Hello, my fellow Huskies. I’m Taylor Soper, a reporter at GeekWire, the Seattle-based technology news website. I’ve worked at the startup for four years now, ever since I graduated from the UW in 2012.
I was in your shoes not too long ago, and I have a few tips to share as you navigate college and prepare for the “real world.”
First off, enjoy your time at the UW — have fun. Go to a football game. Explore Seattle. Join an intramural sports team. Attend on-campus events. Participate in some extracurricular activities. It’s a special time at a special place, and I hope you enjoy the UW experience outside of your classes.
But while you’re at school, you eventually need to think about life after college, and specifically your career path. Here are 10 tips to help prepare you for a career post-graduation.
It’s easy to get lost at the UW — it’s a giant school. Try to find a group or club, whether it be tied to your major or simply an interest of yours, to join. I worked at The Daily for all four years of school and it was one of the best decisions I made while at the UW. I met lifelong friends and gained valuable experience that helped me land a job after graduating. You should be active in one or two extracurricular activities outside of class — it can be super beneficial for your time at the UW, as well as after.
Try to find a professor, a graduate student, a professional, or someone you look up to that you can go to for advice or general mentorship. Most of these people want to help you, so find a mentor who can relate to your interests and passions.
Find your passion
Speaking of passion, try to find yours. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said that you can’t force a passion on yourself, but once you find something, it’s a gift. Use it to help guide you toward a career path.
Take advantage of every networking opportunity on or off campus that the UW puts on. Go to brown bag lunches with professionals. Attend that mixer your department is hosting. Meet people who have a job that interests you.
On that last point, don’t be afraid to cold email professionals who are working in a field or at a company that you find appealing. Ask them to coffee or for a quick 15-minute phone call. Get to know how they landed their job, and ask for advice. It will help you figure out what you want to do after graduating, and it’s a good way to network. You’ll be surprised at how many people around Seattle are willing to help — especially folks who graduated from the UW and know what you’re going through. Just remember to be professional and respectful of their time.
This is all extra important for those of you interested in entertainment, sports, or lifestyle-related careers. These industries are a lot about “who you know.”
The UW can help
There are so many resources at the UW to help you network; help you with your resume; help you make the right connections; and more. Spend time with your department and utilize all the help they offer. Visit the Career & Internship Center. These are super useful resources. It just takes a little time and effort to find the right ones for you.
Clean up your online profiles
You’re going to need to be familiar with internet tools and social media for a gig in entertainment, sports, or lifestyle. You should understand what makes an effective Instagram post or how to start a Snapchat marketing campaign, so make sure you’re trying all these new technologies out.
This also means your potential employer will be looking at your online profiles, too. Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, personal website, etc. — make sure those are clean and professional.
You may already know your passions and what type of job you’d like. But don’t pigeonhole yourself. Be flexible with your job applications and try interviewing at a variety of different companies. You may not find that match until you meet with your future colleagues and realize where you’ll be most effective and happy.
Set yourself apart at the interview
When you land an interview, start brainstorming different ways you can impress the interviewer. Can you create something that the company could use in the future, whether it be an article or a video or a photo gallery? Can you map out a potential marketing campaign? Can you mock up some fashion designs? Show the employer that you’re passionate about the job while demonstrating your skills and initiative.
On that note, make sure you put in some time researching the company. The employer will be impressed if you’re already familiar with the ins and outs of the company, and you can use the interview to ask more insightful questions.
Finding a job is a full-time job
When you get closer to graduation, start devoting several hours per week or per day to finding a job. This means doing research, applying to positions online, crafting cover letters, scouring Husky Jobs and other job sites, going out and networking, etc. Much of this process isn’t fun, but it’s worth it.
Stay positive and optimistic
Finding a job that you enjoy isn’t easy. But with grit, perseverance, and optimism, you can do it. Use your resources at the UW, stay active outside of class, network as much as you can, work your butt off, and try to remember to have some fun. Good luck!