I really enjoy the daily updates I receive via LinkedIn, email, etc., from former students about job updates, new skills acquired, recommended reading, and so on. This reminds me of how fortunate we are at University of Richmond to have talented and motivated students who do so well in life, post graduation and contribute in many ways to make the world a better place.
I also remember that as students most of them had questions and concerns surrounding their career and job choices, frequently as first-year students and continuing well into their senior year. When “successful” alums visit my current classes, student always ask, “did you know what you wanted to do when you were a junior or senior at UR?” Almost all respond that they were uncertain and would have been unable to predict how their career and life has developed.
Most of my current students feel similarly uncertain about their own future, and are quite motivated to consider ideas for dealing with that uncertainty. Here are three ideas that students in this situation may want to consider.
Remember the larger purpose of your career and job search activities. They are useful and potentially important steps to getting you to the meaningful, interesting, positive, life and career you will have. Envision the longer-term possibilities for your future and how the possibilities can become reality. Be excited about your visits to Career Services to complete an interest inventory, do a mock interview or to identify alums you will connect with to discuss an industry or organization of interest. Though these activities can be important they are only starting steps – life is a marathon, not a sprint, and your initial steps don’t destine you to a particular future.
Put your career and job search plan in writing. Identify the specific activities you want to do and when you will do them – establish SMART goals. Visibly specifying the overall “job search” components makes it clear how manageable the process really is. Also, most UR students are achievement-oriented and find satisfaction in the progress of the “small wins” provided by accomplishing each component. Integrate your job search plan with the rest of your activities, maintain the balance you want with your academic and social activities, exercise or other physical activities, volunteer activities, reading biographies of people who inspire you, and so on. Hold yourself accountable – post the plan somewhere, share it with someone, collaborate with one or more like-minded classmates to develop and implement your plans.
Stay positive and upbeat about the job search process. Hang around with friends who are optimistic and positive and see the “glass as half full” since positive energy is contagious (as is negative) and will help you achieve better job search results. Find and stick with friends and family who respect you, who like you for who you are, and who are positive and upbeat, yet willing to provide constructive criticism – perhaps create an affinity group of people who are like this? Engage in positive self-talk, acknowledging how fortunate you are and all you have to be grateful for. Consider the job you interviewed for but did not receive as practice for helping you get your eventual job. Keep a list of what you believe you can improve on for future interviews. Create a space in your apartment where you will do your job search and make sure it is neat, organized and surrounded with items that make your feel good (art or family photos, plants, your favorite scent or whatever else that inspires you). Create a music play list that makes you feel good, motivates you and keeps you moving. Get the recommended amount of sleep since this will help you maintain clear thinking, but don’t overdo it and hibernate to avoid aspects of the job search that strike you as tedious. And smile – remember these job search activities are the very doable small steps that will lead you to the future you wish to create.
Dr. Randolph New is a professor of management in the Robins School of Business. His areas of expertise include team effectiveness, leadership effectiveness, change management, and management education. Dr. New has served as a professor of management at other institutions such as University of Virginia, Loyola University, and University of Baltimore.