and family members can help students with their career exploration and job search?

The support of loved ones during the career exploration process is very important.

  • Be there: Parents and family members should talk to students about their interests and encourage them to explore different areas of study and career options.
  • Foster connections: If your son or daughter is interested in a field that you or someone you know is involved in, arrange an informational interview or "shadow day" so the student can ask questions about the field and meet other people with similar interests. 
  • Point them to our resources: Encourage your son or daughter to visit the Career Services office to learn about our services.

If you have specific questions about the career exploration or job search process, or want to learn more about how you can help, we invite you to contact us.