I tell everyone I know that I have the best job in the world. This is my fifth year as a Career Counselor, (my third year at Appalachian State University) and every day is an amazing day. Why is it amazing? I get to talk to students all day, every day, about their values, strengths, goals and skills and how these translate into choosing a major and applying for a job. While I would like to have an opportunity to talk to all students at Appalachian, that just is not possible! There are a few pieces of advice I would give both prospective, incoming, and current students in regards to their career development:
Gain experience (and connections) early
Make good use of weekends and summers. To get into college and eventually land your dream job or internship you have to have both experience and connections. Utilizing your time outside of your academic experience is key. For your weekends, think about getting involved in volunteering or community projects. For example, if you love going to the Farmers Market, why not instead see if you can volunteer either at the market or helping someone with their booth? Do this and you will gain valuable volunteer experience and connections! Summer is a great time of the year to do career research. Find someone in the community who has a career you are interested in and see if you can shadow them for a half day or full day (or maybe even more!). If they can’t give up that time then see if they will do an informational interview. Doing this will give you a better sense of what that career area entails as well as make connections to use for that internship down the road.
Talk about your career goals early and often
The more people who know about what you want to do the more they can help you develop a network to use later in your professional journey. For example, if you’re at a holiday with family or friends and someone asks you how you’re doing, instead of saying “good” mention something about what you’re interested in such as “I am doing well, but I am currently trying to figure out what I want to study in college and I am between xx or xx”. Who knows what kind of experience, insight or connections the person you are talking to has!
Choose a practical minor
If you are pursuing a major that you love yet are concerned about employ-ability with that degree, consider choosing a practical minor. This can be anything from Business to Communications to English. This allows you to focus a majority of your academic experience on your interest area while also having a unique compliment to your education and versatile skill set!
Be cautious what you put online
This is one we see can make or break student’s opportunities to land a job or internship. Be cautious of what you put online from early on, when the time comes for you to apply for jobs or internships, this has a way of creeping up on you. Studies show an increasing number of employers who research potential employee’s social media sites. Ask yourself before you post something—”would I want a future employer to see this?” If the answer is “no”, take it down!
It is okay to not know exactly what you want to do
There are new majors and career areas being created every year, so if you can come into college knowing the general direction you want to head, you can work out the details later. Students who come into college knowing their personal strengths and interests will be on the right track to finding a career they love. If you add to that an open mind to explore new opportunities, you will have the chance to be challenged and changed by the classes you take and the activities you are involved in. Most colleges have career resource centers to help you explore your interest areas through assessments, counseling and strategically planning your course selection!
Finally, wherever you end up, utilize the services of a career resource center at the University you attend. We are equipped with resources, tools and connections to help you achieve your professional and career goals!