I’m teaching a Career Planning class this semester and also helping other students with finding or creating internships in their chosen career field. What’s interesting about both groups of students is the tendency of not knowing their career goals. What’s great about the Career Planning class, though, is by this time of the semester most students are realizing their passion and interests. Now we’re getting into the discussion of how to brand themselves by choosing electives strategically, networking with professionals through informational interviewing and attending job fairs, and picking internships that match goals. This process takes a full semester, and it can be difficult to squeeze it in a shorter time with students looking for an internship. So here’s how I work with students and what I recommend to increase their personal brand early on so to get the “worm” (internship or job).
First, ask yourself these questions:
- If I could do one thing, anything, regardless of perceived boundaries, what would I do?
- If I won the lottery and didn’t have to work, how would I spend my days?
- What do I like to do in my spare time? Could this be a career interest?
Many students have the perspective that you first take classes, then graduate, then look for a job. But, the problem that’s generated from this path is a lack of career direction, which translates to employers as no goals. This path will not lead to an early brand and you’ll miss the “worm.”
What to do?
Talk to your advisor and a career counselor during Freshman and Sophomore years to discuss things in which you’re interested. Even seemingly unrelated interests, like favorite books, movies, magazines, and what you do in your spare time are worth investigating. Also consider the role you play with your friends. Are you the:
- Social Coordinator – What types of activities do you coordinate?
- Counselor – What are the reported problems with which you help your friends?
- Coach/Cheerleader – How do you encourage your friends?
- Leader – Do friends listen to you and wait for you to make decisions and then follow?
- Clown/Entertainer – What’s your skill? (humor, theatrics, music, etc.)
- Expert – What type of help do your friends request? (computers , cars, writing, creative projects, etc.)
- Moral Guider – Do you find yourself talking to friends about faith, morals, ethics, and other philosophical topics?
- Advocator/Challenger – Do you have ideals that you share with friends and challenge their views on various topics? What topics?
How to start an early brand
- Talk to people in your networks and career counselors about opportunities to get involved.
- Try the career on before committing to it through volunteering, job shadows, informational interviews, an externship, or an internship.
- Research for any blogs with that topic on which to comment and keep up with new trends.
- Check out any related groups or professionals on LinkedIn and Twitter to follow.
Remember that even though you’ve chosen a career path now, it doesn’t mean you have to give up your other interests and passions. Maybe they can be incorporated together or you can keep it as a hobby. A decision doesn’t mean blocking yourself off from everything else, it just means you’ve chosen to focus your efforts in that direction for now.
Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. Connect with Karen via LinkedIn or Twitter.