Ready to get inspired for your job, internship, or career search? Each month we will spotlight an OSU student that has inspired us when it comes to their career development. Check out their success stories—besides inspiration, they also show that academic major does not have to restrict your goals and that there are many ways to define success.
Want to nominate an OSU student or alum for the Student/Alum Spotlight series? Or do you want to share your own success? Then please fill out this quick form and Career Services will contact the person nominated.
1. While a student at OSU, what have you done so far to gain experience?
Now that I look back on my time at OSU, I’ve come to realize that I’ve actually done quite a lot to gain experience. Maybe it’s because of my interest in three different areas of business and wanting to broaden my horizons with each or just a natural curiosity and desire to learn new things. Either way, each time I tried something new, I learned something more about what I wanted to do, how I could get there, and who I ultimately want to be as a person.
When I first came to OSU, I really wanted a “college experience” so I became involved in anything I could that would bring me in to the OSU community. My very first term on campus, I became an ASOSU intern even though I was never really interested in student government or politics or anything like that. I’m really glad I joined, though, because I was exposed to a whole different side of campus and got to work with a broad variety of really amazing people. It also didn’t take me long to figure out that I could spend my entire time there (a year) without ever touching student government, but could focus my time on working with various task forces to help make the OSU campus a better place to be. Working with ASOSU allowed me to build connections across campus, get to know people in various departments, and even led to the founding of a club where I was able to stretch my leadership legs for the first time.
I also sought out other opportunities to gain more knowledge about the field I was going into by looking around for various tech-related clubs and organizations on campus. It was then that I discovered a club for women in engineering, so as a way of trying it out, I joined the listserv. The listserv sent around a scholarship announcement to attend a conference I’d never heard of before for women in technology up in Portland called the Grace Hopper Celebration. Getting the scholarship was a long shot because I didn’t have the GPA stipulated in the requirements, but I applied anyway and was fortunate enough to be chosen. The conference was an amazing three-day event where EECS transported us by bus to and from the convention center, provided us with meals, and put us up in a hotel near the event. I was able to attend workshops, speaker events, panels, and a career fair where my timid and shy self managed to build up the courage to strike up a conversation with a very nice lady from IBM. Little did I know that I was having a conversation with a director of a department who was only watching the booth for a few minutes and that this very same director would offer me a 6-month long internship without even an interview with one of the teams she oversaw back east two weeks after the conference. Realizing that this moment only happened because of my courage to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone, I have done what I can ever since to keep up that momentum.
Since attending that conference, I have gradually gained more and more confidence with talking to strangers and, the even more terrifying, potential recruiters. One way that I helped to build my confidence was to expose myself to as many opportunities to practice as possible by attending mock interviews, volunteering to be the speaker for class presentations, and any other opportunity where I could practice talking with or to people that I didn’t know. I remember that there was an event at the alumni center that had a speed-dating type interview where you only had a few minutes to talk before you would get feedback from each interviewer. I was completely unprepared for anything because I wasn’t feeling very well and had completely forgotten about this particular component of the event. But it was during this speed-dating interview session that I discovered what my real passions are because I was “shooting from the hip”, completely unfiltered and unrehearsed because it didn’t really matter so there was nothing to lose with really letting go and just telling it like it is. I received incredibly positive feedback from each interviewer because I showed sincerity, passion, and eloquence without stuttering or sounding rehearsed. Since then, I have treated each interview (whether mock or real) the exact same way: showing sincerity and enthusiasm by being genuine and unrehearsed.
2. What are your career plans?
Since I’m such a planner-type personality, I actually have two different “categories” of my career plans: immediate and life-long. My immediate career plans include an internship with The Walt Disney Company back in my hometown of Los Angeles at their corporate office. I’d been solicited by a recruiter who had seen my experience with my on-campus jobs at both the Bexell Computer Lab and Business Solutions Group. It was the help desk experience that really interested her, though, as the position entails communicating technical information to non-technical people. I used to think that my jobs on campus didn’t really count or matter because they weren’t classified as an “internship” but I’m really grateful for that experience now and wish that I had thought of it as a type of internship a long time ago because recruiters don’t see a difference, it’s all about experience, not location.
After graduation, I’m looking to get started in an IT discipline since my primary major is information systems. I’ve also started taking classes from Harvard University toward their graduate program in IT so that I can add to my knowledge base to make myself a bit more marketable and broaden my knowledge of IT. The plan for graduate school also ties into my life-long career goal of pursuing upper-management within a large company. I never thought that I would have the courage to pursue such a lofty goal, but with the experience and encouragement that I have received from the different outlets I’ve pursued as well as the gift from my mentor of confidence in myself at a time when I had the biggest case of impostor syndrome on the planet, I’m able to reach heights I never dreamed possible.
3. What advice do you have for others who are preparing for their job or internship search?
Do your homework by researching companies, practice interviewing, and constantly improve your resume. One of the best things I did while at OSU was take a class required for business majors called Professional Development. In this class I had to create a Gap Analysis which consisted of evaluating your current skills and abilities to that of a job you want to pursue. It gave me a way to create a course of action that would lead me to my dream job. I also found that it really helps when you find a job that you’re passionate about, you create an incentive for yourself, a way to motivate the job search. And with the analysis, you would know what kinds of internships to target instead of just taking the shotgun approach of applying to as many things as possible and hoping something sticks. What’s the point of getting an internship that doesn’t provide you with the ability to gain experience in a career field that you are interested in pursuing? It’s better to take your time (and yes, this will take a lot of time) to find the right kinds of internships to apply for and tailor your resume and cover letter to that role. I also used Linkedin to find connections that work in a company I’m interested in working and starting to build a relationship with them by having an informational interview. It’s as simple as having a conversation about what they do every day. I’ve had tremendous success with this and even had the guts to try and connect with people whom I’ve never met. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to help out a student who shows an interest in them and is professional in how they interact.
4. Did Career Services and/or anybody else assist you with your career development and preparing you for an internship or job? If so, how?
When I first came to campus, I knew my entire purpose for coming to college was to graduate and get a job so I made an appointment with Career Services fairly early on in my academic career. I wanted to make sure that every step I took while in school was leading me to that goal. I took several assessments of my personality and skills, learning more about myself and what I wanted in the process. I think those assessments really flipped a switch in me to constantly improve. I always found ways to better myself, never really being satisfied with anything I created no matter whether it was a resume, a Linkedin profile, a personal website, etc. I always found something that could be tweaked or improved in some way. I still do this even with offers for internships, I’m just constantly trying to improve.
But what really comes to mind when I think of career development is that I’ve had the benefit of working with two really great instructors on campus, Gene Young and Bob Mayes. Gene taught my BA 353 class and I’m better off for taking it with him. He rips you apart, but it’s obvious that he cares about each student’s success. It’s almost like he has to rip away all the bad habits in order to create a better, more refined person. I had some work experience and have had a few interviews so I felt that I was fairly professional already (especially because this was after landing an offer from IBM without an interview, I felt like the top of the professional world!) but this man humbled me. He gave me new tips and insights I hadn’t heard before and boy do they work. I’ve had even greater success since taking his class and I attribute that success to his tutelage.
I also took a chance on taking a random 1-credit class that didn’t apply to any major, but the title intrigued me: Think Like a Leader. It was a bit odd because I had to “apply” to enroll in the course by submitting an essay and I’m not that decent of a writer, but I decided to chance it. I’m incredibly grateful that I did because not only was I accepted into the class, but that action started a chain reaction of self-improvement. I was exposed to high-level executives every week and had to constantly refine my interactions with professionals. This class led to a mentorship, a nomination to join a leadership honor society, ongoing relationships with top-level executives, and a constant improvement of my professionalism. Bob has even coached me on interviewing and professional etiquette. I know that my mentorship with him has taken my professional development to a whole new level. For the first time, I’m really looking forward to what the future holds for my career.
Thanks Jaina for being our Student/Alum Spotlight! If you are interested in learning more about the job search process, there are many resources available to you on the OSU Career Services website, including a specific section on preparing for your job search. Be sure to check it out!