By Jong Eun Jung
College is a time for students to immerse themselves in the search for potential careers and explore different paths that lie ahead after graduation. However, it can be hard to truly devote yourself to thinking about the future as the school year ramps up. That’s why summer is an excellent time to research different careers and figure out which ones interest you. Here are 6 ways you can use your summer to figure out what career you want:
During a summer immersion program, you’ll have the opportunity to experience different industries and network with peers and professionals. For instance, at the Vanderbilt AcceleratorⓇ Virtual Business Immersion, students work on a consulting projects for a real company and participate in programming to gain industry knowledge, developing collaboration, critical thinking, and research skills in the process. The program also introduces students to different careers like finance and marketing. “This newly found experience builds your resume and provides great interview material to demonstrate your ability to immediately contribute to a company’s goals,” said Jon Lehman, Faculty Director of Accelerator.
Read and Research
If there are some careers you have in mind already, start by reading articles or books about those jobs. For example, if you’re interested in business, skim through career spotlights (like the ones in the Vanderbilt Business Newsroom) to learn how people enter fields such as finance and what they do in their day-to-day work. Also take some time to research the industry’s outlook and the values of big companies in the space to get a feel for the job’s future prospects and what kind of qualities employers look for.
Connect with the Career Center
Some schools have active career centers during the summer, so you might be able to schedule a Zoom visit with your career counselor. Career counselors have a lot of resources for career preparation, and they’re more than willing to share them with you. They’ll chat with you about your interests and skills and may be able to recommend some potential career paths based on that. In addition, they may have relationships with companies or alumni they can connect you with to help you continue your search. “They know who is interested in hiring in formal internships and can often provide coaching on resume writing and interviewing,” Lehman said.
An internship is a good way to learn more about a particular role or industry through first-hand experience. Due to COVID-19, many internships have moved completely virtual, so you can stay safe while gaining work experience. “Lots of companies are rethinking the role of remote work and will permanently shift their mindset to make this a regular part of how they deploy their team,” Lehman said. Even if you aren’t interning this summer, look for potential positions for next summer and figure out what gaps in your resume you need to fill in order to make yourself a competitive candidate. Many companies recruit early or in the middle of the school year, you want to be prepared to apply when the school year begins again.
Networking is vital to a professional career because it lets you get an insider’s perspective on a company or be notified of open positions that aren’t listed on online job portals. Through networking, you’ll get advice on your future career and maybe even meet a new long-term mentor. Try connecting with alumni in the field or industry you’re interested in through LinkedIn or your school’s alumni website. “Sometimes just reaching out to someone you admire to hear about their personal journey can also be a path,” Lehman said.
Interview a Professional
Not all careers offer internships to college students, especially first-years and sophomores. The next best way to experience a field or industry is to talk to a professional. You can contact people in your close network, such as family friends or local alumni, who are working in a role you are interested in and ask if they would be willing to speak with you. By asking about their day-to-day tasks and career trajectory, you will get a clearer idea of what the role entails and gain more information to decide whether it is the right role for you.