Posts tagged career
I know I’ve been a bit hard to keep track of the past 15 months, frequently changing my jobs, internships, projects, and such. I thought the most recent change deserved a bit more attention because it’s the most drastic and also provides an opportunity to briefly reflect on my first year of work in China.
- High turnover in all industries
- Confusing and costly immigration regulations
- Shrinking economy, especially in fields I’m most qualified for
- Lots of startups, which doesn’t guarantee that one’s employer or clients are well-run or going to prosper in the future. (This is not specific to anyone I’ve worked with, just a general observation.)
Looking into visa regulations in your country of choice is just as important as job searching. Visa policies will have a large impact on what kind of jobs you can get abroad. Find out what is required for whatever visas you need to work legally, how easy it is to switch between visa types, and how easy it is for people to work illegally. For example, in China, foreigners need to either be 25 or have worked outside China for two years in order to get a work visa, but most foreigners work illegally, even in office jobs.
Seek out students and professors at your university who are from where you want to work and get to know them. Many universities have a student group for international students, and sometimes they have groups for international students from specific regions or countries. Some universities and cities have a group that arranges language partnerships. At the University of Oregon, this is the Friendship Foundation for International Students. People will usually be flattered you want to work in their home country and want to help you as much as possible.
Your university might also have student groups specifically for Americans who want to work abroad and international students who want to work in the U.S. At the University of Oregon, I recommend the International Business and Economic Club.
Make sure that as many people in the above groups plus mentors and professors who like you, especially in your major and language classes, know that you want to work abroad and what kind of jobs you want. Last year, I let my major’s department head, Pat Curtin, know I got an internship in Beijing. The internship ended up falling through, and I didn’t tell many people I got another job in Beijing. The day I graduated, I got an e-mail from a student who knew Pat letting me know a really good job lead in Beijing. This would have never happened had Pat not known I wanted to work there.
My friend who is graduating in 2010 just wrote a lengthy Facebook note asking for advice on his options for after graduation. I’ve been reflecting on my own college experience as it relates to my current stage in life, so I thought it might be worth sharing my thoughts with those of you who also feel his anxiety.
For me, the most difficult transition was not going from full-time student to full-time employee, but becoming financially independent. (For those of you financing your own college education, good job! You’ve already completed this step.) This has really tested my priorities and might lead me to change the career path I’ve followed for the past five years. For this reason, I recommend not going to graduate school immediately after undergraduate unless you are sure you want to work for and have experience in a profession that requires an advanced degree, such as law, education or medicine.
Start doing things that young professionals do while you’re still in college, such as interning and going to professional association events. The specific organizations, companies, or both you participate in don’t matter so much as the confidence and practice you’ll gain. Entry-level jobs are pretty much like internships except better paid and more likely to be full time.
Don’t ever let anyone convince you that you’re not good enough for your career goals, but be realistic if they are tough to achieve. You set your own standard for success. Difficult goals often require a relatively long and nonlinear route but are still attainable. Mentors, friends and colleagues occasionally shot down my goal of working in New York’s arts market. However, due to my persistence, I’m now working someplace I love that’s a perfect stepping stone to that goal.
Some of the best career advice I’ve ever heard, from the career services coordinator in my major, is that you have to do what makes you happy now. I would also add that’s okay to compromise your happiness just a tad if you think it will eventually make you even happier after graduation. You’re more likely to succeed at something when you’re motivated by joy. The problem for most of us is figuring out exactly what makes us happy.
Lastly, remember my unique perspective on this advice. I’ve had pretty much the same career plan since I was 17. My first job after graduation is across an ocean from my home and where I went to college. My family has not strongly urged me to pursue a particular major or job. I’d love to hear questions and advice from those of you with different perspectives.