This is one of those inevitable questions that students get asked senior year. It is kind of like “how was your break?” No matter what college/major a student is from, he or she is going to take a next step. It may be graduate school, a service program, a year of travel, a job with the government or a company. Right away, it might not be any of those things. Even if you are not enrolled in a school or employed right after graduation, it is important to have a clear goal in mind. Not for the people asking you, but for yourself. Do yourself a favor and start moving toward that goal now.
If you have no idea what it is yet, great. There are too many opportunities to figure it out, and I mean that. The lists of on-campus events/information sessions in the Wildcat Newswire and the VSB Insider’s Edge are longer than the Table of Contents in a Harry Potter book. Just scan through them at the very least! My orientation counselor (who is now a Rhodes Scholar) told our group that the first week of school and I am sure glad she did. Attending some of those events is a key step toward figuring out what interests you. A good example happened my freshman year, when I was lucky enough to see Mr. Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, speak in the featured executive speaker series here at Villanova. I walked away saying, “I want to work for that guy!” Well, I am going to work for that guy. I will be entering GE’s Financial Management Program after school after completing an internship with them this past summer. About an hour and a half of my time to watch that speech taught me a lot of things about the kind of place I wanted to work and gave me a tangible, relevant story to share during my interview about how I was introduced to the company. In my mind, it was well worth it. To be fair, if you attend a good amount of events you will sit through some that you do not like at all. That is okay! My challenge to you would be to come away with one lesson from each session that you attend, good or bad. This ensures that you are making progress toward your post-graduation goal.
I want to quickly echo a suggestion that has appeared in some of the other blog posts, and that is to utilize the alumni network. Reach out to friends that recently graduated, or someone you found in an alumni directory. Just find out if they enjoy what they are doing and why. If something does not sound appealing, thank them for their time and sample some other options. Finding out where you do not fit is just as important as finding out where you do. It can help to keep you on track toward the goal of identifying a field of interest. When reaching out to anyone for a professional purpose, keep in mind that you really never know who can be a helpful resource down the road.
What about people on campus? In addition to testing the waters with current graduate students/volunteers/employees, look around in the immediate area. Set up a conversation with someone from the Career Center, your college’s office, another student that is in an organization you would like to join, or even a professor! Since our career interests are not something we necessarily evaluate on a day-to-day basis, setting aside this time to really think about them provides clarity and keeps them in the front of our minds. I was able to utilize several staff members at the Clay Center, as well as a couple professors and one person from the Career Center to help figure out what my goal was going to be and how to work toward it. Do not underestimate the value of each one of these meetings. I gained perspective and heard stories from professors who actually worked in different industries, was able to put into words a lot of things I was thinking, and hear about the options available to help me prepare myself. I still see some of these people around campus, and have been able to maintain those relationships and share my progress with them.
The common denominator in all of these options is YOU. Nobody is going to set this up for you if you do not take ownership of it. It helps to take some time to evaluate yourself, both on a professional and personal level. Are you good in interviews? Do you struggle with networking skills? What are you passionate about? If you have an answer to questions like these, you have something important: self-awareness. That has been one of my biggest takeaways from the process. If you know what you do well and what you need to improve on, you can be honest with yourself and find something that utilizes your strengths and helps improve your weaknesses.
You may follow a totally different process than I have, and I understand that what I described may not apply to every single person. However, it has worked for me and I hope that reading any one of the posts on this blog will help in your post-graduation search. It is not easy, but if you have the courage to get out to events and talk to several different people, it will go a long way in helping you figure out what to do after graduation.
The key to a successful job or internship search is good strategy. This includes a couple of different components, but one piece of your strategy should include LinkedIn. Many students don’t think they need to have a presence on LinkedIn until they start their job or even later. This is completely false. LinkedIn is a professional social network that can help students make informed decisions about their majors and their careers.
For students who are looking for a job, internship, or who want to build a professional presence, the value it brings is truly amazing.
Here are some ways to start searching smarter with LinkedIn:
Search For Opportunities:
As a student, you have access to the Student Jobs Portal on http://students.linkedin.com/ where over 50,000 jobs and internships are posted specifically for students and recent graduates. The portal allows you to filter your search by job function, location, and company in order to see all of the available opportunities.
Network With Alumni:
Alumni are a great resource for students because they can give insight and advice about their own career paths as well as the industry and company in which they work. You can use the Alumni Tool (http://linkedin.alumni.com ) to search for graduates of your university and filter based on what they studied, where they work, where they live, and what they do. My advice is to use this method to seek out a handful of people, send them a message asking for an informational interview, and build a relationship from there.
Build Your Professional Brand:
Don’t forget to make sure that your profile is a clear representation of you who you are! It is not just your resume, it is a story about your experiences from your first job as a babysitter and beyond. What is great about LinkedIn profiles is the flexibility and variety of sections upon which you can expand. Do you volunteer? Are you involved in clubs? Do you have a portfolio of your work? There is room for all of this on your profile. You can also embed videos, pictures, and SlideShare presentations as a great way to display all of your hard work. The College Profile Checklist and other tips on http://university.linkedin.com is a great place to start!
If you would like to learn more about LinkedIn, the Career Center holds walk-in hours in which you can get your profile reviewed. Keep an eye out for LinkedIn workshops or if you would like to hold one for your student organization send me an email. I work for LinkedIn as a Campus InBassador helping students and organizations utilize LinkedIn more effectively.
Professors, advisers, and our parents have given us advice about the do’s and don’ts of internships for years, but let’s be honest – we don’t always listen and take it to heart. However, I sure wish I did listen more because I started to feel like I wasn’t standing out enough during my first internship, and didn’t know how to turn things around. Maybe, just maybe, students are more likely to listen to suggestions from one of their peers who has made mistakes over the past four years. What follows is what I have titled: The Diary of a Braided Haired Kid
January 17th, 2011
My business dynamics professor keeps telling us to start networking now, but that seems so early! I am just a freshman and have decided I will just wait until junior year to start networking for an internship. There is no need for me to attend the Spring Career Fair.
My advice looking back: Don’t push off networking because you can never start too early! Get out there and introduce yourself to recruiters. You want them to remember your name, impressive resume, and smile when you do end up applying in a year or two. Trust me. It works.
June 5th, 2012
I love my internship so far! Every day I grab lunch with the other interns and we have become so close. Some of them have suggested we should eat with some of the employees on our team, but that would totally interfere with our gossip time, and would be sort of awkward because we don’t know them that well.
My advice looking back: While having lunch with the interns is fun and usually stress free, don’t be afraid to branch out of your comfort zone. Most companies encourage interns to set up one-on-ones with different employees in their department and even upper management! Take advantage of meeting new people and asking them questions about their experiences. Afterwards, don’t forget to send them a thank you note and connect with them on LinkedIn.
August 2nd, 2013
I am beyond swamped. My manager was impressed with the work I did on my last project, so she gave me two new projects on top of my day to day responsibilities. The deadlines are coming up fast and I know I won’t be able to finish. Ugh to the extreme.
My advice looking back: Sometimes deadlines and project goals that are set for you are a bit unrealistic. Don’t be afraid to speak with your supervisor and express your concerns. At the end of the day, it is better to produce high quality work on one project than do a mediocre job on three projects. Take the extra time that is needed to review your work, ask questions, and run ideas by your team!
After that excruciating search, you’ve finally secured the internship of your dreams. But an internship isn’t the end – you really want that job offer after graduation! How do you impress your employers over the next three months to convince them to offer that coveted full-time position? This past summer, I had an internship with consumer product giant Procter & Gamble making laundry detergents (Tide, Gain, etc.). The following are some tips about internships that I learned over the summer.
1. Understand why you’re there
Yes, your impressive resume and impeccable interview skills may have put you above other candidates, but interns do not provide much benefit for the company. The company is spending incredible resources to train and pay you for only a summer of work. It isn’t about your past accomplishments in school, but about analyzing your future potential. The internship is really an in-depth interview for a full-time position.
2. Ask, Ask, Ask
This is probably the biggest piece of advice I could give to anyone. As much as you’ve learned in school, there is so much you do not know and the company realizes that. There’s no way that you could learn the intricacies of the entire manufacturing process of solid, liquid, or pod laundry detergents, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help the company in only 3 months. There were often operators that had been working on the same equipment for 25+ years so I could save hours of information digging by asking a simple question. Being able to admit you do not know everything is an impressive credential as it helps avoid mistakes, show interest, and make you a much more efficient employee.
3. Provide a new perspective
As a new employee, you come in with a new perspective on the entire process. If you come across some inefficiency in which you don’t understand their current system, ask why the company does it that way. For example, during my internship I noticed that there were three consecutive daily meetings – department up to site-wide – requiring the same data to be entered. Since data entry took about half of each meeting, I suggested that they could link together the data so it would update automatically for them. Not realizing how much time was wasted, they were surprised by the shortness of the meetings after I completed the project. Obviously, don’t go around questioning everything that happens in the company, but see if there are any inefficiencies that might not be as obvious to the company as they seem to you.
4. Do things after work
You may think your internship is only between 9 and 5, but it is much more than that. Whether there are company-sponsored events or not, many employees will hang out after work, which is an ideal time to network! Trust me, hanging out with other interns and employees will not only have a great impact on your job outlook, but will also result in a great summer. Being in Louisiana, our intern group scheduled trips to New Orleans, Houston, and San Antonio and employees would often join us. We also had company sponsored events like a bowling tournament as well as random hangouts in poker nights, local baseball games, and hiking adventures. It ended up being a great summer and helped me gain connections throughout the plant.
5. Make your “claim to fame”
In every job you have, it is important to try to have something that you are known for. Whether it is being an expert at a specific process or being the go-to person for any question related to a specific software, having a “claim to fame” is important. It helps people get to know you throughout the company and makes the company need you as an employee. In my internship, I became the department expert on a computer program that tracked manufacturing downtime as well as saving the company $1.1 million.
6. Evaluate the company
As much as the internship is about you getting a chance to show the company what you provide, you also need to make sure the company is right for you. The best way to do this is to ask the employees. Ask about their jobs, progression, benefits, travel, and anything else that you value in a future career. If the company is not what you are looking for, use the experience to find a position aligned with your interests. If the company is exactly what you expected, hopefully these tips have put you in a prime location for that offer letter!
Although smartphones are incredibly common among students and young professionals, many have never tried to use their phones to improve their productivity. More and more developers are focusing on “lifehack” type software that allows you to optimize the way that you spend your time. The apps featured in this article are perfect for college students who need to stay organized and still find time for themselves.
Note: All features discussed regarding the following apps are available in the free versions.
Wunderlist - www.wunderlist.com - Price: Free – $5/month for Extra Features
Created in 2010, this application gave the age old to-do list a face lift and collaborative features. The company offers both mobile and desktop apps, which allows Wunderlist to sync all of your to-dos in one place. With the ability to create sub-lists, add recurring weekly tasks, and plan due dates, it is a great way to manage your syllabus and remind yourself of when you need things done.
One of the best features for students in this app is the ability to share lists between users. This is perfect for group projects as it provides a way to check on what others members have done, while simultaneously broadcasting your contributions. The app is not limited to project based sub-lists, either; many student groups could benefit from a central way to track the due dates for their responsibilities.
Evernote - www.evernote.com - Price: Free – $45/year for Extra Features
This application offers an amazing way to do everything from taking notes to saving photos and audio, while still syncing it between your mobile and desktop. Evernote provides a canvas to create notebooks, notes, and folders of files within the application. The company stresses that their are few limitations with what you can use Evernote for, as it is versatile and largely up to the user; however, one popular use is as a way to take your class notes.
Any student that types his or her notes should experiment with Evernote; it is a great way to outline information and combine all of your coursework in one place. The mobile application makes it easy to snap a photo of handouts (after class of course) and add them to the digital notebook in the cloud. With the ability to share notes with friends and coworkers, some people and businesses even use it as an alternative to Google Documents.
Quizlet - www.quizlet.com - Price: Free – $15/year for Extra Features
Flash cards are one of the best ways to study for a test quickly, but having the bundles of cards in your backpack is inconvenient. Quizlet eliminated this problem by creating a website and dedicated app that allow you to create, share, and study flashcard decks that you, or other students, have created. The website gives the option to provide the title of your course so that other students may find and use deck to study.
The website provides a few different options for studying, such as flashcards, mock tests, or fill in the blanks, which all lend themselves helpful when reviewing material. The mobile application provides a great way to view and study your flash cards on-the-go and without the hassle of carrying them around.
Lift - www.lift.do - Price: Free
Lift is an app that is gaining popularity quickly because of its unique goal: to help users improve themselves. At its core, Lift is a great way to create or join habits and track how well you are doing in sticking to them. It requires you to check off which you completed each day and tracks your streak as you move through 21-day habit building cycles. By visualizing broken streaks and giving you positive motivation with good ones, the app helps users with goals like going to the gym, reading, or eating healthy each day.
If you opt to, you can even add notes and share your streaks with friends or even strangers who are a part of the same goal as you. Some users add stories from their own successes when they check off a daily habit to share what benefits that have seen since starting in order to motivate others.
Networking is probably one of the hardest and most confusing practices. Get comfy being uncomfy.
Think back to your awkward luau day, when everyone must have said their name, where they are from, and what major they are. I bet you don’t remember half of the people that you said that to that day.
Why? You didn’t form a connection. Networking is all about creating professional relationships.
Networking provides the opportunity to ask for invaluable advice you would have never known. Any professional you talk to was once your age and they have experience which could mean awesome advice for you.
Everyone has a story, and most people like to tell theirs. Whether it’s about career progression, or something that happened last week, you never know when you’re going to find something in common with someone else. They may have gone through the same 3 major-changing crises that you went through, or you may be from the same area; regardless it’s an easy way to connect. Some advice may even be hidden in there! (Remember the first time an upperclassman told you how to order one of Kathy’s omelets at the Pit? Case and Point. )
Ask for a Business card!
Don’t be afraid to ask for a business card. You could follow up about opportunities or whenever you feel is applicable.
Have fun and be yourself!
You step into the room, you’re sweating through your suit, or your heels are too tight, now you have to worry about being serious and talk to people. Sounds like fun huh?
It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to smile. It’s okay to not wear all black. Keep in mind that many companies recruit from on campus networking sessions. They’re looking for people who are technically competent for the job, and someone they would enjoy working with. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. If anything you will make it a memorable experience for whomever you were talking to, which your resume to the top of the stack.
Take Advantage of the Alumni Network!
The Villanova Alumni are unbelievable in my experience; helping however they can. Many companies bring alumni when visiting campus, so hop on Go Nova Jobs and scout out some companies that you may be interested in. When they come to campus you will probably have the chance to speak with an alum.
Take Advantage of the Career Center!
The Career Center and Go Nova Jobs are great resources to find companies coming to campus, interview advice, and networking tips. The more networking sessions you attend, you will feel more comfortable talking to people and making connections on the fly.
You are your best advocate, and no one knows YOUR story, better than YOU! Have a 30 second elevator pitch about WHO you are. This will give the person you’re talking to a little bit of insight as to who you are and why you’re interested in talking to them. The more unique this is, the better. You want to stand out in the pack, and with a ton of other “xyz majors” just like you, it’s important to highlight why you’re different and why you’re motivated. Keep it short and relevant!
Awkward Luau etiquette should always be avoided.
You’ll be networking like a ninja before you know it and on your way to an internship or full time offer!
What do you want to be when you grow up? Ask any 10 year old that question, and they’ll give you an answer immediately. A fireman, a teacher, a princess. Ask me the same question, and I’ll smile and tell you I have no idea. But I’m a senior in college, I’m looking for jobs, I’m interviewing and deciding my future plans; shouldn’t I have this all figured out by now? The answer is no. For some reason, we’re made to believe that we’re supposed to know exactly what we want to do when we’re 18. A recent article from boston.com summarized an ACT study that said most high school seniors are not ready to pick their majors. So how do you decide what you want to do for the rest of your life?
When I first came to Villanova, I wanted to be a teacher. Now, I’m a senior Computer Engineer. I’ve switched majors three times, and I would probably switch again if there was still time. I went from undecided to Math to Computer Science, and finally settled with Computer Engineering. I love each of those subjects, but in every one I was bored. I wanted something more. Computer Engineering satisfied me for a few years, but the boredom set in with that too.
It was last March. I had a big project due at midnight, and I had been working on it for ten hours. I still hadn’t finished, it was 11pm, and I was borderline having a mental breakdown. The next day I talked to a few of my classmates about it. “Yeah, that was hard,” they said, “It took me three hours.” Three hours?? I had spent 11 and had handed in something incomplete. That’s when it hit me: I did not want to be programming for a living. It was too hard and too overwhelming for me. But what else could I do with my degree?
I decided on becoming a Technical Analyst – a “translator” between the business side of a company and the technical side. I wouldn’t have to program, but I would still be able to incorporate my engineering knowledge. I got an internship at a financial company as a Technical Analyst, and for a month I was excited and happy. I thought I had found the perfect job. Then one day, after all of the excitement of starting my internship had worn off, I was walking home and I suddenly realized that this was not what I wanted to do. I was bored again. I didn’t feel fulfilled. I felt useless and unneeded. If I had that job full time, I probably would’ve gone insane. Strike two for Katrina. Or should we say strike five? I was bored with math, I was bored with computer science, I was bored and overwhelmed with programming, and now I was bored with being a Technical Analyst. What options did I have left?
Luckily, we have an amazing Career Center at Villanova. I scheduled a meeting with a Career Counselor the first week back at school, and I took the Strong Interest Inventory – usually taken by freshman and sophomores to help them figure out their major. The results came back, and – surprise, surprise – all the jobs related to Computer Engineering were at the bottom of my list. What was in the top ten? High school teacher, middle school teacher, elementary school teacher, special education teacher… A teacher?! But I had said no to education my freshman year, when I decided instead to become a math major! I figured I should probably reconsider the idea.
The Career Counselor I went over my results with helped me a lot. He gave me some great advice – do research, consider any job that looks even mildly interesting to me, and apply, apply, apply. Apply to anything I thought I might like. Going through the application and interview process would help me narrow down my options. I would only be passionate about some, and I’d be able to eliminate all the others.
Thanks to the Career Center and its many resources, I’ve finally figured out a career plan: work for a few years, then go back to graduate school and get a Psychology degree. With my track record though, this plan will probably change. But I’m not worried, because I know I will eventually find the job I love. It’s better to be constantly searching than settling for something that I know isn’t the best.
So what do you do if you don’t know what to do? Relax! Don’t panic. You can go to the Career Center, talk to a Career Counselor, and maybe take the Strong Interest Inventory. Keep an open mind. It’s ok if your major changes, and it’s ok if you end up with a major you don’t love. It took me a while to realize that, but thanks to the Career Center, I am confident that one day, sooner rather than later, I will be where I want to be.