I started college with little to no understanding of what career paths were possible for me, and although I knew I had many interests, the only thing I really knew for sure, was that I could work hard. Over my past 3 ½ years at the University of Maryland’s Merrill School of Journalism, that fact has remained a constant, and the value it has brought to my (albeit short) professional career is immeasurable.
Regardless of your career path, whether you know it or not, hard work and proving your dedication is something that shines through to those in charge even if you’re not the most talented or experienced. Learning to work hard and show up has helped me in so many aspects of my career so far and one of the soft skills that I know will continue to bring me professional opportunities as I prepare to enter the job market in the summer of 2023.
That being said, it is also vital to develop as much work experience as you can while on campus, hustling only gets you far if you have something to hustle.
1. FIND SOMETHING THAT INTERESTS YOU AND DIY IT
If you don’t have the work experience to get a job, create a job for yourself and prove that you can do it.
In the spring of 2020, we were sent home from college due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and I really had nothing to do. My childhood best friend and I started thinking a bit out of the box about jobs that interested us. The next day, rather than watching our third film in a row, we created an LLC to design and sell recycled clothing online.
This experience taught me so much about work-life balance, relationships among friends and business partners, and just simple legal and business practices that are necessary when running a small business. Good Looks Company has also allowed me to develop my photo and video portfolio as well as my graphic design skills, all of which have helped me immensely in finding jobs in creative media.
This is one of my proudest accomplishments, and it’s also something that especially interests employers, interviewers, and business professionals when they talk to me about my experiences. Whether or not it is successful in the long run, entrepreneurial experiences like this are invaluable and are a really good way to prove individual motivation and learn outside the classroom.
2. NETWORK WITH EVERYONE AND ANYONE
Networking is the most valuable aspect of any job. Who you know and the relationships you keep are the ones that will likely change the course of your career. As someone who has worked in a few different jobs and fields, I have learned that networking matters even when it’s outside your desired profession.
In high school, I met a Serbian entrepreneur while he was out biking, and after talking for about 20 minutes, we exchanged social media handles. A year later, he hired me to work for him at his new restaurant and bar in Dupont Circle, DC and I was hired back the next summer as well. Today, I am the restaurant’s videographer and also have become an investor in their next bar, opening in the spring of 2023. All of this happened because I spoke with a random guy at a local farmers market.
You never know which contacts will come back to help you. Maybe the one you really think will help leads nowhere, but the random friend of a friend or customer interaction is the one that will lead you to your next job.
3. GET INVOLVED WITH ON-CAMPUS CLUBS AND EXTRACURRICULARS
College clubs and extracurriculars offer so many unique opportunities for students to get on-the-job training and access to jobs that require specialized skills. In my sophomore year, I started working with the campus sports network, the Big Ten Student U. Although I soon learned that this was not my passion, I developed so many skills that I still use on a daily basis. My time broadcasting also led me to a great part-time job with Monumental Sports, which owns the Washington Capitals and Wizards.
For me, sacrificing a weekend to video a college football game or do a photo shoot with the Capitals is totally worth it if I can leave college knowing what I want to do, with tangible experience on my resume. It’s so common for new grads not to have the exact experience listed in a job description, but you can make a strong case for why you’d still be a good fit if you’ve got other experiences that helped you hone comparable skills. Plus, your evident hustle, hard work, and determination will be evident. All qualities that are in high demand for hiring managers.
In a competitive job market, your ability to prove that you’re someone who creates your own opportunities will set you apart from other candidates. And being confident in your ability to work hard and grow, should prove to any hiring manager, as well as help to convince yourself, that you will be successful in achieving your career goals because you know how to create and find your own opportunities.