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Building Experience, Making Connections

Now that you have taken the advice of Delphi, done some self-reflection, and have outlined a career exploration action plan, you should be feeling pretty good. You have jump-started your progress toward a career that matches some of your values, skills, interests, and passions. Since many entry-level job ads request 1-2 years of experience, the next year or two is the perfect time for building experience and continuing to make connections in the field you hope to work in. It is easy to assume that the only way to gain experience and develop your skills is working off-campus, but don’t neglect the many opportunities right on campus. Here are some possibilities, both on- and off-campus, you might explore:

  • Hands-on work experience: a campus job working for a professor, a department, or campus office; tutoring; an off-campus summer job
  • Leadership: officer for a campus organization, residence hall assistant, mentoring younger students, organizing an event
  • Civic engagement: volunteer with a community organization or non-profit
  • Professional exploration: internships and job shadowing
  • Global connections: travel abroad
  • Hone your classics credentials: capstone course, summer research with a professor
  • Network: attend campus events (job fairs, careers day, networking opportunities with local employers), interact with invited speakers when possible (through your department or though other campus organizations, e.g. pre-law society)

These opportunities will help you develop new skills and hone existing ones, engage in leadership and teamwork, and meet people who can help you make contacts in your field of interest and alert you to potential career opportunities. You never know where these kinds of experiences might lead, so take advantage of these opportunities when you can and don’t wait too late in your undergraduate career to get involved. A good rule of thumb is to engage in at least three of the experiential learning opportunities listed above before you graduate.

Your professor, supervisor, coach, career counselor, and even fellow students can help you keep on track in this endeavor. In fact, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of bringing up your career action plan every time you meet with your academic adviser to make sure you’re keeping on track. Also keep in mind that regular meetings help your mentors, advisors, and others who will eventually write letters of recommendation for you become invested in your career goals and personal journey. If you are talking about your goals and plans consistently, your letter writers will be able to write a more persuasive letter for you and may even be prompted to recommend other opportunities or contacts that you haven’t considered yet.