How to set yourself up for future success when you don’t have a clear vision of your desired career path
There are all kinds of guides out there describing what students should do during their summers and how they should be involved on campus if they are interested in pursuing careers in medicine, law, education, business, etc. But what about if you don’t yet know what career path is right for you? There are many ways to build your resume and gain necessary skills for future career success even if you don’t know exactly what you want that future career to be. Here are some tips from the CCPA’s 2022 summer intern, a rising junior at Haverford who is still in the early stages of formulating her career goals.
1) Learn some computer skills or how to use common softwares.
Whether it’s through direct experience at a job or internship, or through a free online class, learn how to use softwares such as Microsoft Office, Adobe, WordPress, and social media platforms. These skills are relevant and useful at a variety of starter jobs and internships and can be beneficial to have on your resume. Having computer skills such as these also indicates to employers that you will be able to quickly learn a different software or website that might be specific to their company.
2) Develop transferable skills.
You may not know exactly what career path is best for you, but maybe you know that you want to work with people. In that case, you could spend your first summer as an undergraduate working a retail or food service job where you’re interacting with people and serving customers throughout the day. That way, when you apply for future people-oriented jobs, you can use your cover letters to talk about the people or customer service skills you gained from your retail experience. If you know you’re interested in working in an office environment, try to find a job as an office assistant or remote work that requires you to do various tasks on the computer. If you feel like you might want to work with kids, apply for a job as a camp counselor. Displaying a variety of transferable skills can make you that much more appealing for an entry-level position anywhere, even if you don’t have experience in the exact role you are applying for.
3) Gain leadership experience.
Demonstrating that you have experience in a leadership role will improve your resume no matter what job you are applying for, even if that leadership is on a smaller scale. Employers are more likely to be impressed by a candidate that can show that they have an ability to lead responsibly. On campus, you could apply for a role on Students’ Council, Honor Council, or Customs, you could serve as a peer tutor or a TA, or you could even just take on a leadership role in a club or organization that you are a part of. Off campus, this can look like mentoring, tutoring, and even babysitting or caring for children in a camp setting or childcare program. You are also a leader if you care for others in your family. There are many different ways to demonstrate that you can be and have been a leader, and you don’t need to be Students’ Council President to do so; leadership experience of any kind can benefit you in a future job application.
4) Get involved on campus.
By no means do you have to be a part of everything on Haverford’s campus, but getting involved in something can be a way to show future employers that you are engaged in your community, and you are actively pursuing your passions. Getting involved can mean joining a club or organization, helping out a professor as a TA or peer tutor, or simply working a campus job. Plus, depending on how you get involved, you may be able to gain some transferable skills or eventually assume a leadership role at your job or in your organization. Finally, doing something on campus could lead you to discover a new interest that might bring you closer to realizing what you want to do post-graduation.
5) Try different things.
If you are unsure of what your interests and goals are, the only way to gain more clarity is to try different things. Take a variety of classes in different departments, do something out of your comfort zone on campus, apply for a job or internship that interests you but that isn’t something you have done before, or even take up a new hobby. While not everything you try will lead to something more, sometimes a good step in determining what you want is to understand what you don’t want. Therefore, trying something new is never truly a waste of your time.
6) Don’t pressure yourself!
This one can be particularly difficult, especially on a campus like Haverford’s where it seems like so many students are already achieving big things. If you feel behind your friends and peers who already have their 5-year plans mapped out, try to be patient with yourself. Everyone moves at a different pace and takes a different path when it comes to careers (and life). Even if you don’t yet know what you want to do, you can still end up very happy and successful. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to “catch up,” and maybe try a couple of the tips above if you’re feeling stuck.
It is important to note that this is only one student’s perspective, and there are many ways to go about gaining relevant career skills and building a resume. Still, I hope these ideas are helpful, and I would be happy to share my experience as someone who has never really known exactly what they want to do careerwise. Feel free to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions.