Wisdom on the road to graduation

Hey, class of 2013! This week’s post is for you. At the start of the semester, I posed a few questions to the College of William & Mary Alumni Network on LinkedIn: Do you love your job? How did you get it? How did you decide it was right for you? We got a number of responses, but one in particular stood out from Madeline Chessman ’12, Major Gifts Assistant at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:

Hang in there seniors! I wish I had been told the following my senior year:

1) The job description is not the job.
Don’t be too bummed if you don’t get an interview for that “perfect” job. Job descriptions are rarely 100% complete – that’s why the interview process exists. You get to ask the organization questions, and they get to ask you questions (because resumes, like job descriptions, rarely tell the whole story).

2) Talk to people who have careers that interest you.
Say you see a marketing position open up at a cool organization. You’ve never done marketing before, but you think you might like it. Find someone who has a marketing job, and ask for an informational interview (or phone/email/LinkedIn exchange). Each field is different (e.g. sometimes you have to intern, sometimes you need a master’s degree) and the best way to learn about a field is to talk to people in it.

3) Talk to people at organizations you might like to work for.
Companies aren’t their mission statements or annual reports. They are made of real people, and the only way to learn about those people and their organizational culture is by talking to employees. It’s like the college search process – each college has a personality, where do you “fit in” the best? And like the college search process, I recommend coming up with a prioritized list of potential employers – “reach” companies, “safety” companies, etc.

4) Just pick something!
Your major may or may not translate into an obvious first career step – and even if it does, entry-level positions may be scarce. My film major and business minor did not directly translate into working as a Major Gifts Assistant at the Kennedy Center, but it makes sense and I absolutely love my job. You may have lots of ideas for jobs, or none. That’s okay. But the worst thing to do is wallow in painful soul-searching and indecision. TWAMPs are smart, successful, and have lots of post-grad choices. Being decisive, brave, and making concrete goals for yourself will make your job search much more feasible. You also will receive much better advice when you ask more specific questions.

Thus: just pick something! It is definitely easier to break into your “chosen field” once you’ve chosen something, even if the choice is quasi-arbitrary. You have to start somewhere.

Best of luck, seniors – it gets better!

For help in your job or graduate school, please call 757-221-3231 for an appointment with a career adviser.