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Tuesday, July 05, 2022 — Houston, TX

Own your career - no one else can do it for you

Photo courtesy Madison Bunting

By Madison Bunting     2/1/22 10:45pm

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.

As student director of the Peer Career Advisor program with the Center for Career Development, I am passionate about ensuring everyone feels equipped along their career journey. Advising students has made me keenly aware of the anxiety and disappointment stemming from the COVID economy; it has also given perspective on common misconceptions about career exploration and campus resources, one of which is the idea that because a student meets with the CCD, they will automatically get an offer for their dream job. Although offices across campus exist to support students, it is ultimately up to students to take ownership of their own careers. 

Ownership means taking initiative to ask for help, even when it’s scary. For me, this started with scheduling a career advising meeting, in which I promptly started crying because I felt so lost and anxious about what path I should take post-graduation. In response, the advisor helped me see what valuable skills I already possessed and shared options commensurate with my interests, along with ways to explore them. If I would not have taken the initiative to schedule the meeting, I would not have known about the variety of career options that aren’t widely discussed, and I definitely would not have known best practices for landing my internships.

Ownership means championing your experiences, even if they don’t feel relevant. As I’ve grown in my career knowledge, I realized companies care a lot less about what I did in my past positions than I thought; they care why and how what I did provided me with applicable skills that will make me good at the job to which I am applying. This shifted how I think about job searching to highlight those transferable skills. When done right, my roommate should be able to identify the action verb, content and impact or result in every bullet on my resume. I also learned to be inspired by verbs from job descriptions: the best way to demonstrate I can “leverage data to deliver insights” is to include a bullet about “leveraging prior stock data to identify trends” in a COMP 140 project.  

Ownership means doing the research. It felt like my early career meetings amounted to advisors referring me to online documents and resources. Now I understand why: Before addressing the nuances of my materials, I needed to have the basics, and it was more time-efficient to share documents than to verbalize the information they contain. One of the biggest things I’ve learned for efficient meetings is to review resources on the office or company’s website in advance — it can save time, increase confidence, provide context, and improve conversation quality. In interviews, re-reading the job description, reviewing company values, and looking the company up on Google news differentiates those who have done their homework from those who have not because prepared candidates understand the culture and how their prospective role fits into the company’s mission.

Ownership means being mindful of the recruiter’s time. On average, they spend 7.4 seconds looking at a resume, and computer systems filter out most templates. Every fraction of a second spent trying to find dates because I used a format I thought would make me stand out is time they are not spending being impressed by my resume’s contents. In this case, simple is best. Similarly, after info sessions, I saw recruiters quickly become overrun with students trying to make a good impression. I learned they actually remember students who are aware of others in the conversation, ask questions that aren’t Google-able, and are mindful of their time (maybe even offering to help clean up after the session).

Ownership means building your own relationships. Eighty-five percent of jobs are secured through networking. Although I do not come from a well-connected background, attending workshops helped me learn to maximize resources such as LinkedIn and Sallyportal to reach Rice’s surprisingly responsive alumni network. I’ve talked with over 100 former Rice students, and their combined perspectives helped me see past the marketing to what prestigious jobs are really like. This also helped me feel more grounded as I understood how my current campus involvement truly is building relevant skills, and these conversations helped me feel more comfortable as I went through the recruiting process with different companies.

Regardless of how we spend our time on campus, we are ultimately at Rice because we want a career someday. Controlling your career is about being aware of the opportunities around you and putting in the work to take advantage of them. The CCD and PCAs are great resources, but they cannot guarantee you a job. How will you take ownership of your future?

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