It’s Never Too Early to Start Thinking About Your Career–Kickstarting Your Career as a First Year

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Hey Duke! Happy Thursday! Can you believe that it’s already February? This first year of college has really flown by for me. So much has happened and I’ve really acquired a lot of life skills that I feel ready to put to use. Some people are looking forward to the summertime because of the increased free time and ability to visit with old friends. While all of that definitely applies to me as well, I think what I’m most looking forward to is the opportunity to have a job in a line of work that aligns with my career goals for the future!

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As an eager first year, I’m always on the lookout for ways to get a head start on building my career. From sitting on executive boards, to working at the Career Center, to joining the Baldwin Scholars program, I feel like I’m headed in the direction of success and want to help you all do the same! So, here are three strategies that I use on a regular basis that have put my career on a fast track:

1. Network, network, network!

This is probably not the first time that someone has told you how important networking is, so I’m sorry for the broken record. But seriously, it’s probably the best way to find out about opportunities, job positions, interesting classes, and programs or people you’ve never heard of before. In addition to being an important social skill to have, networking can also be incredibly simple! It’s as easy as getting to know your boss at work, meeting up with an interesting professor for a quick lunch, or sticking around for a few minutes after a Career Center event to ask more questions. All of these actions count as fostering connections that are likely to help you make yourself known. Initiating conversations with professors, Career Center employees, fellow students, or guest speakers, will make you stand out and could lead to long lasting and mutually beneficial relationships.

2. Apply, apply, apply!

Many first years worry that because of their lack of experience on campus, they won’t be accepted into positions of prestige… but that couldn’t be further from the truth! If you’re interested in the position, apply for it. If you feel like your skill set is applicable to the work being done in a certain campus organization, join it. If you think that your resume is impressive, send it. This is one of those situations where there is quite literally nothing stopping you except for yourself, so don’t get in your own way! Think about it this way: the only way to build the resume of your dreams is to put yourself out there, participate in organizations, and become a leader within them. You have to start somewhere. There are so many organizations on campus, so realize that getting rejected from one has no implications on your chances of being accepted to another. Put your best self out there!

3. Don’t over commit yourself!

This is the pitfall that 80 percent of first-years fall into. First, you signed up for an on-campus art club. Cool, you like art and have found a group of people who share your passion. Your friend Sarah tells you about an investment club, which you end up joining because Sarah’s in it and your dad told you that money management is important. Then, you audition for the Symphony Orchestra, and get in! Congrats! This adds bi-weekly rehearsals to your schedule. While hanging out in Perkins, you hear someone talking about club volleyball and decide to go to try outs… you make the team but realize… the practices conflict with orchestra rehearsal. Sitting down to look at your calendar, you realize that art club and investment club meetings occur on the same days and times and that you have a late night class on the Wednesdays that club volleyball practices… which is also the night for orchestra rehearsal.

You, my friend, have fallen into the trap. College is incredibly exciting for us first years and temps us to experiment with everything under the sun. They say you can have it all, and you truly can… but within the realm of practicality. You should be strategically picking and choosing the activities you participate in so that they align with your goals, mental/physical well-being, or personal enjoyment. You should always join an organization because there is something about it that speaks to you or aligns with your interests.

Your time is precious, so treat it with care!

Of course, each of these three strategies come to fruition differently for everyone, but the structure remains consistent. Get to know the people around you, put yourself and your qualifications out there, and value your time enough to know what you do and do not have time for!

Can’t wait to see all you first years rockin’ what’s left of this second semester!

Best wishes,

An eager first-year

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