Student Life

Career Services for Students

Fostering the path to a purposeful future.

Across multiple schools and 100+ areas of study–academic excellence and career preparation are paramount to the Western Colorado University education. Through a combination of small class sizes, attentive professors who are experts in their field, state-of-the-art-facilities and unique opportunities, our mission is to help students find their path to a purposeful future.

Taking the next step

Two students meet with an employer at Western’s career fair.

There will never be a better time than now to prepare for life after Western.

As a student at Western, you don’t need to wait until graduation to begin planning for your career. Every year, you can achieve a wide variety of personal and academic goals to ensure that you’ll have the education and experience you need to thrive in the competitive job market. Keep yourself on track by following these simple steps throughout your college years.

Career exploration planning

The first step to landing the career of your dreams is to find out more about your strengths, opportunities for growth and what you value in a career. From there, you can begin to pave the pathway to your ideal career.

Career exploration timeline

We know that preparing for a career can seem overwhelming. That’s why we broke it down into four phases based on your four-year academic journey to simplify your goals throughout the process. Just follow these career exploration steps to stay on track during your time at Western.

In your first year, you should clarify your interests, sharpen your skills, get involved and begin to develop a network of faculty, staff and community members who will support you throughout your time at Western.

Set Yourself Up for Success

  • Attend class and schedule your study time (aim for two hours of studying for every hour of in-class time). It is easier to maintain a strong GPA than to raise a low GPA. Strong grades will provide more financial and academic opportunities down the road.
  • Get to know each of your professors individually. Introduce yourself on the first day of class and ask your professor, “What do I need to do to be successful in this course?”
  • Speak with professors, Career Services staff and others who are familiar with your field of study (or your potential field of study).

Explore Majors and Careers

  • Create your Focus2 account, complete the inventories and self-assessments and explore major and career options that may interest you based on your skills, personality and lifestyle preferences. (Note: Focus2 requires your ‘’ email address for account creation.)
  • Activate your Handshake account and begin to explore jobs and internships that interest you. If you have trouble accessing Handshake, contact Career Services.
  • Take general education courses that interest you. Exploring a range of courses early will help you get a sense of what you do and do not want to study, in addition to completing general education requirements.
  • Read the university course catalog to understand major and minor requirements and academic options.

Get Involved

In your second year, solidify your commitment to your major(s), continue exploring your career options and begin identifying experiential learning opportunities (internships, student teaching, research and study abroad.)

Deepen Your Involvement

  • Deepen your involvement in on-campus and community organizations.
    Consider taking on more active leadership roles within organizations or through campus employment.

Declare a Major

  • Identify a major that fits both your personal and career interests.
  • Consult with your academic advisor, family, Career Services or others to discuss major requirements and career prospects.

Prepare for Internship and Job Applications

  • Write your first resume and cover letter based on a position description to which you could see yourself applying in the future.
  • Participate in Career Services events like workshops and career fairs (even if you’re not ready to apply quite yet!)

In your third year, gain relevant experience, build your resume and expand your professional network.

Start Building Your Reference List

  • Keep in touch with former employers, teachers and supervisors from past jobs and volunteer experiences.
  • Begin networking with professionals in your career field via conferences, presentations and LinkedIn.

Get Serious About Work Experience

  • Explore internships, jobs and volunteer opportunities that demonstrate your commitment to your field.
  • Talk to faculty about opportunities to assist with research.

Develop Your Employment Portfolio

  • Ask your advisor, supervisor, parents and Career Services to provide feedback on your resume and cover letter.
  • Give your social media profiles a tune up. Employers will search for you online via platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and others!

In your fourth year, put your experience, knowledge and skills to work and activate your plan for life after Western.

Put It All Together

  • Using your resume, cover letter and social media presence, package your education, experience, community engagement and skills in a way that defines your personal brand.
  • Participate in Career Services events to polish your materials and get interviewing experience.

Initiate Your Career Search

  • Plan your search strategy, including networking, leveraging of online resources and databases, graduate school planning and personal preferences (e.g. location, desired salary, non-career considerations).
  • Develop a personal branding strategy: How will you market yourself? What do you want potential employers to know about you?
  • Apply, interview and accept a great job or graduate school offer!

The first step to landing the career of your dreams is finding out more about yourself. The tools below will allow you to explore your personality traits, goals and reflect on the things you value in a career. Through this career exploration process, you’ll be able to identify majors and career paths that suit you.

Focus2 is an online tool to help you define your interests and align them with Western’s majors and the careers that they may lead you to. Click below to learn more about how to activate your account and get started!

First-time users

Create a new Focus2 account


  • When prompted, use access code “mountaineers”
  • You must register using your ‘’ email address

Returning users

Login to Focus2

Get the most out of Focus2

1. Complete the personal inventories and self-assessments

  • Two personal inventories will help you understand your academic strengths and career planning readiness.
  • Five self-assessments will help you to understand your work interests, personality, values, skills and leisure preferences.
  • Tip: You may re-do these inventories and assessments as many times as you like.

2. Explore majors and careers

  • Use the “combine assessments” option to explore how the multiple dimensions of you might match with particular majors and/or career paths.
  • You also may explore careers on your own, compare occupations side-by-side and see how particular majors at Western may lead to diverse career paths.
  • These tools will help you learn about work environments, required education, potential salaries and job titles, and the present and future demand of career fields.

3. Save your profile so you can re-visit and update later

  • You may save majors/careers that interest you so you can come back later.
  • Remember that you can update your self-assessments throughout your college career to see how your academic and career interests change over time.

4. Take action!

  • Contact Career Services before or after you’ve explored Focus2 on your own to discuss how this information can help you to clarify your career plans after Western and how you can be preparing now for your future.
  • You can schedule an appointment with Career Services at your convenience through Handshake.


Choosing your major and career path are complex decisions that may include data like that provided by Focus2 in addition to other factors like input from family and your academic advisor, feedback from other career or personal assessments, work with Career Services and a multitude of personal considerations. Focus2 is a reputable tool used by hundreds of universities around the country, but your results should not be interpreted as prescribing or mandating any particular major or career path. Western provides Focus2 as a tool to support students in making informed, thoughtful choices about these important educational and life decisions.

Comprehensive Personal and Career Exploration Resources

  • College In Colorado is a comprehensive education and career planning site from the Colorado Department of Higher Education that includes self-assessments for interests, skills and values, as well as a resume builder, online portfolio builder and more.
  • My Next Move is a service of the U.S. Department of Labor that will help you explore career options through keyword search, industry or personal interests. Career data is provided through the federal O*NET database with occupational roles, salary outlooks and employment trends.
  • NCDA Career Planning Resources is full of free resources that have been vetted and compiled by the National Career Development Association. Resources include self-assessments, occupational information, data on employment trends, tutorial videos, job search resources and more.


These assessments are built to be accessible, free versions of tests that traditionally are offered only by trained professionals. These versions should not be assumed to provide scientifically valid results but may provide valuable feedback that will help you interrogate your own interests, values, skills and styles.

  • The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is based on Keirsey Temperament Theory, which will help you understand how you communicate and take action.
  • The Big Five identifies your dominant personality trait, which may help you to understand your learning styles and work preferences.
  • The DISC Personality Test helps you find out how the Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance (DISC) factors predict your behavior toward others and the everyday things you do.
  • 16personalities is based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) questionnaire. This is a quick assessment that applies archetypes to the classic MBTI types.
  • The Career Cluster Interest Survey asks you to rate the activities you enjoy doing, subjects you enjoy studying and personal qualities to identify “career clusters” that may be a good fit for you.

*Western does not contract with or endorse these self-assessments. Links are provided only for exploratory purposes, to encourage self-reflection and dialogue. Any free Internet assessment should be approached with a critical eye. Career Services is available to debrief your results but is not certified or licensed to interpret any specific results.

Career Information & Data

  • Career One Stop is a U.S. Department of Labor site with career exploration and management tools, job search and training information and many more resources.
  • O*NET offers career information including typical duties, work styles, salary/workforce outlook and links to job search resources.
  • The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a comprehensive database from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that includes career information on duties, training and education requirements, pay and employment outlooks for hundreds of professions.

Career exploration tips

When you’re going through the career exploration process, it is important to have a full understanding of best practices regarding resumes, cover letters, interviewing and graduate school. If you can remember and apply these career exploration tips, you’ll be set up for success.

Resume & Vita

Your resume is a professional summary of your education and experience related to the type of employment you seek. It should illustrate to employers the value you will add to their organization. Your resume will evolve as you grow professionally, gain new experiences and take your career in different directions.


Is it Résumé, Resume, or Resumé?

Merriam-Webster describes résumé and resume as variants of one another, both equally correct in describing your job search document. Resumé is also technically correct, though is a less common variant. We use resume throughout this site for simplicity, but you should feel free to spell it whichever way you prefer.

What, Exactly, is a Resume?

A resume is a concise, written statement highlighting the qualifications and skills you possess as a result of your life experiences. It communicates a maximum amount of relevant information with a minimum number of words. A resume aims to persuade an employer to grant you an interview or to request your formal application.

Who Should Have a Resume?

Everyone! Even if you never change career paths, you are likely to change jobs several times throughout your life. Resumes are a primary tool used by almost every employer to conduct initial evaluations of prospective employees. Your resume is your entry ticket to the job market.

Where Do I Start?

Think of your resume as an advertisement. Before you write the advertisement, you must understand the product you are selling: Yourself!! Make sure you can clearly state the benefits of your product: Your skills, abilities, competencies, motivation and potential. When you are ready to begin building your resume, you can get ideas for layout and format through a simple web search and through resources available from Career Services.

Formatting Fundamentals

Page Setup

Do not be tempted by the convenience of a template or wizard! Start with a blank document and build your resume line-by-line. Start with 1” margins all around and try to stick to it. If you find yourself needing a little extra space, adjust your top and bottom margins slightly. If you must adjust your left and right margins, try not to go smaller than 0.75″.


It is increasingly common to apply for jobs exclusively online, meaning that you may never need to print a resume and mail it to an employer during your job search. Nonetheless, it is a good idea to bring printed copies of your materials to any in-person interview. Your resume should always be created for standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper and printed on 24 or 32 pound paper. White and off-white colors are acceptable. Paper with a cotton content of at least 25 percent may add “gravitas” to your resume, but make sure it has a smooth finish, rather than a woven finish.


Most undergraduates should plan to build a one-page resume containing information that is relevant to a particular position of interest. A two-page resume is acceptable if you have extensive, relevant experience, and in situations like a graduate school application. Your cover letter and reference sheet should be separate documents and do not count against your resume length.


Selecting a font for your resume is a surprisingly important decision. First, you must understand the two basic categories of fonts: serif and sans-serif.

  • Serif fonts contain small, decorative lines, or flairs, that embellish the type. Serifs make text easier to read in printed materials. Examples of popular serif fonts include Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia and Bookman Old Style.
  • Sans-serif fonts (“sans” meaning “without”), unsurprisingly, do not contain decorative flairs. Sans-serif fonts generally are preferable for reading on computer and mobile screens. Examples of popular sans-serif fonts include Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma and Verdana.

Font Size

In general, your main text should be between 11 and 14 point, depending on the particular font. You want to avoid making your text so small that it becomes unreadable, or so large that it looks like you are just taking up space.

Text Formatting

For most of your resume you will want to use plain text, but basic text formatting should be used (sparingly) to help bring order to your materials. You may want to use bold, italics, underline, and ALLCAPS in a limited fashion to highlight your name, job titles, transitions between sections of your resume or other important information. Be careful not to overdo your formatting though, as too much can make your resume feel chaotic and difficult to read.


Lines, or “horizontal rules,” can help break up your resume and provide a sense of order to the reader. For example, you may insert a horizontal rule at each new section or under your heading. Insert horizontal rules using the Borders function in Word, rather than typing out a string of dashes or using the underline tool.


You should avoid inserting symbols into your resume, with the exception of bullet points. When creating bullet points, keep them simple. The standard black dot is your safest bet, though the black square may be a reasonable “stretch” if it complements the larger aesthetic of your resume.


Black type on white paper is standard practice in the resume world. This traditional combination is easily readable and avoids potential complications should your resume be printed in grayscale or black-and-white. If you prefer, you may use color conservatively (for example, to highlight your name or horizontal rules at section breaks), but only if you feel that the color improves the readability of your document.

Crafting Your Content


Your heading will contain your name and basic contact information. An email address and contact number are standard. Mailing address has long been a resume staple, but in the era of digital communications it is increasingly common not to include a postal address. You may also include a link to your LinkedIn profile or online portfolio. This heading should match exactly the heading on your cover letter and reference sheet.

Summary or Objective

This optional section gives you an opportunity to address right away what you will do for the employer. A common mistake is to write an obvious and uninspiring objective (e.g., “To attain a job in such-and-such a field”) or to write a vague summary (e.g., “Motivated professional looking to make a difference in my next role”). If you prefer to include one of these sections, your focus should not be on what the job will do for you, but on how you will contribute to the organization’s success.


Depending on your field, this section may come either before or after your work experience. Provide the name and location of the educational institution, credential earned and date of graduation or completion. Optionally, you may include honors and awards earned in the course of your academic program. You may list your high school diploma initially, but by about your junior year of college you will want to remove your high school experience and focus on your forthcoming postsecondary credential.

Work Experience

List any current or past employers along with location(s), date(s) of employment and a description of your experience(s) and achievement(s) in each role. Early in your career, you may find that you need to list every job you’ve held before, but as you gain experience you will be able to remove less relevant positions and focus more on your relevant work experience. Experience and achievements typically are listed in bullet format, are not written in complete sentences and therefore do not end in a period.

Other Relevant Information

Depending on your experience and the particulars of the position to which you are applying, you may choose to include any of a number of additional sections. These sections include, but are not limited to:

  • Honors and Awards
  • Community Engagement or Volunteer Experience
  • Co-Curricular Involvement
  • Leadership Experience
  • Computer Skills
  • Professional or Community Memberships
  • Publications and/or Research Experience
  • Certifications

General Tips

Keep it Simple

Your resume, especially after you’ve been in the workforce for a few years, should not include every job you’ve ever held. A resume is not the definitive list of your life’s work, but a sort of marketing document that highlights your experiences and skills that are relevant to a particular job.

Keep It Concise

Strictly speaking, there is nothing inappropriate about a two-page resume. It is a matter of practicality. Numerous studies indicate that employers may spend as little as six seconds scanning your resume. In order to increase the likelihood that they will see the most relevant information, keep your resume short and well-organized. A one-page resume should be plenty for most college students and recent graduates.

Use Reverse Chronological Format

While there are several ways to format your resume, the standard reverse chronological format is the most common, and therefore the easiest for most employers to understand. In this format you will list your work experience in reverse order with your current or most recent job at the top, and then work backwards toward your oldest or earliest work experience.

Maintain a “Master Resume” with Everything

Although you will want to submit resumes that are short and concise, you will want to a keep a master resume just for yourself. This master resume should be an ongoing document containing every job you’ve held. A certain experience may not be relevant to your current job application, but it may be to the next, and you don’t want to have to make up the details later.

Curate Your Online Presence

You might not list your LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook accounts on your resume, but employers are looking at them. Adjust your privacy settings, clean up any questionable content and use these platforms to highlight things that you want employers to know about you. If you like, you can build yourself a website or online portfolio and encourage employers to learn more about you there.

Show, Don’t Tell

Just like your high school English teacher told you, it’s better to show than to tell. Adding a bullet in your Skills section that says “Effective communicator” actually tells an employer very little about you. What kind of communication? And how do you define “effective”? Instead, use your work experience to highlight ways in which you’ve communicated effectively (e.g., public speaking, publications, social media or web content, etc.)

Avoid Clichés and Vague or Empty Descriptors

Great, you’re passionate. What does that mean? And do you think you are more passionate than every other candidate? Avoid describing yourself with clichés and empty words. Examples include team player, detail-oriented, hard worker, good communicator and go-getter. Find more direct and meaningful ways to describe yourself.

We encourage you to consult friends, parents, faculty and the Career Services office to receive feedback on your resume before you are ready to apply to jobs or internships. In the meantime, run through this checklist to make sure you’ve got the basics covered.


  • Looks original and not built on a template
  • Inviting to readers, with clear sections and ample white space
  • Length appropriate to your career level and objective (generally, one-page for new college graduates)
  • Spacing, typeface, font size and layout used consistently throughout


  • Clearly labeled and formatted to stand out
  • Ordered to best highlight your strongest skills, experiences or credentials
  • Targeted to a specific position
  • Includes relevant volunteer experience, awards, co-curricular involvement and professional affiliations


  • Name at the top of the page, bolded and larger than the other text
  • Includes your preferred phone number and email address in proper format
  • Email address professionally appropriate


  • Includes your degree, institution name and location
  • Includes your major and, if relevant, your minor and/or emphasis
  • Does not include high school diploma


  • Includes all relevant paid, volunteer and internship positions
  • Each position includes your title, organization name, location and dates
  • Descriptions (bullet points) are concise and emphasize specific accomplishments, evidence of your effectiveness and transferable skills

Writing Style

  • Written in an implied first-person voice
  • Includes short, action-oriented descriptions rather than lengthy paragraphs of narrative text
  • Focused on keywords, with appropriate reference to industry language and buzzwords
  • Employs strong action verbs


  • Completely free of spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors
  • Consistent formatting of dates, titles and punctuation
  • Contains the same heading as cover letter and reference sheet
  • Does not refer to your references (between three and five references should be included on a separate document and provided only upon request)

An easy way to update your resume is by replacing redundant, boring action words with more interesting variations. Try some of these:

Management Skills Communication Skills Research Skills Technical Skills
administered addressed analyzed activated
accounted for arranged calculated assembled
analyzed authored charted built
assigned collaborated clarified calculated
attained convinced collected computed
chaired corresponded compared designed
consolidated developed critiqued devised
contracted directed diagnosed engineered
coordinated drafted evaluated fabricated
delegated edited examined maintained
developed enlisted extracted operated
directed expressed identified overhauled
evaluated formulated inspected programmed
executed influenced interpreted remodeled
improved interpreted interviewed repaired
increased lectured investigated solved
organized mediated organized synthesized
oversaw moderated reviewed troubleshot
planned negotiated summarized upgraded
prioritized persuaded surveyed utilized
produced promoted systematized
recommended publicized tested
reviewed reconciled
scheduled recruited
suggested spoke
supervised translated
transformed wrote


Teaching Skills Financial Skills Creative Skills Organizational Skills
adapted administered acted aligned
advised adjusted adapted allocated
clarified allocated combined associated
coached analyzed conceptualized budgeted
communicated appraised condensed cataloged
conducted assessed created centralized
coordinated audited customized classified
critiqued balanced designed consolidated
developed calculated developed formalized
enabled computed directed individualized
encouraged conserved displayed integrated
evaluated corrected entertained localized
explained determined established officiated
facilitated developed fashioned outlined
focused estimated formulated packaged
guided forecasted founded planned
instilled managed illustrated preserved
instructed marketed initiated processed
motivated measured instituted reconciled
persuaded planned integrated recorded
simulated programmed invented remodeled
stimulated projected modeled reorganized
trained reconciled modified repositioned
transmitted researched revitalized restructured
tutored retrieved shaped standardized

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are virtual application platforms that many employers now use to filter, and “rate” resumes and other application materials. These systems often use algorithms to decide which applicants are qualified for a position and make decisions about whether your resume will ever be seen by a human at the hiring organization.

According to a recent study, 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies use ATS, along with about two-thirds of large companies and one-third of small organizations. These systems simplify the recruiting process for companies by identifying candidates who meet minimum qualifications and those who don’t. As a general rule you can assume that only one-quarter of applicants will make it through the ATS and get seen by a hiring manager.

So how do you make sure you are part of the select group of candidates who get seen? Here are some basic tips to consider as you prepare your resume and other applications materials.

  • Use specific keywords and phrases taken directly from the job posting and from the organization’s website or recruiting documents.
  • Incorporate keywords and phrases throughout your resume and cover letter, not just in a single section.
  • Avoid generic or unnecessary “creative” descriptors. Many ATS are programmed to ignore vague phrases like “effective communicator,” so be sure to use specific terms that are relevant to the job posting and to the line of work.
  • List specific skills, certifications, licensures and software that are relevant to your potential line of work. For example, instead of “web editing,” you might list “HTML5/CSS” or “WordPress.”
  • Include your name and contact information, but do not place them in a header or footer, as some ATS ignore those sections.
  • If using an acronym, make sure to spell it out, too. For example, use both “CNA” and “Certified Nurse’s Assistant,” since you don’t know which the organization has programmed its ATS to look for.
  • Avoid graphics, tables and photographs as these can confuse the ATS, leading to a lower rating.
  • Use common fonts that are at least size 11 or larger.

Cover Letter

Your cover letter invites the hiring committee to read your resume and tells them why you are the best person for the position. It also may cover high-level information or relevant specifics that you might want to give extra attention.

Formatting Fundamentals

Page Setup

Your cover letter’s format should match that of your resume. Use the same margins, font(s) and heading to establish a sense of consistency and continuity among your application materials.


For entry-level positions a one-page cover letter is usually sufficient. With that said, one paragraph is not enough. A typical cover letter will consist of a heading, between three and five paragraphs of text and a salutation, altogether filling one page.

Crafting Your Content


Address your cover letter to the appropriate person, preferably a specific individual. You may need to do some research to learn who that person is. If you cannot identify a specific individual, you may open your letter with “Dear Hiring Manager” or similar but avoid the generic “To Whom It May Concern.”

Paragraph 1 – Opening

Say hello, tell them which job you are applying for and make sure they know how excited you are about it. Something like this:

I am thrilled to submit my application for the [job title] position with ABC Company. As a longtime user of ABC’s products …

The Hook

Highlight specific achievements from your previous experience that are relevant to the job you are interested in.


Connect other relevant skills, certifications or experiences that make you a great candidate for the position.


Succinctly summarize your strengths as a candidate for the position and invite the employer to contact you about your candidacy. Include your preferred contact information (usually email address and mobile number) in the text as a call-to-action.


If applying electronically a signature is not required on your cover letter. Simply close the letter with “Sincerely,” space down two lines and type your name. If applying for a position using a printed resume, leave four blank spaces after “Sincerely” so you have space for your signature.


  • Grammatical and spelling errors are the silent killers of the job search. Such errors may be the only thing that distinguishes your application from others. Have at least two people look over your cover letter and resume to catch mistakes before applying.
  • Include your name, contact information and the date on your letter.
  • Single-spaced is preferable but follow the formatting on your resume.
  • Be confident in your writing. Without embellishing the truth, just state it as is. For example, instead of saying, “I am pretty good with numbers,” you might say, “I have extensive training with accounting and am excellent when dealing with details and numbers.”
  • Use your cover letter to add substance to your resume. If you cannot explain something in your resume, use your cover letter to make your point.

Before the Interview

  • Learn about the company and its operation. You’ll impress the interviewer if it is obvious you’ve done some research. It will also help you develop good answers to the interviewer’s questions.
  • Information you should know about the company before your interview:
    • Organizational structure
    • Name of the interviewer
    • Divisions or departments that interest you
    • Areas they are eliminating
    • Products and/or services the firm provides
    • Training programs
    • Size of the company
    • How long they have been in business
    • Types of clients
    • Growth in the past and future potential
    • Job description and job title
    • New products and services the company is developing
    • Employee benefits
    • Geographic location of home office, branches, stores
  • Resources for this information:
    • Company’s annual report
    • Literature produced by company
    • Information interview
    • Inside source
    • Professional journals
    • Magazine articles
    • Peterson’s Guides
    • Moody’s Industrial Manual
    • National Job Bank
    • National trade and professional associations
    • Colorado High Tech Directory
    • Dunn’s Employment Opportunities Directory
    • Standard & Poor’s Industry Survey
    • The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America
    • Walker’s Manual of Western Corporations
    • Ward’s Directory of the 51,000 Largest U.S. Corporations
  • Prepare answers to typical interview questions. Study and practice your answers.
  • Memorize the name of the person who will interview you.
  • Decide what you will wear. Check out the section titled “Interview Dressing” for some pointers. Be sure your outfit is ready to go.
  • Find out exactly where you are going, where to park and how long it will take to get there. If you are traveling in an unfamiliar city, it is wise to make a dry run before your interview. Drive to the business, park, find the escalator and time how long all this takes. This practice will alleviate stress the day of the interview.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Arrive 15 minutes early. This not only shows you are prompt, but it also gives you a chance to gain your composure. Be friendly to the receptionist or secretary. They are often asked their opinions!

During the Interview

  • Start off as a winner. Offer your hand. Give a firm handshake, a pleasant smile and a positive, confident attitude. Introduce yourself.
  • Be comfortable. Take a seat facing the interviewer, but slightly off center. Be sure you are not facing direct sunlight or in some other uncomfortable situation.
  • Listen attentively. Look at the interviewer directly, but don’t get into a stare down! Sit up straight. Try to relax. It’s OK to take a few notes if the questions are lengthy or you need to remind yourself of something you want to stress.
  • Avoid nervous mannerisms. Pay attention to nervous mannerisms you might have, such as clicking your pen, jingling change in your pocket, twisting your hair or biting your nails. Control these impulses! Everyone is nervous to some extent. The key is to appear calm and collected.
  • Speak clearly. Use good grammar and a friendly tone. Never answer just “yes” or “no” to a question. Always clarify and expand on your answers but be sure not to ramble.
  • Be positive and enthusiastic. You want to outshine all other candidates so “turn it on” during the interview! No matter how sterling your credentials are, you won’t be hired if the interviewer isn’t sold. Pump up your enthusiasm before the interview. Never whine, gripe or complain about past employers, jobs, classes, etc.
  • Be prepared to ask a few pertinent questions. Do not monopolize the interviewer’s time, particularly if you know the interviewer has appointments scheduled after your interview. Do ask thoughtful questions. Don’t ask about salary and benefits. This can be discussed when the company is definitely interested in you!
  • Here’s a sampling of questions you might ask:
    • What are the company’s greatest strengths?
    • In what areas is the company trying to improve?
    • To whom will I report?
    • Could you give some examples of projects I would be working on?
    • How much travel is involved?
    • Will relocation be required?
    • What kind of assignments could I expect in the first six months?
    • What products (or services or stores) are in the development stage?
    • Is this a new position, or will I be replacing someone?
    • What is the largest single problem facing your company now?
    • What qualities are you looking for in a candidate?
    • What characteristics do successful employees in your company share?
    • Is there a lot of teamwork?
    • Describe the advancement opportunities.
    • What growth areas do you foresee?
    • Will I be encouraged to attend professional conferences?
    • Could you describe your training program?
    • How frequent are performance appraisals?
    • How do you feel about the company?
    • Could you describe possible advancements within the company?
    • What is the next step in the interview process?
    • What is the company’s management philosophy?
    • What would a typical day be like?
    • How much contact is there with management?
    • Is this job a result of increased growth or expansion?
  • Watch for cues the interview is over. Don’t linger if you sense the interviewer is done interviewing you. When it is over, stand up, thank the interviewer and shake hands firmly. Don’t forget to express interest in being hired. Say you are impressed with the company and would like to work there.
  • Be sure to find out the next step. Ask the interviewer when the decision will be made, and when you can expect to hear from them. This way you won’t be left hanging.

After the Interview

  • Say thanks. The next day, write the interviewer a brief note reiterating your interest in the job. Spell names correctly!
  • Follow up. If you haven’t heard from the interviewer within the time frame indicated at the close of the interview, call to relay a polite reminder that you’re still interested in the job. Ask when they plan to make a hiring decision.
  • If you aren’t hired and if you continue to be interested in the company, it pays to keep in touch with the interviewer. Often, through persistence, you may be offered a position at a later date.
  • Chin up. Gear up for your next interview. The more interviews you tackle, the more polished you become. You may want to contact the interviewer who rejected you and see whether you can get any pointers on what to improve before your next interview.

Dressing for an Interview


  • Dress conservatively.
  • Check out what management wears and dress similarly without overkill.
  • Practice good grooming.
  • Have clean, neatly styled hair.
  • Have clean hands and trimmed nails.
  • Carry a portfolio or briefcase with extra copies of your resume.
  • Bring a clean notepad and a pen that works.
  • Wear basic hosiery (no textured hose).
  • Wear shoes you can walk easily in.


  • Wear torn, soiled or wrinkled clothing.
  • Dress casually.
  • Wear a lot of jewelry (men should avoid earrings).
  • Wear a lot of cologne.
  • Wear athletic shoes.
  • Eat spicy, offensive-smelling foods before the interview.
  • Wear sexy clothing.
  • Wear “cutesy” ties (such as flashing Mickey Mouse neckwear).
  • Chew gum or smoke before the interview.
  • Wear a mini-skirt.
  • Wear heavy makeup.
  • Carry a purse AND a briefcase.

Career exploration next steps

After graduating from Western, you’ll be prepared to take on a variety of opportunities that will help you grow as a professional. Explore the options below to learn about graduate school, internships and career opportunities in your field.

Graduate School

Whether you are pursuing a career that requires a graduate degree or just want to continue learning, you may find yourself considering graduate school upon your graduation from Western. Some students transition directly from undergraduate to graduate work, while others take a few years off to gain work experience and to refine their academic or professional interests.

No matter your situation, graduate school is a big commitment. The process of researching and applying to graduate schools can take months and cost hundreds of dollars, and that is all before committing to years of further study and tuition payments.

Graduate Programs at Western

Western offers several master’s degrees in a diverse range of disciplines. Consider one of the graduate programs at Western!

Entrance Exams

Many graduate and professional schools require applicants to submit scores from one or more standardized tests. Information on the most common are provided below, followed by tips for acing your exam!

Many graduate and professional schools require applicants to submit scores from one or more standardized tests. Information on the most common are provided below, followed by tips for acing your exam!

General Admissions Exams

  • GRE General Test – Graduate Record Examination (General)
  • GRE Subject Tests – Graduate Record Examination (Subject)
  • MAT – Miller Analogies Test (required by some grad schools in place of the GRE General Test)

Professional School Admissions Exams

  • GMAT – Graduate Management Admission Test
  • LSAT – Law School Admission Test
  • MCAT – Medical College Admission Test
  • PCAT – Pharmacy College Admission Test
  • DAT – Dental Admission Test
  • OAT – Optometry Admission Test

Language Proficiency Exams for Non-Native English Speakers

  • TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language
  • IELTS – International English Language Testing System


  • Praxis – Core, Subject Assessments and Content Knowledge for Teaching Assessments (CKT)

Do Your Research

Not all graduate programs require the same entrance exam. Most MBA programs require the GMAT, but some may require the GRE instead. Many master’s programs require the GRE, but a growing number will accept the MAT in its place or may have eliminated exam requirements altogether. And some law schools now accept the GRE in place of the LSAT. Know what your top schools require so you can focus your efforts in the right place.

Brush Up on Your Math

If you aren’t studying a mathematics-related field in college, then you may be a little out of practice when it comes to the fundamentals of algebra, geometry, and quantitative reasoning. Tests like the GRE (General), MAT, and MCAT only test math up until an early high school level (no trig or calculus!) Other tests, like the LSAT, emphasize logical and analytical reasoning but do not require you to solve actual equations.

Use Your Words

Most of these exams are heavy on verbal skills, language and conceptual reasoning. While the math sections tend to be fairly basic, the verbal and written sections often are much more advanced. Thankfully, you can prepare! Read daily, whether it is your favorite genre of book, the news or required texts for class. Subscribe to a free word-of-the-day service, like those from Merriam-Webster or, and make a point to use your new word each day. Generally speaking, you do not need to memorize specific words; words on these tests are chosen intentionally because you probably will not be familiar with them. Instead, focus on understanding prefixes, suffixes, and the history (or “etymology”) of the word.

Take an Upper-Division Writing Course

The GRE, LSAT and GMAT all have one or two required essay sections. Although tests like the MCAT, DAT, OAT and MAT do not include writing sections, your graduate school application is likely to require an essay. Your ability to write a well-crafted, analytical essay could make the difference in getting admitted to your top program!

Practice, Practice, Practice

You can practice test content through a variety of means but getting comfortable with the test format can be more challenging. Some test providers offer free practice versions online, while others require an additional fee. Third-party sites like The Princeton Review offer free practice tests as well as additional prep materials, books and tutoring at a cost.

About Internships

There are a couple of key points Western students need to consider when seeking an experiential learning opportunity:

Academic Connection

Credit – Some academic programs at Western require students to complete field hours or an internship in order to graduate. If you are unsure about the requirements for your particular area of study, please refer to your DegreeWorks and visit with your faculty advisor. For an undergraduate student to receive academic credit, the student must obtain pre-approval from the appropriate faculty establishing internship learning objectives and academic requirements as established on the Registrar’s internship approval form (currently available in hard copy in the Registrar’s office). A formal evaluation process assesses the student’s competencies as they pertain to academic goals. The student’s grade is then awarded based on student performance. Each program is different; some are pass/fail, others offer a letter grade. The internship provider (site supervisor), student and Western faculty member are all included in the assessment process. Students pay tuition for credit-bearing internships and earn a final grade, and the student may be covered under Western’s worker’s compensation policy for the semester in which the student is enrolled in the internship credits. Students earn credits based on the number of field hours they complete.

The credit allocation is based on the following:

Supervised Field Hours Credit Hours
37.5 hours 1 credit
75 hours 2 credits
112.5 hours 3 credits

Non-credit – Depending on your academic program, you may not be required to complete a credit-bearing internship in order to graduate. With that said, there are many students who are seeking experience and networking opportunities and are not as interested in the credit component. With non-credit internships, there is no official paperwork that must be submitted by the internship provider or the student. In fact, the institution is released from any connection with that experience. Although there are no documented learning objectives connected to non-credit internships, it is advisable that students still be mindful of their overall academic and professional goals before and throughout the internship experience.


Paid or Unpaid – some internships offer stipends or even an hourly wage. Others are unpaid, where the student is essentially volunteering their time and skills. When looking for an internship, keep in mind that if you are earning academic credit for the internship, you will have to pay tuition on the experience. Each student has a different financial situation so it is up to you to decide what kind of internship(s) you will pursue. Bear in mind that you might limit your experiential options if you only seek out paid opportunities.

Either option that you choose to apply for, you will want to verify that it is in accordance with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act.


Credit- bearing internships take place during one of the following time frames (click here for the current academic calendar):

  • Fall Semester – late August through early/mid December
  • Spring Semester – mid-January through late April
  • Summer – May through August

Western students complete their hour allotment during one of the above listed terms. The student must be enrolled for the credits during the term in which the work is initiated. The course work is part of a student’s academic load for that semester. The student must be in direct communication with their faculty member verifying that the internship dates work for all parties.

Non-credit internships can be completed during a time frame that is both convenient for the internship provider and the student as it is not influenced by Western’s academic calendar.

Searching for an Internship

Your advisor and academic department: Some departments have an internship posting board or a faculty member that keeps students updated on openings.

Networking: Reach out to people who are doing what you want to do. Set up a LinkedIn account as a way to reach out to professionals in your field.

Business/organization websites: If you know which field you want to pursue, research companies and organizations to see if they advertise internships and jobs on their websites.

Western’s website: Check out the Job & Internship Search page for links to dozens of search resources, and login to Handshake for even more internship (and job) openings.

Searching for jobs and internships used to be time consuming and labor intensive. Today’s job searches can still be time consuming, but technology will do much of the heavy lifting for you. Don’t limit yourself to the resources below; there are thousands of websites that post job and internship opportunities, so get out there and explore!

Know of a great job or internship resource that we should include? Contact us!

On-Campus (including Federal / State Work-Study)

  • Handshake (use the provided filters in the “Jobs” section to identify “On-Campus” and/or “Work study” positions)

General Job Board and Search Engines

Career and Job Fairs (In-Person / Virtual)



Art, Music and Theater

Banking and Finance

Biology, Chemistry, Ecology and Environmental Science

Communications, Marketing, Media and Public Relations

Computer Science, Technology and Programming

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement

Education (Higher)

Education (Primary and Secondary)

Geography and GIS

Geology and Energy Development

Government and Public Sector


Internships and Seasonal

Mathematics and Statistics

Medicine, Health and Biotech



Politics and Policy


Recreation & Outdoor Education

Remote Positions

Science (General)

Sports and Coaching

Sustainability and Green Jobs



Many businesses and organizations may work within a particular field (e.g., technology, retail, land management, etc.) but hire positions relevant to a broad range of majors. Do not limit yourself in your search! Explore a variety of potential employers to see the kinds of opportunities that are available to you. For this purpose, it is helpful to research jobs on specific company sites. Take advantage of filters, when they are available, to narrow your search to positions that are relevant to your interests and area of study.

Fortune 50 Companies

Outdoor and Sporting Goods Retailers

Investment Banks

Ski Resort Management

Energy Management

Space Flight and Related

Accounting Firms

Communications Companies

Department Information

Career Services

Program Coordinator

Craig Beebe, M.S.

Assistant Director, Career Services

Contact Information


Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Library 120
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231