I can imagine that many students in the classes of 2017 (or perhaps even those in 2018 and 2019) may be feeling the same way. That’s why I am writing to share the one thing that helped me most in figuring out what I wanted to do after college: I found great mentors.
Assistance in narrowing your career interests is one of the greatest benefits to finding a good mentor while you are still in college. During my senior year I worked closely with a professor to complete my senior thesis. I had taken a few classes with this professor, but I learned much more from him as a mentor than as a teacher. The critical feedback he provided on my work soon became broader guidance on my interests and how those interests intersected with contemporary issues in academia and society. He challenged me to refine my thinking in a way that enabled me to see how I wanted to pursue my interests after college.
Learning about and observing how a mentor does his or her job can also be immensely helpful for sorting out what comes after college. Immediately after graduating I completed an internship with a non-profit startup. The founder had started the organization out of his passion for political engagement and interest in civic technology, but with zero experience in the field or in running a social enterprise. Two years later his project has launched and his organization has been acquired by one of the leading civic tech companies in the US. Working with him enabled me to learn how to convert passion into action and find, or in his case make, a job that aligns with your interests. That was a lesson I could never have learned in the classroom.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rhythm of college life and put off thinking about post-graduation plans. But connecting with a mentor while you are still in college can be huge benefit to figuring out what to do after college and understanding what skills you need to get there. Add on the fact that a mentor will also be able to connect you to a professional network and point out openings and opportunities that are not on your radar and the decision is a no-brainer.
-- Michael Trujillo
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