By Annie Favreau, Inside Jobs
With graduation season in full swing, I’ve been thinking a lot about new grads who have put off career planning until the very last second. Not too long ago, I was in the exact same boat. During my senior year, I had been completely focused on my classes. By the time I raised by head out of the trenches after finals, I realized I didn’t even know where to start in terms of choosing or building a career. And the clock was ticking.
It worked out in the end (I was lucky enough to find a job I love a few months after graduation) but not until after some serious heartache and awkward trial-and-error.
From this rocky beginning, here are some of my favorite, and hard-earned, career choice tips:
Volunteer: If you haven’t had any real world experience, now is the time. Even if you have to work as a barista to pay the bills, set aside time for an internship or at least some volunteer hours at an organization that interests you. Don’t get too hung up about where you choose to work first. The simple act of being in a workplace—any workplace—is useful. It can teach you about your own work values, what kind of environment you’re best suited too and more. Even if you don’t find your dream job, you’ll at least have cut out some options.
Build a Wide Network: Not having a specific career focus is no reason not to build a network of contacts and friends. Reaching out to people working in many different areas can open your eyes to the sheer range of career possibilities. Plus, once you do find a career area you want to pursue, chances are you’ll know someone who knows someone happy to help you get a foot in the door. BONUS TIP: Networking is a two way street. You will have much more success if you approach people with the pay-it-forward mentality of “How can I help this person?” instead of “How can this person help me?”
Do Your Research: It’s been my experience that an informed job seeker is a more competitive job seeker. From informational interviews to career exploration sites, now’s the time to buckle down, commit to in-depth research, and put in the effort to get the facts you need.
Stay Strong: Everyone takes a different path. Yes, some people have known exactly what they wanted to be since they were ten years old. But many strong, accomplished people have taken much more circuitous routes to success. Never apologize for the path you’re on. It’s yours, be proud.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about choosing a career?
About the author: Annie Favreau works for InsideJobs.com, a site that helps people make career choices and build strong, successful futures. Join the career conversation on Twitter at @InsideJobs.