8.9   Successful Career and Job Option Research Experience

Most people will do anything to avoid or postpone their job search. While helping my daughter on her quest to find a summer internship it became quite obvious to me how difficult people find job seeking because it requires talking to people. Many people engage in the most unproductive activities, ones that require the least direct contact with people. Monster.com is a great avoidance tool. All you have to do is paste your resume into place and then go back to whatever else you would rather be doing. But the reality is that you have to talk to people to get a job.

My daughter was in town for a week for spring break of her freshman year in college trying to find a summer internship. She sent her resume out a couple of months before to a number of organizations expecting that when the summer arrived someone will just call her and offer her the perfect position. When I told her she needed to follow up she was perplexed. “Why don't they just hire me because I am good? Can't they see that from my resume?" she complained. To which I responded "because they don't know you are good unless they meet you and see that you can walk and chew gum at the same time."

I instructed her to network with people to get leads and introductions to people who were well connected in the Capitol and at the California EPA. These were the places she wanted to intern. I responded to her anxiety over making calls: It will most likely be a person that you have met that will hire you. I told her “This is an interconnected society. Making contacts will lead you to the perfect job. People help each other. That is why the contacts you make are important. You have to cultivate and nurture contacts not for what you can get but because that is what community is: it is helping each other get through life. Think of it as having a cup of tea with people... keeping in touch with people, keeping up with people's lives”. Email makes it even easier to make contact and connect in a big world.

So after a little bit of prodding she sent emails, made several phone calls, and set up appointments for the week. We practiced her approach from the handshake (with eye contact and a smile), to giving her name and explaining that she was there to explore the possibility of a summer internship. As we went through the routine, I noticed little tears streaming down her face. I asked her why she was crying and she said, "I am afraid". I guess we are all afraid of rejection. I said, "These are nice people and are going to be nice to you. Even the people you will meet for the first time will be nice."

We assembled a great outfit and off she went on Monday morning to meet with people. She came home absolutely gushing with how nice people were to her, both on the phone and in person. She had a very encouraging phone call with a person at the Air Resources Board who sent her resume around and had several promising "bites." She had a fantastic tour of the Capitol with a family friend, and interviewed in an assemblywoman's office and scheduled more appointments. The day after her meetings she sent thank you notes to everyone. She finally "got it"! (And she also got a great internship with the California Air Resources Board!)

As a postscript - the people who she did her internships with during her undergraduate summers are the people who wrote her stellar letters of recommendations that got her into graduate school.  Internships and summer jobs during college are some of your most valuable experiences.  They help you launch your future in so many ways. They provide you with a network of people who nurture you,  teach you the ropes, and who promote your career.