By Phoebe Glowacki, NCA Career Ambassador
While industries like consulting and finance have set recruitment periods, many industries hire on an as-needed basis – nonprofit, policy, and arts and culture, to name a few. It can be stressful searching for jobs and internships in industries with a less structured recruiting process. In this blog post, we’ll outline some of the steps you can take during winter break to turn the job and internship search from a source of stress into an opportunity for self-exploration. You don’t need to be constantly scouring LinkedIn or Handshake in search of positions during break, but it will be worthwhile to make time to explore the career paths available to you.
Narrow the search
Searching Handshake can be a great way to find position openings, but with so many job listings, it helps to have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for. At a recent nonprofit career panel, Allison Park from Planned Parenthood emphasized that when hiring interns, she wants to know that applicants are passionate about Planned Parenthood’s cause. Take winter break as an opportunity to explore the causes you’re passionate about and consider what work environment you thrive in. If you’re still unsure, you can always make an appointment with an NCA career counselor/adviser who can help you with this process.
Connecting with Northwestern alumni who work in your field of interest can be a great way to learn about potential career paths and form valuable connections. Search for alumni from your major or industry on LinkedIn, then look up their email through the OurNorthwestern alumni directory. More often than not, alumni are happy to set up an informational interview and share their experience with you. Check out NCA’s Career Guide (PDF) for advice on requesting informational interviews from alumni.
NCA and the Northwestern Alumni Association (NAA) both offer programs dedicated to connecting undergrads with alumni. NEXT, a one day alumni job shadowing program, will be taking applications until Thursday, December 6, 2018. For a longer-term option, make a profile through the Mentorship Program to be paired with a Northwestern alum in your field of interest.
When you begin to narrow down some organizations you’re interested in, get a sense for how they are anchoring their work. Go to their website, search for them on Glassdoor, and connect with alumni who have worked there. If you hear that the organization is undergoing radical changes, especially in the case of a non-profit, it may be a red flag that they are lacking stability. Find out where the organization has been, and where they hope to go.
Get prepared & get excited
While you’re completing your exploratory research, keep track of which organizations you are interested in. After an informational interview, write a note about how it went and what you learned. Be sure to reconnect with your interviewees by writing them a personal thank you note that sums up your conversation and what you learned from them. By keeping your research in order, you can feel prepared and even excited when it comes time to begin the application process.
Aim for growth, not perfection
Don’t forget that every application, internship, and job brings an opportunity to grow and learn about yourself. Take note of how the experience challenges you or allows you to use your skills in new ways. All this information can help you as you develop your professional identity and create your career path.