Career Counseling

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One of the Saratoga Special graduates emailed me after Christmas, asking if I had any time to chat about careers, goals, directions – life. There are Saratoga Special graduates who you never hear from again and there are Saratoga Special graduates who ask for advice.

The email went like this…

I’ve begun the arduous task of applying for jobs. Luckily, I completed my majors this past semester and look forward to devoting myself to securing a job in the spring and taking a few non-requirement classes (Public Speaking, Public Policy), classes to pad and improve life skills.

I knew finding a job would be daunting but as I’ve neared the end of my college career, I’ve been fortunate to narrow my focus to the financial sector (investment banking, financial consulting, etc); no trips to Mars for me quite yet. Although I’ve put in hours researching various companies and positions, searching for something that suits my talents, I’ve also adopted the philosophy that a lot can be learned from those who have gone through this process before. I’m bound to make mistakes, certainly made enough in college, and I’m not expecting that first job to turn into a career, I see it more as a test, a chance to get my feet wet and make sure I’m doing something I like, then look long term

In any event, I’ve been making an effort to reach out to as many people as possible and ask them how they got their start after college. I’ve talked with people in the finance industry who’ve given me insight I would otherwise have been oblivious to. However, I don’t want to limit my conversations to those in a particular field. Everyone has a different story to tell and I’m at the point where I just want to listen and take notes, hear what people did that helped them succeed and what they may regret.

If you’re willing, I’d love to pick your brain about your experiences. How you wound up as a writer? What you might go back and change. The people that have influenced you throughout your career. If you ended up where you intended. Questions of the sort as I attempt to gauge what the future may have in store for me.

My first thought was, ‘Ended up where I intended?’ I’m not sure what I intended and certainly not sure if this is it. At the time, I was driving my son, wife and four suitcases from BWI Airport, after eight days in Alabama and before three in Pennsylvania. You know the feeling…Christmas, New Year’s, spending money, worrying about money…thinking time.

My second thought was, well, he’s well ahead of most, because he’s thinking about it, hearing that old line, “Some people work to get by, others work to get ahead.” Here’s one who is working to get ahead. A senior in college on Christmas break…

About a week later, we connected as I was driving home from Kentucky. Words and themes, lessons and disasters spilled out – it’s a long drive. He had his notebook out, reciting questions he had prepared. I’m still impressed.

We chatted about good moves and bad moves, options and approaches, hitting on big themes…

– Network. Everybody you meet now will be whom you do business with later.

– Take chances when you’re young, the window to change your life is from 20-30.

– Concentrate on experiences rather than possessions.

– Brand yourself.

– Read.

– Surround yourself with successful people.

– There is a road for everybody, but you have to look for it, it won’t come find you.

– Keep your contacts up-to-date. In today’s world of email, Twitter, texting, it’s easy.

– Don’t buy a house until you’re ready; lawnmowers, gutters and broken boilers bog you down.

– Travel. Not as a tourist, but with with a mission in mind.

– If you don’t “need” a job to pay the rent you have an advantage, use it.

Some of the big themes. Give me your best advice in the comments section below, it might help him, might help all of us.