Career Center

Understand Experience

Test Your Strengths and Interests in the World

Biker riding down a mountain
Photo credit: tom.arthurp11

Duke students are renowned for being super-involved on and off of campus; filling their schedules with research, volunteer work, student organizations, creative endeavors, entrepreneurial ventures, studying abroad, internships. You name it, Duke students are doing it!  

With each experience you select, you are choosing to develop and utilize particular skills, work with or for certain people, function within a specific structure and environment, acquire particular kinds of knowledge, and grapple with particular problems.  The Career Center recommends you examine each of your opportunities to better understand:

  • What you want to learn or gain?
  • How you want to challenge yourself?
  • What you want to do more (or less) of?  
  • What curiosities do you want to satisfy?

By looking at your array of choices with a critical eye, you will be well equipped to determine your next steps, whether your goal is to enhance current knowledge and skills or set forth in a newly-discovered direction.

Think Differently About Experience 

Once you have determined what you want to learn next by reflecting on your past experiences and future aspirations, there are many ways to pursue your immediate goals. Opportunities abound on campus and in the local community to develop specific knowledge and skills, to build relationships, and to generate further insight about who you are becoming. The key is to be discerning in your choices: the value of any given experience can only be measured in relation to your unique goals and interests.
The list below suggests some of the avenues for gaining experience. Keep in mind that no single club, project, or activity has a monopoly on the knowledge and skill development you seek!

• Student organizations (active participation and/or leadership)

• Community engagement and volunteering
• Research with a professor
• Independent research
• Job shadowing
• Entrepreneurial ventures
• Significant projects, in class or out
• Athletics
• Hobbies
• Honors thesis
• Campus and national competitions  
• Tutoring
• Military

Career Center advisers are eager to talk with you about how these and other experiences may be
the right fit for your personal priorities and interests.


Think of internships as a broad set of additional experiences that may complement your on- and off-campus activities and coursework or help you bridge gaps in your exploration, learning, and development. Internships are most often explicitly pre-professional in nature and are one more tool for gaining self-insight, knowledge and skills.
As with your other activities and courses, it is essential that you take a critical approach when pursuing and selecting from the range of internship choices. There is no objective measure for a good internship. The best internships are those that align with your unique values, skills, interests, and personality and that make sense given what else you have learned and experienced thus far.
As you learn more and clarify your interests with each experience, your priorities and goals will likely change. Over time, you may choose to mix and match a variety of internship experiences along with your coursework and other experiences to best meet your needs and interests.

Start Investigating Internships

  • Meet with a career adviser to clarify what you hope to learn from an internship and develop a personalized strategy—the earlier you begin the conversation, the better!  Continue periodic check-in meetings throughout your exploration and search.
  • Request time to talk with members of your Board of Directors for advice and perspective. Keep your directors up to date throughout your exploration and search.
  • Talk to other students about their internship experiences.

Consider Professional Fellowships

Though many students only associate fellowships with academic pursuits, professional fellowships are a great option for those seeking short-term work experience, training, and mentorship after graduation. These competitive opportunities—found throughout the world—are typically geared toward cultivating young leaders in various professional fields. As such, they can serve as a fantastic springboard for your career.

For more information about post-graduate professional fellowships, make an appointment with a career adviser and explore from our website.

For academic fellowships, e.g., Rhodes Scholars Program, the Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows at Duke and its website are excellent resources.

86% of Duke seniors
responding to a 2016 survey
reported having had
at least one internship before graduation.   

Stretch your summer dollar!

There are many options if you act early: apply for competitive funding to cover your costs; stay close to home; take on a part-time, paid job alongside an internship; or build up your savings before the summer begins.

Next Steps and Selected Resources:
Understand Experience—Test your strengths and interest in the world

▢ Schedule a career counseling appointment to identify steps toward experiences that strategically align with your curiosities.
▢ Develop a list of things you want to learn about or to be able to do.
▢ Use the DukeGroups directory to identify student organizations that match your interests.
▢ Try out something that builds a skill that you would like to develop.
▢ Research opportunities to pursue your interests in Durham and the broader community.
▢ Assess whether your time is being filled by the most meaningful commitments. Use the Opportunity Buffet as food for thought.
▢Create an account and set up personalized searches in each of these Duke databases to become more aware of the options.
     ► CareerConnections     ► iNet    ► UCAN
▢ Use DukeList to identify volunteer, research, and work opportunities at Duke.
▢ Attend a career fair or another event.
▢ Look for leads and ideas using these tools:
     ►Internship Series Online    ►CareerBeam     ►GoinGlobal     ►LinkedIn