Where do you get career advice? Your career services department? How about your friends?
Humans, for the most part, are pack animals. Whenever we can, we form groups, because as members of a group, we’re provided with a certain safety net. When you’re part of a group, you’ve got people looking out for you, and in exchange, you look out for them. Whether it’s a soccer team, a fraternity or sorority, an improv troupe, or a debate club, you’ve always got someone to talk to, someone to consult with on difficult decisions, an audience for your terrible jokes (maybe this is just me), and even a shoulder to cry on.
When these groups are college groups, though, you get something else that you might not realize: an informal career services department.
Now, don’t get me wrong: the career service department at your school is a great resource. After all, providing students with career knowledge and guidance is their whole job, so they better be good at it. The only problem with them is actually just that; they’re professionals. When you engage with a career services professional, they need to provide you with some results.
The girl you worked with on student government last year, meanwhile, doesn’t need to provide you with any sort of career advice. After all, she graduated. You’re an unfriend away from being out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
So, how is this a good thing? Because it means there’s no pressure. You can engage with the people you’ve met in college groups in a sincere, casual way. You can be honest about how you’re feeling and they can give you the prospective of someone who left the exact college community you plan on leaving and moved into the exact field you’d like to move into. In other words, you can tell them what dream the world beyond college to be like, and they tell you how it really is.
No, in terms of providing professional advice, your former fraternity brothers and chess clubmates might not have access to or knowledge of the certain career websites or books. They’re probably not as organized as a career service professional, and they don’t have an office on campus that you can just walk into.
But they have other things. They know who you really are, they know what you struggle with, they know what you do well with, they know your favorite movies, your sense of humor, and they know how to embarrass you if need be. And that’s important, because remember, you take yourself to work with you every day, and knowing about a career on paper isn’t going to help you succeed if the environment is all wrong.
Basically, what I’m getting at here is that you should never underestimate anyone in your network. The connections you have from school might not be seasoned professionals yet, but neither are you, and just because they’re five or even ten years away from where they want to be job-wise, doesn’t mean they can’t give you a little bit of advice to get your career started.