Test Drive a Career

Two grad students giving a pitch

Researching a potential career will give you an idea of what you might want to do, but the best way to confirm an option as the right fit is through experience. Activities are aimed at helping you engage with professionals in various careers to deepen your understanding about what it would be like to have a career in that field. Participants work with staff in our office to identify both careers of interest and engaging experiential opportunities through which you can test drive a career.

Many of these activities take the form of individualized experiences aimed at meeting your specific needs. A key element of these experiences is that you are empowered to make them your own, often for the benefit of many others. These activities often take the form of job simulations, employer site visits, shadowing, or internships. Sometimes activities to explore a career option fall into several of these categories. Increasingly, alumni from the Careers Beyond Academia Program are sharing and working with us to co-create opportunities, too!

  • Job simulations: Job simulations immerse participants in tasks required by a particular career to help determine whether or not the job feels like a good fit. They can take place within a workshop, class, on campus, or at home.
  • Employer site visits: Site visits allow participants to get a feel for whether a work environment or an organization might be a good match. Observing the actual workplace and networking with employees can affect your decision to pursue an opportunity. These can be on-site or virtual.
  • Shadowing: Shadowing allows participants to observe professionals in their work environments to gain a better sense of a given job’s responsibilities. It might take place in an afternoon or in several days over the course of a semester, and might include project participation.
  • Internships: Internships are an immersive way to try a career while gaining hands-on work experience. These experiences might emanate from one of the above, and might take place on- or off-campus over the course of a few weeks or months. Flexible internships might even take the form of a few hours a week over the course of several semesters, and can include on-site and/or remote involvement.

Teams of participants work alongside professionals to test drive a career

Testimonials from participants:

“I had the opportunity to learn about science communication and entrepreneurship to explore different options and to make an informed decision.”–Advisory Board member

“No longer am I trying to figure out what the possibilities are. Now I am exploring whether this is really the specific thing I want to do.”–Ph.D. student in human development

“I wasn’t trying to get a job at that time. I didn’t even bring a CV with me. I really just genuinely wanted to find out more about the company.”–Alumna (who ended up with a job at that company)

“Looking back, my career choice was very much off-the-beaten-path compared with other students in my department! That’s why, on behalf of [the company I work for], I would love to help organize an opportunity for Cornell graduate students to visit our site to help them decide whether they might also be interested in pursuing a career in industry… I know an experience like this would have greatly helped me solidify my long-term career goals when I was still a student!”–Alumna