This is a guest post by Mary Robb.
Once you’re a senior during your last semester in college, you’ve probably heard it all. “You need to intern, you need to network, you need to stay connected with your network, and you need to work hard.” Unsure of your future, you lean on people above you for “advice” on building your career and making it happen. I’ve heard “advice” from dozens of successful professionals that I’m very grateful for, but sometimes the best advice stems from my personal experiences where I took risks, acted upon my own instincts, and learned from my mistakes.
Tip #1: Landing your first internship doesn’t guarantee landing exactly where you want to be.
I was one of many students interviewed at a smaller ad agency in my college town, and I felt nervous since I’d never worked at a “real job”. I had experience waiting tables, babysitting kids, and selling tanning lotion. None of those jobs were positioned in the traditional office environment, although I could argue how the skills I learned could be applied. I hoped I had somehow won over the interviewer with my desire to work and learn. A week or so later, the news came in: I landed my first internship. I was SO excited. I could officially take that next step toward launching my professional career.
Unfortunately, not everything turned out as I’d envisioned. I wanted to be actively involved, pressured and held responsible for handling big client projects. Instead, I was held accountable for getting the mail, refilling the sodas in the refrigerator and assembling products for clients. Even though I voiced my desire to work on more projects, I wasn’t assigned any “challenging” work.
What I learned from my first internship experience was this: you have to start somewhere. I was happy to be offered the position, but I quickly found out I was capable of much more than I was being held responsible for. The internship was only a semester, so I did the most I could and kept a positive attitude. This experience was a stepping-stone and helped guide me to where I am now.
Tip #2: Use the jobs you have now to get where you want to be later.
I was a cocktail waitress for a top-grossing bar and club in my college town. After a change in management, many of the employees who ran the marketing and social media functions were no longer in place. That’s when I gained courage and spoke up.
At a meeting, I told my managers, “I’m a public relations major and know about social media.” I volunteered to run the social media sites during a short “trial” phase and after a few weeks I was being paid! It was incredible. I was being paid to do what I love. I quickly took on more and more marketing-related tasks and it became a very active job.
Think of where you work now, and think about the ways you could apply the skills you’ve been learning in school at your job. Trust me, it’s an easy way to get started in building your career since you already know your managers and can assess what the needs are before you approach them with your ideas.
Tip #3: Continue to interview, even after you’ve been offered a position.
Let me make this simple: company A is where I work now and company B is where I was offered a job I later declined. First, I interviewed with company B. I liked the people I met during the interview and I liked their business. A week or so later, I was offered the job at company B. That’s when I got the call.
Company A wanted to interview me for a similar position. I debated on whether it was right for me to accept the interview because I’d already interviewed with and been offered a job at company B. After talking with my parents, I decided to go ahead and go to the interview at company A. Next thing you know, I decided to work for company A and respectfully declined the offer from company B.
Although this can be risky and you have to do it the right way (don’t sign any contracts or make any commitments), because you should always keep your options open. Looking back, I’m glad I made my decision because I feel like I fit in more where I’m at now. Take every interview that’s been offered to you, especially early in your career.
Tip #4: Get to know your career advisor.
Some of you may have heard this before, but make sure to stay connected with your career adviser. I got my current job through my career adviser.
It was time for me to make my next move and I was looking for a new internship position. Since it was urgent, I walked right into her office, quickly told her what I needed, and she actually told me about something that had just popped up in her inbox. She emailed me the job information before she emailed everyone else and I applied for it right away. Not long after that, I got the job.
Use the career advisors in your colleges: get on their job posting email list, talk to them about your job wishes and concerns, and let them review your resume and cover letters. That’s what they are there for. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.
Tip #5: Join groups within your college-but really.
This one might also sound familiar, but there are so many benefits to being involved in your school. This is the key to getting connected and the best way to start networking. After attending a monthly meeting, I picked up a business card of the professional who spoke at our meeting. I emailed her asking about internships at her company, which led to my first internship.
The most important take away point through my experiences in my early career is this: you will be given lots of “advice” that will be useful and there are many people above you that have more knowledge and experience than you. But don’t lose sight of who you are and what you want. Sometimes I would feel as though everyone was telling me who I should be and what I should do rather than that I forgetting who I was and what I truly wanted. Remember, it’s your career and your life. Make moves that make you happy and best suit your life, and you will go far.
Just a little “advice” from the advised.
About the Author:
My name is Mary Robb and you can reach me at email@example.com. I love public relations and marketing! I am a lifelong learner and continually find ways to innovate and improve ideas. I’m also a huge animal advocate and believe in rescuing animals. Music determines my mood and stirs up my passion. Twitter: @MaryERobb WordPress: MaryERobb.com