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Finding a Career: Career Clusters

Career Clusters

Career Clusters are groups of occupations and career tracks organized around the similar skill sets required for career success in these fields. These 16 clusters provide a starting point for understanding what skills and knowledge you will need in order to be prepared for specific industries and broader career paths. Working your way through career choices with Career Clusters has the advantage of not pigeonholing you into one specific job; instead, the tool offers you clusters of jobs with related requirements.

In three short steps you can begin to identify career paths and even specific jobs that interest you.

First, take the Career Clusters Interest Survey. This survey, which will only take you about 10 or 15 minutes to complete, identifies your top three Career Clusters.

Second, find your top three Career Cluster handouts below:

·         Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
·         Architecture & Construction
·         Arts, Audio-Visual Technology & Communications
·         Business, Management & Administration
·         Education & Training
·         Finance
·         Government & Public Administration
·         Health Science
·         Hospitality & Tourism
·         Human Services
·         Information Technology
·         Law, Public Safety, Correction & Security
·         Manufacturing
·         Marketing, Sales & Service
·         Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematic
·         Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

Third, explore the specific jobs and career paths listed in each of your top three Career Clusters. Keep track of your progress so you know which jobs you liked and which ones you did not.

Importantly, combining Career Clusters with O*NET and the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook gives you a powerful set of tools to help identify career interests, discern what is required for those careers, and then actually find job postings for those jobs.

Once you have identified a few jobs that you like from your desired Career Cluster, take these jobs to O*NET. Under the “Career Cluster” heading, select the career cluster you are interested in. Once you search for that specific Career Cluster, you will get a list of all the jobs within that cluster. Find the one you want and click on the link. This will provide you a plethora of information regarding the job: salary ranges, day-to-day work experiences, degree requirements, and much more.

Once you have narrowed your search down to a few jobs, you can actually search to see if there are any specific jobs postings within each state. At the bottom of each O*NET job page there is a little button labeled “Find Jobs.” Click on that, and then search for that specific job by state.

Finally, you can also take a specific job and search the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook in order to identify if the job prospects for that specific position are projected to grow, stay the same, or shrink.

As always, if you want assistance in navigating these tools, please come by the Learning Center and see Brenden Kennedy or call him at 683-7143.

Job Search Materials and Skills

Cover Letters and Resumes

General Information
Customize each of these documents to every job you apply for: seriously. Employers can easily identify a generic cover letter and resume. Submitting such a document sends the message to employers that they need to figure out how your experiences and skills line up with their advertised position. It is not the employer’s job to draw the connection between your skills and experiences and their job posting, it is your job. This requires customizing each document for all the jobs to which you apply.

Moreover, companies are increasingly adopting key-word recognition software. These computer programs scan your application materials for key words. Your best bet of matching these words are to use the same diction the job ad uses. For example, if the job ad calls for the ability to work in a “fast-paced environment,” then use that phrase in your application materials. Even if the company or government agency you are applying to does not use keyword recognition software, those people reviewing your application want to see you match your skills to their job advertisement. This requires customization of each cover letter and resume.

Yes, this is a lot of work. Start the process early.

Before you write anything, do a little research on the company or agency you are applying to. You want to get a general idea about how the company works.

Cover Letters
Cover letters are a way for you to explain to the employer why you are a desirable hire. Put another way, this document gives you the chance to detail what you can bring to the company or state agency. Employers want to learn about you, but they ultimately want to know what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.

Address the letter to a specific person, preferably the head of the search committee. You should be able to find this information on the company website.

A good place to start in any cover letter is describing what position you are applying for and where you found out about the position. This will allow you to mention anybody working at the company you may know and who told you to apply for the position. For example, “I write to apply for the Sales Representative position. Bob Ward, a friend and a Sales Representative already working for Sales On Us, recommended that I apply for this position.” If you don’t have a recommendation from an employee, simply disclose where you found the job: “as listed on your company website.”

Next, write a paragraph or two describing your relevant skills and experience. You need to use this space to either expand upon information mentioned in your resume or to discuss any relevant information that is not on your resume. Use active language here (avoid passive voice) and let your excitement for the opportunity to work for this company come through on the page. Match what you can do to the job advertisement. If you have no direct experience in the field to which you are applying, explain how skills you acquired at other jobs will be an asset to the employer. For example, if you are applying for a fast-paced sales job and you have worked as a waiter/waitress then stress your ability to work quickly and efficiently despite various distractions and to think on your feet.

Finally, you want to have a brief closing statement. Something along the lines of, “Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.” You can be flexible with this last part.

Here are some useful cover letter YouTube videos.

What can you do in six seconds?

Not much. However, employers spend mere seconds (possibly as little as six) looking at your resume. Do I have your attention? Good. This document must be polished, streamlined, and powerful. We can help you create such a document.

Here as some categories your resume should or could include.

Contact information.
This needs be on the top of the page. It should include your name (the largest font on the resume), your address, phone number (with area code), and email. Please keep emails professional.

Objective statement. (optional)
This section is no more than two sentences and is designed to be a brief summary of your most relevant skill(s) and what position you are applying for. “I am a senior at the University of Montana Western, double majoring in English and Environmental Science, and looking to work for a wildlife magazine focused on the Northern Rockies.”

This section needs to contain the school(s) you have attended and earned degrees from, which degree(s) you have earned, and the dates (month and year) in which you earned those degrees. Do not include coursework in this section.

University of Montana Western, B.S. Biology, May 2017.

Work experience.
In this section include your relevant work experience. This section is the most difficult for younger people because their jobs tend to part-time or summer positions. Don’t worry if you don’t have work experience directly related to your desired field of work. A track record of employment (even various summer jobs) demonstrates the ability to work hard.

John Smith Law Firm, Clerk, Summers 2008-2011
  • General paperwork duties, answering phones, greeting clients as they entered the office, note-taker during meetings.

Other sections.
Volunteering/Awards and Achievements/Skills

You can put a Reference section on your resume. If you do, make sure it is the last section. Include the person’s name, position, phone number, and email. Make sure to ask all your references before you put them on your resume. You may also attached a separate sheet entitled “References.”

Resume YouTube videos:

All University of Montana Western students have free access to Optimal Resume.

Research, research, research! Find out as much about the company or state agency as you can before the interview. What is their business structure? Who are their competitors? What does the company actually do? Has the company been in the news recently?

Dress professionally. Be on time. Bring extra copies of your resume and references list.

Have questions for the interviewer. Interviewers will (almost) always ask if you have questions at the end of the interview. Keep the questions focused on the company and position. Ask about expectations, requirements, the company, the specific position, and the atmosphere at the company. Some appropriate questions are as follows: How has this position evolved since it was created? How have past employees succeeded in this position? What have you enjoyed most about working here? What are the top priorities for the person in this position over the next three months? If offered this position, could you describe how I would interact with other people at the company?

Common mistakes made during the interview process:

Arriving late.
  • Dressing inappropriately (flip flops/tee-shirts/shorts/etc.).
  • Talking negatively about past supervisors, co-workers, professors, coaches, etc.
  • Lack of research on the company and position.
  • Failure to ask questions when presented the opportunity.
  • Forgetting to send a thank you note (hand written or email).
Networking can be the difference between getting hired and not being considered for a position. Networking comes in all shapes and sizes. In an increasingly digital world, sites like LinkedIn and even Twitter can help you snag a job. However, networking can also simply be working different jobs within a given field and slowly meeting people at different companies and in related fields. You do not have to run around throwing business cards at people. But, you do want to make sure to establish relationships with as many people as you can whenever the opportunity presents itself. Networking also works within your own social circles. Ask friends and family to keep their ears open about jobs you are interested in.

“Elevator Pitch”
Your “elevator pitch” is a metaphor for a short speech about who you are, what you have studied (or where you have worked), and why you are interested in a specific position/career path. It also includes specific skills you have that qualify you for a position and questions for a potential employer about what expectations they have of interns/new employees.

The idea is if you ever meet a CEO or another person with the ability to hire you for a position you need to have a short 15-30 second speech prepared as to why you are the perfect candidate for the job. It is unlikely you will ever run into this specific scenario. However, you will have an opportunity to use this speech during interviews. A common request during an interview is “Tell us about yourself.” Interviewers do not want to know if you like cats or dogs or long walks on the beach. What they are often after is a brief (15-60 second) response that reflects your history as it pertains to the open position. If you have practiced your “elevator pitch” you will have a great response ready to go.

Internships/Part-Time and Summer Jobs
Previous work experience in a specific field is a great way to continue to get employment in that field. This is the “catch-22” of the job market. However, summer jobs or internships are a great way to break into your desired field. This will benefit you in multiple ways. First, it will give you a leg up on any future competition when you are applying for jobs in the same field. Second, it will let you know if you really like the field as much as you originally imagined. Third, internships can result in job offers after you graduate. Many internships are unpaid. An alternative is to actually get a part-time job or summer job in the industry/field you want to work in.

UM Western Permanent Positions

UM Western Permanent Positions

Administrative Associate II Admissions

Optimal Resume

Optimal Resume: Step-by-step Guide

Creating Your Account
From “MYUMW” homepage, hover your cursor over “ACADEMICS” on the top of the page, when the sub-menu pops up, click on “Student Success.” Once on that page, click on “Career Services” along the left hand side.
To create an account with Optimal Resume, click on the large Optimal Resume option on the bottom-middle of the Career Services homepage. This will open a new window. In the upper-right-hand corner, you will see a “NEW USER” button, click it.
Fill out all the required fields. You now have an Optimal Resume account.

Accessing Your Account
Go to the Career Services homepage (see above on how to do so), click the Optimal Resume button, and in the upper-right-hand corner of the new window, click “LOGIN.”

Navigating Optimal Resume’s Website
The first page you see when you log on is the “Document Center” page.
This page will allow you to create resumes and cover letters, as well as let you practice your interviewing skills.

For Resumes
  • Click “Create New Resume”
  • Name your resume (maybe the name of the job you are applying for) and then click the green “Start Resume” button
  • Under the “Browse Samples” selection, click “Continue”
  • You have 440 resume templates to choose from, if you want, you can sort them into subgroups by clicking on those groups in the upper-left hand side of the screen (for example: “Management”)
  • Once you find a resume you like and that is appropriate for the job you are applying for, click the “Select” option in the bottom-left hand corner of the resume. An enlarged view of that specific resume will appear. If you like the resume, click the green “Use This Sample” button; if not, click the “x” in the top right-hand corner to go back to browsing resumes. There are a lot of options once you get into the specific resume template you want. The following are some basics (if you need help, see Brenden Kennedy in the Learning Center).

To enter data, simple click on the section of the resume you want to edit. For example, click on the “Education” section. A smaller screen will pop up, allowing you to change the Section Name and also to enter information into the text box. Click “Save” to save any changes you made. These will be automatically updated in your resume. Some boxes have more options than others. Pay attention to what boxes you are typing information into.

  • Spellcheck: click on the “Spellcheck” option underneath the “Document” header. This option will highlight any misspelled words. Just like in Word, you can right click and get a list of words to choose from. To turn the option off, simply re-click the Spellcheck button.
  • To delete a section click the little “x” to the right of the section title name under the “Sections” header on the right-hand side of the page.
  • To add a section, click the “Add Section” button on the right-hand side of the screen.
  • To move the order of the sections around, click the “Reorder” button (next to the “Add Section” button. You can then click and drag different sections into a new order.
  • To submit your resume for review, click the “Review Center” button. Under “Review Group” option, select the “Students and Alumni” option. Under “Reviewers,” selected “Brenden Kennedy.” Finally, click the blue “Submit” button.

Here are just a few examples of resumes you can make with Optimal Resume. The resumes pictured are for entry level jobs in the following fields: elementary education; human resources; and environmental science.

* If you need any additional help, please stop by and see Brenden Kennedy in the Learning Center.

Hiring Events/Job Fairs

Hiring Events/Job Fairs

Learning Center

UMW Learning Center

The Learning Center offers free peer tutoring services for Western students.  Students are welcome to stop by during scheduled tutor hours or call 683-7200 to make an appointment.  The Learning Center is located in the Lower Library Commons (LLC) 006.

Getting the Most Out of Your Tutoring Experience 

  • attend class and take notes
  • complete all assigned reading for class
  • visit the Learning Center as soon as you need help
  • bring textbooks, syllabi, tests, notes, papers, assignments, calculator, etc.
  • come prepared to do work

The Learning Center will: 

  • provide friendly, helpful tutoring services to you as soon as possible after you arrive
  • assist students who attend class
  • supplement what you learn in class
  • provide a comfortable place to study
  • provide equipment and resource materials as availalbe for use in the Learning Center

The Learning Center will not:

  • teach/reteach subject matter covered in class
  • offer tutoring in all subjects all the time
  • teach students course work taught in class
  • provide undivided attention, especially when the center is busy
  • determine the grade or accept responsiblity for the grade a student earns
  • assume responsibility for how well or how poorly a student applies the suggestions offered
  • guarantee the assignments done with tutor assistance will meet the requirements of the proessor


Out of State Positions

Out of State Positions

Administrative Assistant Helena, MT (Closes May 30)
AIS Watercraft Inspector Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks (Dillon)
AmeriCorps Vista
AmeriCorps Vista at University of Maine at Presque Isle (Starts in August 2018)
Bismarck Police Department Bismarck, ND (Closes May 25)
Cadre Instructor MT Youth Challenge Dillon, MT (Ongoing, Posted May 18)
Land Conservation Helena, MT (Closes June 8)
Lead Recruiter MT Youth Challenge Dillon, MT (Ongoing, Posted May 18)
Licensing Specialist Helena, MT (Closes June 3)
Mental Health Community Counselor Lynchburg, VA (Posted January 4)
Montana AmeriCorps and Vista Opportunities through Campus Compact Montana
Park Manager 1 Jordan, MT (Closes May 30)
Peace Corps
Riparian Ecologist Dillon, MT (Closes June 1)
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Billings or Helena, MT (Open until filled, Application here)


Career Planning

Career Planning

Take some time to think about what you see yourself doing. Is there a friend or relative who has a job that really excites you? What can you compromise on? Location? Salary? Work hours? Benefits? What can't you compromise on? The below tools and guides will help you in identifying your interests and a possible career.

What Can I Do With This Major?
This is simply a start to give you some ideas. Your degree does not necessarily limit you to specific careers. What is more important is the development of skill sets. How do you do this? Two options are to acquire a part-time job or an internship. You also need to be able to translate what you have learned in college into well-written resumes and cover letters.


Internships allow you to test out possible career choices. What better way to see if you will like a job then to actually work at it, or in a related job?

Internships are not just for upperclassmen. You can get an internships at any point in your college career. Have an idea for a possible career during your freshman year? See if you can set up an internship over the summer, or maybe even outside of class during the semester.

Not all internships are paid. Make sure you pay attention to whether or not the internships are paid when applying for a position.

Internships in Montana:

Occupational Outlook Handbook

This database is put out by the United States Department of Labor. It contains information on hundreds of careers. You can use this database to find out the projected job growth in an area, the education level required for specific jobs, salary ranges, and a description of what you would do at a given job.

Skills Assessment/Personality Profiling:

  • MCIS - Montana Career Information System is an online site offering free information concerning occupations and employment, as well as education and training. MCIS also offers a free assessment of what careers might be best for you based on your interests.  For all UM Western Students, please use the following to log on for free: User Name: wmtcol, Password: plan7ing
  • SII - Strong Interest Inventory. Another tool to identify your interests and aid in picking a career.

Cover Letters and Resumes

Cover letters and resumes give any future employer a first impression of who you are. Making sure these documents are professional, effective, and efficient will help set you apart from other candidates. Do not be fooled by the short length of these documents. They are vitally important and making a great cover letter and resume takes a substantial amount of time. Want help putting these documents together? See the information on this webpage about Optimal Resume and drop by to see Brenden Kennedy in the Learning Center.