By Devlin Brush
Having overachieving friends is difficult. During the first semester of my sophomore year at UW, it seemed that all of my friends were suddenly hotshot young professionals, landing internships and jobs left and right, while I was still staring straight ahead at a dining hall grill. Going into the second semester, I knew I needed to spend my time better, but how? To help me solve this problem, my advisor recommended the new Letters & Science Career Development course. The course really helped me realign my perspective to be more focused on the future. Here are five lessons that had a profound impact on me during the course.
1. Your experience is what you make of it
When writing a resume, it can be hard to articulate the value of your previous experience, especially with the part-time jobs many college students have. However, one thing that was stressed in Inter-LS 210 was to always think of experiences in terms of “transferable skills,” which means boiling down your employment history to the core work skills that are involved in your job. For example, while preparing food might not transfer well to an office job, working in a “fast-paced environment” like a kitchen may be very attractive to many employers. I’m not saying that you’ll land a management position because you have experience in “telling people what to do”, but thinking about your transferable skills when writing your resume is a smart and clever way to sell yourself to an employer.
2. Experience doesn’t just come from jobs
As most young job-seekers know, many jobs that are offered require some level of experience in a good candidate. This can be very frustrating when the whole reason you’re looking for a job is to gain experience for the future! However, in the path to investing in yourself, getting experience while volunteering, taking an unpaid internship, or even a certain class can be an easier way of working toward your goals. When you think about what experience an employer will want from you, think about anything you can do that will prepare you for your career, not just jobs.
3. Informational interviews are underrated
Before taking Inter-LS 210, I couldn’t have told you what an informational interview was. However, now that I know and have done it, I wish I had known earlier! An informational interview is sort of an interview in reverse, where you sit down with someone in a field you’re interested and ask them anything you want to know about their job or career path. At first, this sounded a bit intimidating, but the people I talked to were excited and willing to discuss their career and my personal goals. Informational interviews are an incredibly effective way to learn what you really want to know about any given job and expand your professional network. In addition, following up on LinkedIn is a great way to stay connected professionally and grow your online network.
4. There are Positives to all of my Negatives
One of the first things we did in the course was an assessment called StrengthsQuest, which assigns students “themes” based on a long questionnaire. Assuming it wasn’t much more than a personality test, I didn’t think the exercise would be anything revelatory. However, the results I got were unexpected. Instead of a list of all the good things about me, some of my “themes” were related to things I had perceived as weaknesses in myself. For example, to StrengthsQuest, my smaller network made me a “relator”, and my constant debating made me “analytical,” It was enlightening to know that the flaws that I perceive might actually be valuable to me as a job candidate or employee, and it’s one of the things that has given me so much confidence since taking this course.
5. Your Liberal Arts degree is absolutely not worthless
As college graduates find it harder to find jobs quickly, many students decide to study for very specific fields and jobs to ensure some level of security for the future. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this line of thinking, one of the main topics of this Career Course was the value of a liberal arts experience. Many have the impression that some degrees are “useless” or “unemployable,” but students with liberal arts and sciences degrees do well in important positions in many different areas, as they will often have more experience with communication, critical thinking, and being adaptable to a change. As I mentioned before, your experiences are what you make of it, and if you can articulate the skills you have from your studies, there’s no reason your major should hold you back.
Does any of this sound valuable to you? Do you have other career questions you want answered? Consider taking Inter-LS 210 Second Year Career Development Course: Taking Initiative to learn more and gain personalized advice on your future. The class is geared towards second year L&S students, but anyone is welcome if you think it might be right for you. Click the link above to visit the Course Guide and find out more.