If you are reading this blog, you might be a full-time graduate student in linguistics, with a hectic schedule of classes and probably a part-time job and on top of that, you are frantically searching and applying for full-time jobs so that you have something lined up for when you graduate and on top of that, MAYBE you are able to find time for friends and family. You are so busy in fact that there isn’t even time to think, let alone sleep or eat. But yet – here I am asking you to take 15 minutes to think about your career search.
Now, obviously, I am really hoping that you will find more time than that, because I want you to continue reading and thinking about career development and I am hoping that networking will become a life-long practice for you, but maybe 15 minutes now is the best way that I can convince you of that so…..
Let’s begin with two questions:
1) Tell me about a time that you did something that you were really proud of (can be a professional or a personal accomplishment).
2) If there were no constraints, if money were no object, if you could go anywhere or do anything, what would you do? Who would you work for/with?
Now the second question seems like the impossible one. This is probably the exact reason that you are in graduate school: you want help figuring this out, or you want to make the connections that will actually make this happen. And yet, I have never met the person who does not have an answer to this question. You may be stuck and stressed out and spinning, but somewhere in your gut you have the answer to this one. The first one is actually much harder, but through interrogation, you find the clues, the little breadcrumbs that you have left for yourself along the way, pointing you in one direction or another “X was easy to do and felt like fun rather than work,” “I got a great deal of satisfaction out of working on Y” “I find myself really drawn to people who do Z.” Now that you know where you are going (answer to question 2), how do you use your skills, interests, and abilities (answers to question 1) to help get you there?
The first of these questions looks back and the second looks forward, but in setting up a dialogue between these two you have your directions and your map.
Ideally, you could have this as a conversation with someone who knows you well , and someone who will challenge you by asking lots of “whos,” “whats, ““whens,” wheres,” and whys.” Maybe this person could take notes and even record you so that when you articulate exactly what it is about accounting that really floats your boat, you will have that language there to put into a cover letter, or to work it into your elevator pitch.
Maybe these could be a series of conversations that you have with many friends, and maybe these become questions that you turn around as you deploy them:
• Ask your friends and family to answer these about you: where and when did you see me really succeeding or really enjoying something that I was doing? Where do you see me working? What do you think would be my idea job?
• Ask your friends and family to answer these for you. In listening to them, you can begin to learn more about what makes them tick and why and how you connect with them, so as to ultimately learn more about yourself in the process.
And likely, there will be more than one answer, more than one dream job, especially if you continue having these conversations over time. Keep track of the nuggets of wisdom that you discover about yourself. After all, what could be more important than spending more of your time doing more of what you love?