This blog post comes from one of our doctoral students who has some great career advice for all students. Whether you’re getting ready to start college or getting ready to graduate, these tips are for you!
Throughout my graduate school career I noticed myself and other fellow college students suffering from the ‘shoulda-‐coulda-‐woulda’ syndrome. I should have done this, I could have participated in that, or if I had known, I would have done this instead of that. Sound familiar? I thought so. 🙂 As a 7th year graduate student (yes, I said 7th year), I find myself reflecting a lot on my previous years as a student, and everything just seems to be a blur or filled with overwhelming moments of rush, rush, rush. So how could I have provided myself with a better experience? Just as we apply engineering principles to a vehicle or process…Why not ‘Engineer Your Career.’ Designing your career path ahead of time can be very helpful and a huge weight off your shoulders as you work your way through undergrad and determine your next route…graduate school or industry. Here are a few ‘lessons-‐learned’ throughout my graduate career that you may find helpful:
Lesson #1: Think with the End in Mind!
Put together Education and Career Plans as soon as possible. An education plan is a guide through your academic program. For example, you may want to get a minor in an area unrelated to your major; with an education plan, you can determine how to incorporate the additional courses into your current work load. A career plan is an action plan to follow to help you acquire knowledge and skills in addition to opportunities that will help to excel your chosen area of interest, such as internships, research experiences, or volunteer programs. Try using Microsoft Excel to list these milestones and be certain to include significant dates and deadlines.
Lesson #2: Show Your Work!
Make it a point to start a Portfolio. Portfolios are a purposeful collection of work that exhibits your efforts, progress, and achievements. Your portfolio should contain personal statements, cover letters, resumes, transcripts, diplomas, certificates, awards, presentations, projects, and letters of recommendation to name a few. It’s easy to get started, just grab a binder and begin organizing your materials. By the way, it’s always a great idea to have hard-copies of your work, so include anything you’ve worked on that provides substance.
Lesson #3: Build and Maintain Bridges!
Everyone needs a Mentor, especially students because we have a lot of uncertainties in various areas of life during our college years. A mentor can be a family member, fellow student, company employee, church member or someone you may happen to meet and look up to. Mentors are there to provide encouragement, guide you in your career choice, be resourceful, and offer opportunities and advice as you grow into a professional. Don’t know how to reach out to a potential mentor? First, make a list of potential mentors or reach out to a local organization with a mentoring program. Second, try reaching out to these specific individuals by email or phone and set up a time to meet over coffee or lunch. Third, be prepared with a list and be clear about your expectations of them as a mentor; it won’t hurt to be familiar with this individual’s background as well.
In addition, every design requires balance, so be sure to find balance in your everyday life – spiritual, social, physical well-being, emotional and intellectual. You are sure to reap the benefits of your college years when implementing these lessons into your daily life. Need further information on the tips mentioned, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget; Start today….Engineer Your Career!
By Jodi Boutte’, M.S.
Industrial engineering doctoral candidate