I’m not sure when I had less of a clue what I wanted to do with my life – now, as an employed graduate, or last year as a Senior. I graduated last June with a major in Sociology and a minor in Legal Studies, and I am currently working as a paralegal at a public interest law firm in Washington, DC. The uncertainty of the job search process really stressed me out. I wanted to channel the stress into action and start applying for jobs, but most companies and organizations that seemed interesting to me did not have a formal recruitment process, meaning that they posted jobs when they had openings because they needed someone to start immediately. I watched my friends interested in consulting one by one get job offers by early winter, and still I had no idea where to begin.
I have since learned that uncertainty is just fine. It is not productive to compare yourself to anyone else when it comes to jobs. There are going to be people who need a job, any job, for financial reasons or just because they are Type A and need a plan. There are going to be people who are very much not Type A and looking for a job could not be lower on their priority list. There are going to be people who pursue another degree immediately after graduating. You might fall into one of these categories.
You by no means need to know exactly what you want to do with your life when you graduate. But if you have no idea what to do with your life, you may as well start with something and see if you like it. Your first job out of college does not need to be the perfect job for you, and if it’s not, that’s OK. You can learn as much from a job you don’t like as you do from a job you love. Learn as much as you can about yourself from the experience. Do you like the people you work with? Do you like the work environment? Are you challenged? Are you bored? Does this job match your skillsets? The answers to these questions can help you hone in on what you look for in your next job.
However, while I tell you things will work out, you need to be ready to work for it. My job did not fall into my lap. I went to Career Services to get help on my resume. I went to many informational interviews to try to learn more about different industries and build my networks. I used the NU alumni network to get in touch with lawyers doing interesting work in the cities I was interested in. I applied to jobs through Career Cat, as well as through public job websites. I talked to family, family friends, and even family of family friends to rack their brains for job ideas and connections to organizations that fit my interests. I crafted countless cover letters and job applications, many of which ultimately went unanswered. It can be exhausting, especially when it seems like it is all for naught. You might not get the job that you build up as your “Dream Job.” But you know what? Life goes on. Things have a way of working out. All it takes is one good job offer to make all of the stress and effort worth it.
I did not, and still do not, know what I want my career to be. I have always been interested in law, so I figured starting my post-college life as a paralegal made sense. Since I started working as a paralegal in DC, I have learned a lot about the legal field and a lot about myself. I’m not sure if law is right for me, but everyone keeps saying that at twenty-two, I’m not supposed to have it all figured out. I have finally taken that to heart.
My overarching piece of advice regarding the job search process is this: don’t panic. Do your research, be proactive, and network. Things should fall into place if you are persistent enough. But do not forget to take advantage of your present opportunities at Northwestern. Get as many skills as you can. Learn new things. Take classes that are out of your comfort zone. Be busy, but not overwhelmed. Don’t get so wrapped up in your future that you forget to experience the opportunities you have right now.
About Where The Wildcats Are
University Career Services’ alumni blog series “Where The Wildcats Are” features the career experiences and advice from Northwestern University alumni of all ages and stages. Learn where your fellow Wildcats are post-graduation and how they reached their career goals. Are you a Northwestern alumni interested in sharing your career development process with current students? Email email@example.com and include “Alum blogger” in the subject line.