When I was hired as a Career Peer, I was a freshman in college. I’ve been here for two years now, and I’m going into my senior year with a much fuller metaphorical toolbox, all thanks to Career Services. The job has been wonderful, and has definitely propelled me along my career exploration path, albeit in a completely different direction than I expected. If everyone could be a Career Peer, I am confident that college students would have far less confusion about choosing their careers. Since this is a statistical impossibility, I’ll have to settle for sharing the insights I’ve learned over the past few years from this job.
1. Know Yourself
As part of the training for becoming a peer, we had to take the career assessments that the school offers: the Myers- Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory. These assessments give you a platform for looking at yourself and your interests that can help you to clarify what you want out of a work experience. Even if you are already introspective, these assessments give you the language to talk about your strengths and weaknesses in a positive light, which is particularly useful in an interview setting.
2. Know (And Use!) Your Resources
The vast majority of peers’ training is spent learning the extensive career resources available to the student body. Part of your student fees are dedicated to the Career Center – please come in! Ask a peer for help! We love to talk to students and we can show you the resources that are available to you. If you don’t want to come in, at least go to our website. Your resources are not just limited to the university, however. Your personal network is a resource that you should tap into to discover new job opportunities and advice. Talk to your parents, their friends, your professors, and your counselors. Get a LinkedIn account, and use it.
3. Make Plans and Goals – And Don’t Be Afraid to Let Them Go
I change ideal careers the way college freshmen change majors. Every six months or so, I discover a new occupation that excites me and I start planning away, applying for part time jobs, questioning people in the field, and talking to people who know me. For example, I decided that I want to be a teacher, a goal that my friends and family wholeheartedly supported. I did research, got a part time job as a tutor, and realized after about a month that I much prefer to work with the older students than the younger ones. I realized that my goal to be a teacher isn’t quite right for me, so I have adjusted it – I would rather be a professor.
It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with this process, but I think it’s essential to finding the best career for me. The most exciting part is that I don’t have to settle on only one occupation and only one career – and neither do you. Most people’s career paths are more branching than linear, and it’s okay. It’s more than okay – it’s great! You can find the job that’s best for you, but it’s going to take some trial and error. Experience is the best teacher, so don’t box yourself into one field. Explore!
Rebecca Tivang is a Career Peer Adviser at UCSB Career Services. She is a senior majoring in Culture and Society, and works at Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes tutoring children in reading comprehension.