The summer between years in graduate school is a critical time for students to focus on their career prospects and future goals. However, transitioning from an academic environment to the job market can be challenging and require a different approach.
In this blog post and video, I talk with Dave, a graduate student that raises two questions: how do I get a job? And, how do I find out what I want to do?
International students, you often excel at navigating academic applications, but the job hunt presents a whole new set of challenges. It is crucial to understand the fundamental differences between seeking educational opportunities and searching for employment.
It is common to face challenges in obtaining responses from potential employers, especially when targeting internships or co-op roles that you want to convert into H1B sponsorship opportunities. Understand that you are not alone in this struggle; countless others are experiencing similar difficulties.
Remember that the job hunt is a process, and perseverance and adaptability are key qualities to navigate this exciting phase in your professional journey.
Dave asked me, “What do I want to do with my life for my career?”
This is a good question to explore, but the good news? You don't have to answer that question this summer.
Determining one's long-term career objectives is an important question, but it is not necessary to have a definitive answer during the summer between academic years. Instead, the focus should be on finding employment opportunities. However, it is important to recognize that these two aspects are interconnected. Engaging in exploratory internships can help you discover your preferences, uncovering what you enjoy and what you don't in various work environments.
Working with a career coach or mentor and participating in internships can provide valuable insight into potential career paths. For instance, if you secure an internship at a renowned company like Google, you may realize that the work culture is either toxic or highly appealing to you. Similarly, your experiences in different industries and roles will contribute to your understanding of what aligns with your interests and values.
Understand that your career is just getting started. You're not done. You're not finished yet.
It is normal to feel uncertain about the future, but remember that it is not uncommon to have worked in multiple industries before finding your true calling. Embrace the exploration process and remain open to new possibilities.
Rather than being disheartened, utilize the resources available to you, such as your family's connections or your institution's career services. Networking and gaining more experience during the summer will contribute to your growth and potential for success.
While job market challenges exist, they are not insurmountable, and persistence combined with targeted efforts can lead to rewarding opportunities. Embrace the journey of self-discovery and remain optimistic about the potential for success in the job market.
If you find yourself asking questions like, "What do I want to do with my life for my career?" or "How do I get a job?", it's important to remember that finding the answers may not happen overnight. The good news is that you don't have to have all the answers immediately. It's a process of exploration and growth that takes time.
One of the most common things I get told is “I'm not good at networking” or “I don’t know how to start a conversation with people.” Many people have these ideas that they shouldn't talk to people, or that maybe they don't want to talk to me. When I suggest to people to network, the response I get is, why would someone want to talk to me?
That's what we do every day - we wake up thinking that no one wants to talk to us and so we end up not having those conversations. The smartest person with the 4.0 GPA? They may still wake up every morning and say, no one would want to talk to me.
Many times the main question comes down to, why do I really care? Because if you think that studying some certificates all summer and then going in to send online applications is going to get you a job, you are mistaken.
The idea of starting to talk to people is terrifying. So, how do we learn?
It's really interesting, because when you buy a house, people always use a realtor, right? When you do anything, you always seek expertise, but with our careers and job hunts, we try to do it all by ourselves.
That's okay if you're someone with a lot of experience, but even for people like me who have been executives and companies, I will always choose to work with a coach because I know that what I think may not be the best way. I need guidance, people need guidance sometimes.
At the end of the day, a lot of it just comes down to a mental struggle. How important is it? Because in my program, I say, let's get a job within 12 weeks. How would that apply to you? Why is that? Would that be useful? 12 weeks is three months from now. The summer will be over.
Imagine if you started to work with your career coaching services at your school right now, you might think, “I shouldn't even try because the summer is already happening. All the jobs are already taken.” That's the way most people are thinking, but what about the opportunities you can create?
It's worth noting that career journeys are not confined to a single moment in time. It's common to feel uncertain or frustrated about your career direction, but remember - it's just the beginning, and it's essential to adopt a growth mindset. Rather than being discouraged by where you are currently, focus on the actions you can take to move forward.
Many of your classmates are missing the conversation. Start talking with companies because it could lead to an internship tomorrow. Is it too late? You could work for all of July and into August, two months. You still could work!
Don’t close yourself because you think it won’t happen. Instead of dwelling on the challenges, shift your perspective towards proactive actions that can increase your chances of success.
While some individuals find jobs through online applications, take advantage of networking. Networking allows you to build connections with professionals who can provide insights, advice, and potential job opportunities. Although networking may seem daunting at first, it is a skill that can be developed with practice and experience.
Your university's career coaching services and platforms like LinkedIn can be valuable resources for networking. Rather than randomly reaching out to people, focus on targeted connections that align with your career goals. Utilize the support available to you and be open to learning from others who have gone through similar experiences.
Try not to be too demanding on the particular way in which you're conversing or communicating with people. It's really simple. If you just need one number this summer to change everything, it's the number of conversations, it's not the number of applications.
There are some best practices around sending applications such as following up. So when I work with somebody on a job hunt internship, we send an application and then send at least three to four messages within the next five minutes of that application. You message two people in HR, two people doing the actual business, data analysts or hiring managers, and we use LinkedIn and email to do it.
It's probably a very different approach than what you have learned, which has worked, which is you send an application in and you wait, but not anymore. By doing that, all you're doing is saying, I have an expectation. I expect that by sending an application, I am gonna get some feedback.
Day after day, day after day, your expectations are not met. That creates frustration that leads to ways of thinking that do not help.
Many students may question the significance of these discussions, but they are missing a crucial aspect of the process.
Networking with professionals and company representatives is vital for career growth. Engaging in conversations allows individuals to establish connections, showcase their skills, and explore potential opportunities. By reaching out to businesses and initiating meaningful discussions, you can increase your chances of landing internships or securing full-time roles.
Taking the initiative to converse with others, even when it feels uncomfortable, that’s when you know you are doing something right. It's okay not to have all the answers. Developing a plan to network with relevant industry professionals and engaging in open conversations about their interests and goals will help you expand your comfort zone and foster growth.
Beginning conversations with companies early on provides several advantages. For example, engaging in talks during the summer months can lead to potential internships. Even if it may seem early, working for a couple of months during the summer can be invaluable. Additionally, it's crucial to recognize that recruiting for full-time positions in the following year often begins sooner than expected. Leveraging networking opportunities and engaging in conversations about future job prospects can set individuals on the right path to achieving their desired career outcomes.
When our expectations are not met, various outcomes can arise. Developing adaptability is key, as this mindset not only benefits us in job hunting but also in our future careers. For example, the decision of whether to pursue a full-time job in the United States or return to Beijing may arise. While returning to Beijing seems like an easier option, it still presents its own challenges, such as relying on others to make decisions for us. Ultimately, we must choose the path that aligns with our desires and offers the kind of difficulty we are willing to face.
The job market doesn't specifically favor individuals like Ivy League graduates, but rather rewards certain behaviors and qualities. The CEO of JP Morgan, for instance, possesses certain behaviors that have propelled them to their position. Therefore, it is essential to focus on developing these behaviors and exhibiting them consistently.
At the end, when it comes to job hunting, there are two types of problems to consider: pre-interview problems and interview problems. In this case, with Dave, the focus is on pre-interview problems, where the feedback received is clear—sending out numerous applications without receiving responses. This feedback holds valuable information, and it is crucial to interpret it correctly.
To expand feedback, it is necessary to seek help and guidance from experts. Just as we seek advice when buying a house or a car, seeking assistance in important decisions like finding a job is equally valuable. Exploring the resources available through educational institutions should be the starting point, but if further guidance is needed, seeking advice from other sources can be beneficial.
Overall, understanding and interpreting feedback, seeking assistance, and exploring different avenues for guidance are essential in navigating the job market successfully. If needed, reaching out for further discussions and support is encouraged. Let me know if you have any questions!