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Lessons Learned When Trying to Find a Career Path

April 10th, 2012

career path, Angee Linsey

by Angee Linsey

If you’re like many students who are looking forward to a career in the communication or marketing fields, the more you are exposed to different paths within the field, the harder it is to decide exactly which direction you should take with your first post-college job.

Here are three lessons I learned early in my career that may help you find your way.

1. Try it On for Size

When I was in journalism school, I knew that I was going to move to New York City and work for a major magazine. Nothing was going to deter me from that goal. And then I was selected by the American Society of Magazine Editors to do an internship in New York City with a well-known publication. It was a fantastic summer, and I learned a lot.  But the most important thing I learned was that I didn’t really want to work for a magazine, and I didn’t want to live in New York.

Having that internship was priceless. Not only did it help me realize my goals had changed, but it allowed me a summer’s worth of experience without the commitment of a full-time job in a field I quickly learned was not my ideal.

Internships are a great way to try a job on for size. You are able to go into an organization and contribute to the team, learn and grow in a real-world environment, and decide if that is the right path for you when you begin your full-time job search.

2. Be Curious

Most schools have some sort of campus recruiting efforts during which companies come in to find new graduates to hire. Those companies will usually do some sort of presentation about the organization and the positions that they are hiring for; you should attend as many of these presentations as possible. Even if the actual position that is being recruited for is not necessarily something you are interested in doing, the exposure to the company, their culture and what they are seeking in candidates will help you narrow your job search.

This is exactly how I landed my first job out of college. I saw that a company was coming to interview students in my program, and I didn’t sign up for a meeting because I wasn’t interested in the job title that was posted at the career services office. I attended the presentation out of curiosity, and it turned out the opportunity sounded fantastic. I had no idea that there were even jobs like the one described by the hiring manager. Fortunately, I was able to get squeezed in as the last interview and ended up being offered the job.

3. Tell Your Story with Focus

Early in my career, I spoke with a recruiter who asked me what the ideal job would be for me. I quickly started describing at least five or six types of communication roles that I thought would be “fun.” They were all very different and, based on the recruiter’s response, I know I sounded unfocussed and likely a bit unprofessional.

What I learned from this one conversation was the importance of being focused in how I answered the question, “What do you want to do next?” Even if you are open to a wide variety of opportunities, practice answering that question with a clear explanation of the types of roles you want so that the person asking can help you get there. For example, “I am most interested in joining a public relations agency so I can work with a variety of companies. I’m also open to joining an in-house corporate communication team, preferably in a consumer-oriented company.”

Your first job out of college doesn’t have to be the one you have for life, but the more clear you can be about the path you want, the more likely you will avoid job hopping those first few years of your career.


Angee Linsey, IABC/Seattle

Angee Linsey is president of Linsey Careers, an executive search firm that specializes in working with communication and marketing leaders. For more information, visit her website at http://www.linseycareers.com or follow her on Twitter: @linseycareers.

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