As a college student, there are moments when my mind is preoccupied with the future. What do I want to do? How am I supposed to get there? Am I doing the right things now to get to where I want to be? Frequently, I hear these concerns among my peers and even from older generations who were kind enough to share with me their journey of how they got to where they are today.
Before travelling to Vietnam, I was unsure of whether I wanted to find work abroad or domestically. Now that it has been over a month, I am pretty sure that I want to go into international development. However, I must admit that I haven’t exactly developed the “right” background that employers in this field are looking for. Thus, I have been reevaluating my past experiences in an effort to find connections between my current background and international work, in addition to determining what else I need to do to best break into this field. Here are a few tips that I came up with during one of these preoccupied moments:
-Research and determine what skills you need for that position, career, or industry:
Gaining exposure and acquiring these skills now will help you be more marketable to employers in the future. For instance, many businesses value employees who have a strong understanding of Microsoft Office, particularly Excel or Access. If you want to work in an industry where knowledge about Excel and Access is critical, learn these skills now. Your employer may take into consideration the time saved in not having to teach you about these programs. Furthermore, having an understanding of these skills and this field may give an impression to employers that you have been doing your research, know what the field expects, and are committed to pursuing this line of work.
-Develop familiarity with the field outside of academics:
Become familiar with the industry outside of what you learn in the classroom. Read the news and stay up on current events. Is there a specific company that you want to work for? Learn about them. What is their mission and what services or products do they offer? In Congress, representatives and senators who have a thorough understanding of how the legislative process works normally have the upper hand in conducting business and passing policies, ultimately allowing them to serve their constituents better while developing for themselves a better track record. Gaining a greater knowledge about the specifics of your desired career will definitely give you an edge and better prepare you.
-Establish connections in your line of work:
Get to know people! Learn how they got to where they are today, talk about what they are doing and where they hope to be in the future. You can make connections by talking to professors or alumni. They are a great source of knowledge or they may direct you to someone else who can help. If you can, go to conferences or workshops. These present great opportunities where many people are in one central location for you to meet. You can also just send an email to a professional asking for more information, an informational interview, or a chance to shadow them. Although it seems intimidating, there are many people who were once in our place, understand, and are more than willing to help. And if they don’t, no worries. Everyone has their reasons so don’t take it personally. By talking to these individuals though, not only will you learn a lot, but they may take an interest in you and think of you when opportunities arise. Please make sure to share them the same courtesy!
If possible, volunteer or intern. Even if all you do is deliver coffee, just having an opportunity to be exposed to the environment and professionals already in this line of work is enough. Make sure to learn as much as you can where you can. For instance, if you are copying papers, take a moment to read it. Don’t be discouraged if you are mainly doing the grunt work. If you think about it, there may be a reason as to why you are the one doing it. Your employer may still be evaluating you before assigning you to larger projects or you might not have the right skills at the moment!
-Don’t fret, there are multiple ways to get to where you want to be:
This is one issue that I struggle with occasionally. Seeing many of my peers doing this and that sometimes gives me the impression that I need to be doing the same. But I try not to fret. I take a step back and recognize that what I am doing is just as legitimate as what my peers are doing. I am learning skills, getting exposure, and gaining experience. There is no right path to enter a specific field. People come from various backgrounds with different skill sets and as long as you demonstrate that you are capable, your background doesn’t make you any less valuable.
-It’s okay if you don’t end up where you originally planned to be:
Throughout our life, we change. Our values change, our interests change, our goals change. You may find out through an internship that you actually don’t want to work in this field or as you get older, you may decide to alter your career so that you can spend more time with family. You can’t predict the future, and most people don’t end up in the field that they originally anticipated anyway. At the end of the day, that’s okay as long as you are happy.
Lead Her Intern, Campus Calm™