While a lot of your peers may already have jobs lined up or have been accepted into Masters programs, there are those of us who are still trying to figure out that next step after undergrad. That’s just the reality for a lot of industries that don’t necessarily require a higher degree or don’t participate in any pipeline recruiting for students. The entertainment industry (my field of choice ) is notorious for it, but there’s also the public relations, advertising and publishing industries, just to name a few.
It’s a hard reality to come to grips with, especially when constantly asked the dreaded “So what are you doing after college?” question. It’s up to you to either dodge that bullet and dance around it, or take the question head on and come up with a gameplan to help get you employed by the end of senior year. For those of you earlier on in the college cycle, here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way to help navigate this process.
1. Research different career tracks early on
I came to Stanford thinking I wanted to be a doctor and put all my eggs in the pre-med basket. So when I ultimately dropped the medicine track, I was left stumped with what to major in and what field to pursue. Luckily, through talking with older students and classmates I was able to stumble upon my current major which I ended up loving (which you can read more about here if interested). Which leads me to my next point…
2. Make friends with older students
It can only serve to your benefit to have friends who have been through the college ropes before. As a freshman, get to know your RAs. Find out what their major is, how they settled upon it, and what career they hope to get with that major. Older friends are great for telling you what classes to take and not to take. In addition, they can serve as a great connection to vouch for you and help get you into extracurricular clubs and organizations after freshman year.
3. Use your summers wisely
Most times, the internships or fellowships you have during the summer serve as a direct pipeline to a full-time offer after graduation. After my freshman year, I did a pre-med program at Yale School of Medicine. When I pivoted to pre-business, I did a consulting externship at the firm Bain & Company after sophomore year. But during my junior year, I decided to explore my passion for the entertainment industry and see if it was a good fit for me career-wise. I ended up getting an internship at Good Morning America and absolutely loved it.
Summers are a great time for career exploration in different fields, but as you get to the end of your time in undergrad, keep in mind that the summer experiences you take on will have a greater impact on what you do after college. I went into last summer at GMA knowing that it would most likely not lead to a full-time offer, but that uncertainty was worth it for me to get the chance to explore my passion and increase my network. Even after the summer ends, keep in contact with the employees and recruiters you met at the internship. You never know when a full-time opening could come up, so it pays to have active relationships within that company.
4. Form relationships with professors and advisors
Even if you’re in a huge introductory lecture, raise your hand and ask an insightful question that can get the professor to remember your face. Even better, go up after class and introduce yourself so the professor can get to know you on a first-name basis. Professors love it when you go to their office hours. Even if you don’t have any specific questions about the lecture material, getting their insight and knowledge about the subject area as a whole can show them your genuine interest in the field and can form the basis of a great relationship moving forward. Pick a professor from one of your favorite classes and ask them to be your academic advisor for your major. You may decide to apply for grad school or fellowships down the line, which in most cases require a letter of recommendation. Your advisor can serve as a great resource for that.
Also, here are a few general tips to make your professional life just a little easier…
- Be personable, bring your best self to the interview, but most importantly be authentic. The worst thing you can do is put on a persona during an interview, then not be able to deliver once the job starts.
- Don’t lie on your resume! I’m talking to all of you who list “Proficient in Excel” on your resume… You know who you are! Your employer is bound to find out, so just don’t do it!
- Be able to speak about all your different experiences on your resume. Be able to articulate what measurable results you obtained and what tangible impact you had during the role.
For me, the next steps are a spring internship at KRON4 News Station in San Francisco and graduation in June. After that, who knows? Maybe my internship will lead to a full-time offer but if not, I am hoping these next few months will lead me to a similar job in broadcast journalism. I know the process of breaking into the media industry is uncertain, but taking into account all the lessons I’ve learned at Stanford these past four years, I am up for the challenge.