career exploration

The Young Professional's Guide to Gratitude

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In the midst of Thanksgiving festivities and the highly-aniticpated Black Friday shopping, it can be hard for one to really think about what he or she is grateful for. For me, it takes a great deal of self-reflection to not only acknowledge what I'm grateful for, but to really understand why I am thankful for it in the first place. Is it because it satisfies a personal need or desire, or is it because it contributes greatly to my life and cultivates a sense of purpose within my being? I try to focus on the things that serve the latter; however, it is difficult not to be stuck in my own mind without paying attention to the external opportunities available to translate gratitude on a daily basis. 

Thankfully, moments of self-reflection always bring me back to my priorities and reaffirm a sense of graciousness in my outlook on life, especially in my pre-professional journey. I have been blessed in my career journey this past summer by working with middle and high school students in a classroom setting, while being surrounded by many accomplished women in the education field. I was - and still am - grateful for the experience because it fueled my desire to teach, and to even pursue a Master's and Doctorate in the near future. I realize that the thing I am most grateful for is the ability to serve others through my future career choice, because I firmly believe that education is the most fundamental element in the fruition of the whole person and who that person is going to become. 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I decided to write a guide on how to translate gratitude in your pre-professional pursuits that will also help you in your future career.

Keep a positive, determined outlook. This is so incredibly important. A positive outlook can transform any negative situation into something that can shape your character in ways that will help you in the future. Instead of despairing and running straight to your fainting couch (I know, I have one too), view every rejection or missed opportunity as an experience you can learn from. Experience is the best teacher a person can have, especially in the professional world. Instead of perceiving yourself as a failure, take control of the situation and convert it into something constructive. If you feel as though you did not have a particularly awesome interview, prepare for future ones by scheduling a mock-interview with the Office of Career Services. Do what is necessary right now in order to better yourself and your future career opportunities, instead of settling for mediocrity due to a previous mistake. In the words of my grandfather, who is a 94 year old former FBI agent, "Never give up!" Your hard work and determination will pay off if you pursue your pre-professional journey in a state of gratitude, as reflected in your positivity and determination.

Each day, write down three things you are thankful for. This personalized practice will consistently put what is important to you in perspective. Whether you are thankful for something as small as the yummy coffee you had this morning, or for things of pivotal significance like attending a university, it will continue to cultivate a constant state of gratitude in the many facets of your life and provide a positive shift in your perception of the career you wish to pursue. Moreover, writing down what you are grateful for at the end of each day is beneficial in times of uncertainty, because - like the aforementioned point stated - a positive outlook is what keeps us motivated, determined, and steadfast in our journey.

Humble yourself. In any internship or early stage of your career, it is crucial to approach professional opportunities in the position to learn. In the process of establishing your career, it is inevitable that mistakes will happen or you will be ill-prepared for a project proposal or important meeting; however, one of the best ways to avoid mistakes is to ask the appropriate questions beforehand. If you are unsure about a certain procedure or how to do an assigned task, do not be afraid to communicate with your boss or supervisor. They would rather you ask questions now than to hear you apologizing later, and asking questions is a great way to establish yourself in the work place. A constant stream of applied inquiry will show your employers that you are engaged in your work and determined to deliver perfection. Humility is the best way to translate gratitude in the workplace, as it indicates that you are grateful for the opportunity to learn and to gain experience in your chosen career path.

Be sure to thank those who helped you succeed. One of the most important things to remember is that there is no such thing as "self-made." Rather, our success in due largely in part by those who took the time to mentor, teach, guide, and help us in our pursuits. Make sure that you maintain and nurture your professional relationships by putting forth the effort to show your gratitude. It can be as simple as thanking your professor for an informative lecture, or writing a thank-you note to your interviewers. When you attend a Career Services event, make it a point to thank the speaker for their time - it could possibly be the perfect opportunity to make a new connection. Last, but certainly not least, if your parents or other relatives are supporting you while you are attending school (whether it is financially or spiritually), thank them, thank them, THANK THEM. Obtaining a college degree opens up amazing opportunities that were unavailable to you before, and they helped make it possible. This point also ties in greatly with humility, and such a disposition will translate in both your professional and personal life.

Your words have power - use them. While we know by now that expressing your thanks is a huge part of professional etiquette, it comes down to how you say thank you. Keep a stack of thank-you notes in your desk (you can always find awesome stationary in Target's $1 and $3 aisle, for example) and make sure you send the card in a timely manner. Timing is everything, and it will show the recipient that they are important to you. Additionally, make the effort to tell them exactly what you're grateful to them for. For an interviewer, compose a hand-written note thanking them for the opportunity and the chance to meet them in person. For a professor who wrote you a glowing letter of recommendation, slip a card in their mailbox expressing how grateful you are for their time and how appreciative you are for their support. Even on LinkedIn, be sure to pass along your thanks for introducing you to a valuable connection. Once you implement this practice in your professional relationships, you will see how they will begin to flourish and become fruitful in your future career pursuits. Also, it enables potential employers to see you as a person who genuinely puts forth the effort to convey your gratitude, and for them to see who you truly are beyond the résumé.

In any profession, these pointers on gratitude will foster a fulfilled and active engagement in your pre-professional journey and, later, your future career field. In turn, you will begin to realize that your purpose is made increasingly more apparent to you within your daily life, as you seize each opportunity to better yourself professionally and thank those around you who made such resources available. While we may have legitimate worries about our future and what career field we wish to work in post-graduation, it is nonetheless crucial to our pre-professional pursuits that we remain grateful for the resources, opportunities, and chances we receive through the reserves of our universities, networks, and previous professional experiences. In the mean time, let us make the effort to emulate and manifest a grateful nature in not only our professional lives, but in our personal lives as well.

From all of us at Career Services, have a blessed, bountiful, and happy Thanksgiving season!

Career Exploration: Looking Inside to Look Outside

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Beginning a career may be something you’ve never thought about before, or you’ve been putting off considering for years. It might be something you hope to achieve in the next few months!

Wherever you are in life, exploring the career that will be right for you is an important step in preparing for your life after the “fun and games” of college are over. 

However, there are approximately 6 million jobs available in the United States alone. How do you take this staggering number of potential careers and narrow it down to find the right one for you?

Exploring careers is more than just Google-ing “Jobs” and applying for everything you can. It’s about knowing yourself, what you would best be able to bring to a company, and what you would most enjoy as a career. 

The first step in career exploration is self-examination. What are your hobbies? Have you held any previous jobs that you’ve enjoyed? Where can you see yourself in five years? Think about what you are skilled at and how it can help further the mission of a company. Always remember, a company will want you most for the value you add to their company, and it is important to know how you can best add value to a company.

Make a list of your skills and hobbies and see if you notice any trends. If you do, then you can further pursue that option. For example, if you program as a hobby, and have prior experience with a construction company that you enjoyed, then you may want to look into a career in architecture. If you are struggling with this, try new hobbies, or developing new skills, to see if anything sparks your interest!

Once you know what you enjoy doing and what field you would like to work in, it’s time to research what type of work uses that field and which companies can offer you those jobs. A good starting point is to look at the most well-known companies in that field.

For example, if you are interested in history you can look up jobs with The Smithsonian Institute to get an idea of what careers a company can offer. Some careers they offer range from Museum Specialist, who take care of the movement and display of artifacts, to Director of Programs and Audience Engagement, in charge of coordinating events for the benefit of the Institute.

If you’re more interested in the preservation and passing down of history, the Museum Specialist may be a more fulfilling and practical career for you because the qualifications of the Director of Programs may be far beyond anything you’ve done before, and the work itself may not be something you enjoy.

Read the job descriptions of some careers and see if they interest you or if your skills would be valuable at such a position. Picking out types of careers with larger, well-known companies will help you narrow down your search when you look to begin your career.

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Now that you know what types of careers you would like to pursue, it is very important to do a reality check. Go to a site such as indeed.com, and read into position requirements to see what the requirements are for the careers you are interested in.

One of my favorite jokes is that every “entry-level” job nowadays requires 10 years of experience, your PhD, and three arms.  Keep your career search realistic, and know that, without years of experience, it is going to be very difficult to start out in a company with a Director of Programs-type job.  Once you know the sort of experience and skill required for a position, you can look into gaining that experience or practicing that skill through internships, online classes, and personal effort.

An entry-level job may be the best option to get you to the career you are most interested in; starting out as an intern in NASA is much easier than getting hired as the manager of their space program.  Even if you don’t qualify completely for an entry-level job, don’t rule it out! The requirements on the job description are entirely up to the company, and can always be overruled if they see that you are a good fit for the position.

 Although the magic of Google can give you clues as to what careers you want to pursue, the worldwide web is not a good place to apply for jobs. Experts estimate that close to 80% of position openings are filled through networking.

But wait… I thought networking was for professionals? Isn’t that where a bunch of CEO’s got together for coffee and cheap variety packs of cookies? Networking is much easier and far more useful than that! According to Entrepreneur.com, networking is “developing and using contacts made in business for purposes beyond the reason for the initial contact.” Think about people you know who are associated with the fields you are interest in, because they will be your best allies.

If your former football coach has been working with Atari and you are interested in game design, set up an informational interview to see what his job consists of, or ask if you can shadow a day at his job to see if such a career is really what interests you.

Internships are a great way to network, because you work with people in the career you are interested in. Seeing what they do on a daily basis, as well as gaining experience in the field for yourself, will help you choose the best career for you.

Picking the right career might seem daunting, based on the enormity of the job market.  Narrowing down the list of careers is a possibility, but a better approach is narrowing down your own search through knowledge of yourself. Once you know yourself, you can explore the careers that interest you or apply to you, instead of filtering through millions of listings. The right career for you is out there, and knowing what you want will help you explore and land a more productive and fulfilling career.