If you focus too intently on working through the sludge of midterms, essays and projects that school demands from you, it can be easy to lose sight of your end goal: your career after college. A great way of renewing your passion for your major and inspiring motivation for school assignments is to connect with someone who has a career in your intended profession or who has more experience than you. Often referred to as a mentor, this person can give you advice about your career, critique your résumé and introduce you to other people in the field. By reaching out to others who have more or different experiences, you can learn new information and find encouragement to work through your school assignments.
There are many different people who you can approach with questions. You can reach out to someone who’s worked in your career of interest for 15-20 years, or maybe to alumni who graduated 5 years ago. This includes learning from your peers as well, because the person that lives across the hall may actually be the one who hires you in the future. They may have taken some classes ahead of you, or may already have internship experience and can give you advice. Other opportunities and connections may come from potential internships and job interviews. Even if you were not chosen for an internship, the company you applied to might be open to the idea of having you come in and observe for a few hours one day. You can learn a great deal from professionals across the spectrum: from a fellow student, to a fairly new employee, all the way up to an experienced expert.
Even though it would be great if people were consistently getting in touch with you to offer encouragement and useful advice, you will need to be proactive in reaching out to find contacts. In other words, you need to be the one who makes the connection happen. Make a few phone calls and send out a few emails to see who responds and is willing to help. A sample phone conversation or email may sound like this:
“Hi, my name is (your name), and I’m a (your major) student at Mount St. Mary’s University. I would like to discuss the possibility of meeting with you or coming to shadow you for a few hours so that I can better understand the responsibilities of your position and the company as a whole.”
When someone shows interest in talking with you, you can decide which method of interacting works for that specific person. While an in-person meeting would be ideal, a chat over Skype, a phone call, or a conversation through email is still just as beneficial. Once you’ve set up a time to meet, you should take some time to prepare and make a list of questions you want to ask:
“How did you get started in this career?”
“What is a typical workday like for you?”
“What have been some of the highlights during your career so far?”
“Do you have any advice for entering this profession?”
Remember to be respectful during these consultations and really listen to the valuable information that is being shared with you. If the conversation goes well, the person might be willing to stay in-touch and meet with you again, or even connect you with other people and opportunities. Ask if it is okay to connect with him or her on LinkedIn, which would give you access to even more individuals employed in your field of study. Every connection you make helps to create a network of people who are available to give you knowledge and encouragement while you work towards your degree and begin building your career.