As this summer has gone on, it’s begun to dawn on me that I only have one year left as an undergraduate student at WashU. In less than a year, I have to have a job or enroll in graduate school. I have to be a real, living, breathing adult with responsibilities like feeding myself and not burning down my apartment.
I’ve been working at the Career Center for over a year now, so there is no dearth of career-related resources in my life. I know how to network, I know how to build a résumé, I know how to write a solid cover letter, and I know how to find information sessions and application opportunities.
What I don’t know is what kind of job I want. I love that I’ve been able to explore so many different academic and professional opportunities, especially that I’ve been able to pursue majors in both biomedical engineering and marketing. This route has left me with a whole wide world of professional opportunities – the struggle is narrowing them down. My studies allow me to pursue medicine, business, law, engineering, etc.
This summer I have been meeting with a number of career advisers to help me develop a plan of attack for the fall, and in the process, I have received a number of golden pieces of advice. Here are the top 5 (in absolutely no particular order) tips I’ve received from various advisers and mentors:
- Your first job is almost never your last job.
I can let out a sigh of relief knowing that a decision I make in the next few months won’t determine the next 40-50 years of my life.
- Life isn’t a race.
This is actually a piece of advice that my mom’s always given me. With so many of my friends going off to medical school next year or straight into PhD programs, it can make you feel like you’re falling behind – especially thinking about how many of my peers I’ll be addressing as “doctor” in just a few years. But in the long run – who cares if you got your PhD at age 26 or age 29 or age 50? The point is that if you want something, you’ll get there – and there’s no shame in taking your time to do it.
- You’re not alone!
This might seem fairly obvious, but it’s easy to feel isolated in the confusion. Some of my friends just happen to have had their post-grad plans written out on an etch-a-sketch by age 5. This summer, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a number of “real people” in various industries – admissions officers, engineers, administrators, etc. It was wonderful to discover that so many successful people were as indecisive as I am when they were starting out their careers.
- Network, network, network!
As a self-proclaimed introvert, schmoozing strangers is not my forte. I would really rather hide under a rock with Netflix and a box of Lucky Charms (Why? Because it’s the best cereal ever) than strike up a superficial conversation with someone just to use them for my own benefit. However, I found out that networking isn’t about being fake. Guess what! People out there genuinely want to help you! I’ve been connected with so many awesome WashU alums this summer who truly want to help out their fellow Bears. Sometimes, it’s even kinda fun!
- The place and the people can be just as important as the job itself.
To be fair, this is one that I’ve learned myself over the years of part-time jobs and summer internships. What you’re doing on a day-to-day basis is important and you have to love your job, but a great job can be marred by a less than ideal work environment. I’m very lucky to be working in admissions this summer. I love giving tours and working on projects, but the best memories I have are of all of the interns goofing around and eating ice cream for breakfast, or of hanging out with the admissions officers debating the merits of various 90s boy bands. So pay attention to job descriptions, but make sure you know what kind of atmosphere a company has before diving in.
At the end of this all, I know you guys are still in high school and really not worrying about finding post-grad plans yet, but I wanted to share with you all of the advice I’ve received from the amazing people at WashU. And hey, maybe you can bookmark this page and come back to it in a few years when it’s your turn!