On Tuesday, I spoke to students at Western Oregon University about the transition from college to the “real world”. I attended this same event last year, so knew going in that it would be interesting to hear what the other presenters had to say. I spoke about personal finance; they spoke about finding a job and finding meaning. I took notes. Here’s the career advice offered by the six speakers:
The first speaker of the evening was Ron Theisen, a former teacher and entrepreneur who is now retired. (Well, sort of retired. He spends his time volunteering for various organizations.) Ron encouraged students to remember that their first career is not etched in stone. “You have time to find work that makes you happy,” he said. “If you don’t like what you’re doing in life, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Next we heard from Lisa Anderson-Ogilvie, who has had experience not only applying for jobs, but fielding applicants. She noted four things that help to create job opportunities:
- Internships. Either with or without pay, an internship can help with networking, and can give you exposure to what the work is like.
- Informational interviews. Although you should never ask for a job at an informational interview, they can nevertheless lead to opportunities. If you make an impression, the company will remember.
- Good resumes. Lisa hates long resumes. So does her boss. (And so do I.) “I’m not going to ask you on a date,” she said. “I don’t need to know everything you’ve done in your life.
- Researching the company. At the end of the interview, when the interviewer asks if you have questions, it’s good to have them. Researching the company can set you apart from other applicants.
Angela Boyer offered another way to “test-drive” a job. She started working in the field she wanted — but at the bottom. I think this is a great way to go. She suggested that if there’s a field you think you might want to get into, you should volunteer your time. Try it out. See what it’s really like. This can help prevent you from getting stuck in a job you hate.
Tammy Anderson argued that an internship is one of the best things you can do while still in school. Multiple internships are great. Internships help you figure out what you really want to do. Tammy believes that job fairs are another great resource. Last of all, she also thinks that it’s best to find a job that you love. “The money I thought was important wasn’t as important as I thought,” Tammy said. “You need to find something you love.”
Amanda Miles noted that you can’t know where life is going to take you. When you’re trying to figure out what to do for work, go with your gut. Life is hard enough anyway without making yourself miserable. Why do something you don’t think you’re going to like? Find what you really like to do and find a way to make that a career. If you’re not sure what you want to do, consider graduate school. Most of all, enjoy the journey. Don’t be afraid to try different things.
Though my advice was geared toward personal finance and not finding a career, I did echo one common theme. I described my own experience spending 16 years in a job I hated. “Don’t do that,” I said. “If you can, find work that you love. Life’s too short to work a job you hate.” (Just for kicks, I’ve uploaded an outline of my talk, as well as my one-page guide to personal finance.)
And that, my friends, is your annual dose of career advice from Western Oregon University!
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