finding a career

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.

Awesome Online Certifications that Will Supercharge Your Resume

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As a senior, I find myself constantly reviewing my resume as I begin applying for jobs post-graduation. Since I’m pursuing the competitive field of secondary education, my goal is to differentiate my resume from the rest—I want my potential employers to think, “Wow! That’s certainly something we’ve never seen before.” However, I had—and still have—difficulty finding the time to fit additional activities in my already busy schedule. In the midst of working two jobs, taking classes full time, and living off campus, cultivating my professional portfolio often takes a backseat. 

Like many students, I need something that will work around my schedule and pace so that I can invest into my future career.

Thankfully, I did not marinate in my pre-professional preparation plight for long—I stumbled across www.udemy.com, a website that offers online courses at an insanely discounted price, as I was searching for opportunities to expand my educational knowledge. From there, I took it upon myself to explore other options of free certifications and courses online that either pertained to my potential profession or indicated my desire to better myself career-wise. 

These certifications and courses will not only help your resume and LinkedIn profile stand out, but will also diversify your portfolio in ways thought not to be possible. Additionally, it is a convenient and time-efficient way a student can educate themselves online for free, which is perfect for the busy (and often broke) college student. 

Potential employers and companies will see that you are a candidate who invests in his or herself in a professional and personal manner, as evidenced in your willingness to explore options that cultivate your career. If you put in the effort, the outcome for job interviews will increase based upon your ability to continually learn new skills that will benefit your future employer.

Here are online certificates and courses that will boost your professional skill set and widen the horizon of job prospects:

 

The Digital Garage by Google

This free, online introductory certificate enhances your knowledge of Online Marketing in areas such as Analytics, Adwords, E-mail Marketing, efficient web-search processes, social media, and more. 

As an award winning platform, the Digital Garage offers various tutorials taught by experts in the field that can be taken separately based upon your specific interests, or taken altogether so that you can receive a certificate from both Google and IAB Europe upon its completion. 

It is a perfect way to convert your communicative and technological talents into a useful certificate that will enhance your resume and career prospects, as well as place you on track to further technological knowledge.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Psychological First Aid

This online course is not only free, but is endorsed by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs. Hosted by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, it teaches you how to help children and adults who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, psychological distress after surviving disastrous circumstances. You will learn how to connect them to mental health professionals so that the individual can begin to heal in the wake of their trauma. 

There are also other free courses offered on the website that are geared towards aiding children and military families with their specific coping needs. This is an essential course for those who wish to pursue careers in psychology, education, law enforcement, and medicine, and will definitely enhance your qualifications in the eyes of a potential employer.

Microsoft Learning: Certifications in Microsoft Excel

Microsoft has an online platform that offers many certification courses for Microsoft Office—one of the most popular being a certificate in Microsoft Excel!

You will learn how to write formulas and functions that can be useful to many career fields, have constant access to course materials and instructor, and participate in interactive lessons that will keep you engaged. 

The courses offered will turn you into an expert of Excel and will be an asset to your resume and LinkedIn profile, especially if you are interested in a career involving business, accounting, finance, and even communications. 

In addition to Microsoft’s platform, there are many beginner and advanced courses on Microsoft Excel that are hosted by www.udemy.com, some of which retailing for only $12—93% off of its original sticker price!

Codecademy: Learn to Code

In this technological day and age, coding is playing a larger role in every career path as the demand for coding skills in various fields is on the rise. Be ahead of the curve, and use Codecademy! 

Codecademy is an online resource that offers free coding courses. It is perfect for those who are tech-savvy and innate autodidacts, and an extremely useful certification to have when entering any field reliant upon technology and computer programming. The website will help you facilitate the brain’s methodical faculties, as well as merge analytical skills into the technological field. 

The website boasts that 45 million people across the world have utilized the skills learned through their courses, which means that it is not only doable, but able to be applied to a number of careers.

American Association of Medical Assistants’s Medical Terminology Certification

The American Association of Medical Assistants offers a free certification in Medical Terminology that will be an amazing asset to your resume, especially if you are student considering careers in the medical field, such as Pre-Med programs or Nursing, or studying the Health Sciences. 

It trains and familiarizes you in the medical jargon implemented in healthcare settings, as well as extensive knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology. They offer practice examinations and study tools to help you ace the final certificate test, and enhances your knowledge in the field. (It will help you on Dr. Sallai’s and Dr. Curtis’s exams, too!) 

Students who wish to attend medical school will find this to be a perfect addition to their own prior medical experience, as well as a useful resource for future studies.    

Udemy: An Online Resource for Learning

Udemy features a variety of certifications and courses geared towards the enrichment of your studies or facilitating knowledge in a subject you were not particularly attuned to. Many of its courses are perfectly tailored for college students seeking guidance, diversity, and additional skills to help in their professional pursuits. 

While the courses and certifications offered are mainly geared towards business and technology, there are also many other curriculums geared towards one’s own personal development. Whether you are seeking to hone pre-existing skills, learn new ones, or simply invest into yourself as a person, the investment is certainly one that will prove to pay in spades!

Udemy has a plethora of low-cost courses, ranging from IT & Software to the Humanities. It is a wonderful resource for those who wish to grow in knowledge in many fields, as well as those who seek to better themselves on an intellectual level. Coupled with the essential assistance offered by the Office of Career Services, you will be fully prepared, confident, and secure as you enter into the professional world.

 

Whatever field you are interested in, there is an array of online introductory certifications and courses that are either free or low-cost that will bring your resume to the next level. Potential employers will wish to have you work with their company as a multi-faceted and well-rounded person, who takes the initiative to invest in yourself and your career aspirations. 

You will be well ahead of other applicants because you demonstrate your desire to learn and grow in knowledge of your craft, as well as foster the talents you already possess and make them THAT much greater as assets. 

Visit the Office of Career Services, or “The Den,” located on the first floor of the Student Union, to help begin your pre-professional pursuits and place you on the path for success!

How To Find the Major That’s Best For You

“What’s your major?”

This question is probably the #1 most FAQ at any university and Ave Maria is no exception. It’s a foolproof way to break the ice and make small talk when starting at a new school and meeting new people. But it’s not an easy question to answer, and a lot of thought needs to go into making the decision.

Personally, finding the best major for me was a bit of a roller coaster. As a freshman, I declared a Literature major with minors in Music and Shakespeare in Performance. My passions truly lie in music and acting. For as long as I can remember, both have been a very important part of my life, yet, by the end of the year, I was in a crisis.

I was persuaded into thinking that music, or any impractical major, wasn’t worth it. I was surrounded by a world that believed practicality was the road to success and anything else would surely lead to failure. I did well in math and science, so I knew I would do well if I pursued the “practical” path and became a doctor or a physician’s assistant.

If I studied that it would get me a real job and, therefore, a secure future.

So as my sophomore year began, I changed my major to biology and threw myself into biology classes. Simultaneously, I found that there were other areas where I could pursue music without having to be in the music department, so I dropped the minor.

Lastly, I registered for the Sophomore Success program.

The program helped me immensely. Through it, I discovered my top five traits, or strengths, and received advice on how to pursue a career path suited for me. These tools helped me better understand myself and how to search for a career (you can find a link to the “Choose a Major” page, which talks about the Sophomore Success program).

Following the Sophomore Success program, I took advantage of a lot of opportunities. I attended an intensive workshop for a Shakespeare graduate program, I spent ten days travelling through Italy, I was a costume intern and performer for a three week community theater camp, and I was part of a logistics team at a conference for Catholic thinkers and artists. I loved all of it, and the experiences led to a sudden realization.

I realized that I had been having the same conversation over and over again. For the last two and a half years, I had been speaking with mentors, teachers, and friends to help me figure out what to do with my life, and the one thing they kept saying was this:

“You’re definitely talented in the area of science, but it doesn’t seem to be what you’re passionate about.”

In the end, what mattered was what I was most passionate about, and that would be performance—whether it’s singing, dancing, or acting—literature, art, philosophy, and just people in general. As it turns out, Ave Maria has a major that includes all of those things: Humanities.

Interestingly enough, Humanities kept coming up in these conversations about my future, but I didn’t know anything about Humanities. I grew to learn more about the major and the people who studied it, but kept pushing the thought away. It wasn’t until a conversation I had with a friend that reality smacked me in the face: I am that kind of person. My passion and interest was drawing me in that direction, it just took me a while to catch up to them. Everyone else saw it but me.

This tale is not meant to convince you that Humanities is the best major. Rather, it’s how I came to find the best major for me. Yes, it takes some time, exploration, (a couple of mental breakdowns!), and a lot of discernment. But there is a process involved in choosing your major, and the work is completely worth it.

So here I am, a junior at Ave Maria pursuing a Humanities major and a minor in Shakespeare in Performance and I am happy

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of tips based on my experiences.

1. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it. You, and your strengths, will flourish if you pursue your passions. They will form you to be the best version of yourself.

2. A major is not a career. There are careers that require you to study a particular major (accountants, nurses, psychologists, etc.). But no major requires you to get a certain job. Consider your career choice and your major choice at the same time, but view them as separate issues.

3. Get involved. Sit in on classes you don’t take that are on subjects you’re interested in. Pay a visit to clubs you find intriguing. It’s hard to decide where to dive in if you haven’t at least dipped your toes in the water.

4. Talk to mentors, teachers, and friends so they can help you find yourself. Sometimes they will have insights into your character and interests that escape you. The Sophomore Success program is an excellent outlet for this discovery, and if you are a junior or senior you can still participate in the strengths assessments and mentoring that comes through the program.

5. It’s okay if you don’t have a particular career in mind when you start out. That’s part of the discovery. A major that best forms you as a well rounded person will naturally lead you in the direction of a career best suited for you.

6. Take advantage of opportunities! I cannot stress this enough. Look into internships, jobs, and other programs—whatever you can get your hands on. Pursue and persevere, and you will see doors opening (and sometimes closing, but that’s okay) all around you.

7. It’s okay to pursue what you want to. It’s okay to be happy with what you’re pursuing. If you can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that you want to try something else, you are better off looking into it.

8. Visit the Career Office in the Library Room 160 to find people who will walk you through your major choice.

9. Pray about it. Discern it. God will never lead you astray, even if it seems like he is sometimes taking you on a detour.

It’s my hope that you apply at least a couple of these to your own search!

So let me ask you: what’s your major?