First-Year Guide

The Center for Career Development is not where you go when you feel you have your future figured out; it's where you go to get started figuring it out. 

Career development process is an ongoing, evolving process that is unique to each person. This guide features tips, resources and events you should start to explore during your first year as a Princeton student to help you better understand your interests and possibilities you can pursue. 




Learning your values, interests, skills, and identity is an important part of your career development journey, helping you determine what's important to you and what you may want to try in the future. 

Brainstorm a list of things you may want to learn about or explore more over the next four years, including:

  • Academic areas
  • Co-curricular opportunities
  • Internship and volunteer activities
  • Career possibilities 
  • Experiences, including joining student groups, clubs and communities, and domestic/international travel experiences

These don’t need to connect to each other and you can revisit them later. Jotting these down and periodically revisiting them will help you learn more about your values, skills and interests over time and help you to use your time at Princeton well and inform your post-graduate decisions. If you don’t know what interests you or where to start, make an appointment to talk through it with a career adviser.

Learn About Yourself

Explore Career Possibilities

When you have identified a few possibilities that interest you, start to learn more about them by researching online; connecting with alumni, employers, and other professionals in the fields; and attending our programs. 

  • Explore Career Compass to research career fields, find related resources and ways to gain experience while at Princeton and read alumni profiles 
  • Find out about the pre-health path at Princeton
  • Attend the Fall HireTigers Virtual Career Fair (9/17)
  • Learn from Peer Career Advisers (PCAs) what networking actually is and how to do it as a first-year student (9/29 and 10/26)
  • Speak to Peer Career Advisers during PCA Study Break Coffee Chats (Dates will be posted in Handshake
  • Participate in our FYRE program featuring an opportunity to interact with and learn from alumni (Oct. or Nov.)
  • Sign up for a Career Chat with an alum to learn about career areas that interests you and to start to build your Princeton network 
  • Attend the Internship & Summer Funding Expo to learn what other Princeton students did this past summer and discover internships offered by Princeton University and others (11/5)
  • Attend the Industry Insights Series:
    • Architecture/Design (10/6)
    • Media/Visual Arts (11/12)
    • Education (spring)
    • Mental Health Counseling (spring)
  • Join conversations about law school for first-years and sophomores (10/29 and 11/12)
  • Learn from the PCAs about why you need LinkedIn and how to build your profile  (11/2)
  • Apply for a Princeternship (deadline in mid-October)
  • Apply to participate in spring City Treks (check back in the winter)
  • Join the Spring HireTigers Career Fair (check back for dates and details)

Gain Experience

Once you have more information about career possibilities, start gaining experience so that you know what it is like to be in those positions. You might find an internship, volunteer opportunity, or project that will give you exposure to career fields that interest you. To apply for and secure those opportunities, it is important to gain job/internship search skills and knowledge and understand the importance of professionalism. 

Plan Your Summer 

Students choose to do many different things during the summer after their first year, including relax and reflect at home, a job/internship, academic study, alumni-sponsored or independent projects. 

Many students find it’s helpful to spend their summers doing something that gives them an opportunity to grow and learn more about their interests. There’s no pressure to pick something that aligns with your career aspirations. No matter what you do, there are ways to learn and connect with your future career possibilities.

  • Read the Planning Your Summer guide
  • Review the multiple summer programs offered by Princeton that first-year students can pursue
  • Join one of the PCAs Present: Intro to the Internship Search 101 workshops (9/14 and 11/16)
  • Attend the Internship & Summer Funding Expo to learn what other Princeton students did this past summer and become familiar with internship programs offered by Princeton University and beyond (11/5)

If you need assistance weighing your options for your summer, career advisers can help you put together a plan that is right for you.

Use Academic Breaks Thoughtfully

  • Attend the Make the Most of Your Winter Break workshop (12/8)
  • Sign up for Wintersession courses and additional career exploration opportunities including virtual project work/mini-internships with alumni
  • Set aside time to reflect during winter break to consider:
    • What have you learned about yourself, your interests and skills during your first term at Princeton?
    • How can you learn more about yourself through activities (e.g., student groups, volunteering, etc.) and courses? 
    • How can you build in opportunities to reflect when the spring term begins and throughout your time at Princeton?

Practice Self-Care

While thinking about the future and exploring possibilities can be exciting, searching for opportunities and making decisions can be stressful. It is helpful to recognize when you feel stressed and to develop coping strategies that work for you.

It is important to identify what helps reduce your stress and anxiety, especially during job or internship search. Examples of coping strategies include:

  • Discussing your thoughts and feelings with others
  • Staying physically active
  • Music, mediation and/or yoga
  • Reading and journaling

You can meet with Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) for broader confidential counseling and psychological support and/or a Center for Career Development adviser for career strategy and planning support. Both CPS and career advising are dedicated resources that welcome conversation about these topics. 

Related Resources


Advice for First-Year Students