Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Confessions of a Career Fellow

This semester, the Career Fellows have been extremely busy with appointments and drop-ins. Every week, it seems like I see more and more students for resume critiques or discussions on summer internships. And as the weeks progress, I've begun to notice patterns across many appointments: parallels in attitudes, emotions, concerns, and misconceptions. My observations from this sample of students makes me think that these patterns can be applied to the general Tufts undergraduate population (can you tell I'm a science major?); so, to more widely disseminate some common advice I give, I thought I'd combine my two roles in the Career Center this week by blogging about being a Career Fellow. Here are the top pieces of career/internship advice that I think any Jumbo ought to hear:

It's going to be ok.  In roughly half of all of my appointments, the first thing out of a student's mouth is something like this: "I'm freaking out. I can't find a summer internship and I have no idea how to write a resume and what's a cover letter and I am SPIRALING DOWNWARDS INTO MEDIOCRITY." While that last part may or may not have been added for dramatic effect, the sentiment remains: anxiety characterizes many students' internship searches. But it really doesn't have to. My response to every single student who seems nervous about finding an internship is, without fail, "They're out there. You just have to look." If you are truly committed to finding a summer internship, and willing to put in time and effort, you will find something to do this summer. Don't resign yourself to failure before you've given it your all.

Ross's "quiet down" gesture is my "calm down" gesture.
Reflect before applying. If anxiety is the most common feeling I detect from students in appointments, uncertainty would have to be the second most common, especially among first-years and sophomores. Many students often come in with no idea of what they want to do or what career field they're interested in - they just want to find any summer internship. While keeping an open mind is encouraged at the Career Center, it's important to set a clear goal for an internship search before you begin; otherwise, you may end up wasting time wading through every possible internship listing on the Internet. Even if you have no idea what career field you're interested in, you can define your search in terms of the work you want to do. Have you always yearned for an office job? Do you demand total independence every day, or would you rather work as part of a team? Setting even the most general criteria will save you lots of time. If you're utterly clueless about your future, you can always meet with a Career Fellow or Career Advisor - career/major exploration is my favorite part of the conversation. We also have tons of great resources for helping students determine their ideal job or job environment, like Focus 2, the Strong Interest Inventory, and many more (see our website's "Explore Careers and Majors" section for more info).

Since Chandler is my spirit animal, I feel obligated to share this gif that basically summarizes my life. But, I like to think I've gotten a little better at the advice part.
It's always a work in progress. Whether it's a resume, cover letter, or internship search, there will always be a next step. Don't just come in to the Career Center for one 15-minute resume review - go through rewrite after rewrite, and have as many people proofread it as possible. Don't just submit the internship application and cross your fingers - find another great internship to apply for, or send a follow-up email if you don't hear back in a reasonable amount of time. There is always more that can be done. This might sound overwhelming to some students, but it goes back to your commitment to finding an internship. If you're willing to put in the time and effort, your payout will be much greater.

In writing this post, I certainly don't mean to reduce all of my appointments down to assuaging anxieties and telling students to come back to the Career Center. Every appointment is different, and presents its own challenges and excitements. But, a lot of appointments are variations of the same common themes I've discussed above. So, regardless of whether you feel like this advice is exactly what you needed to hear or you have questions about something not mentioned at all in this post, make an appointment with a Career Fellow or a Career Advisor today.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017