Congratulations on gaining admission to the university!
I am pretty sure you are elated and expectant of this phase of your life. I wish you the very best as you begin this fascinating adventure.
May I introduce myself? My name is Akua Ampah and I am a Career Development Advisor. This means that I support students and young graduates with their early career planning. I do this through coaching and guidance, facilitating career-related workshops, creating opportunities for students to network with corporate leaders and gain some basic work experience while in school.
On this note, I believe I can share a few thoughts with you not just because I work in a university and coach students on career planning, but because I made some mistakes when I was in the university myself and it cost me so much in my early days in the corporate world. As you embark on this journey in school, I would like to share with you some tips you may need to be an outstanding graduate and be sought after by progressive organizations (yes not every company is progressive 😊). If you have plans of going into entrepreneurship right after school too, that’s fine (I just have my own reservations about that. Maybe I will share in another post). All the same, no matter your plans, I believe these tips would help you with your career planning.
Tip 1: See this new chapter of your life as an opportunity to discover yourself
Yes I know you might have gotten a lot of advice from dad and mum about going to school to study. That is one of the best advice you can ever get but remember that life goes beyond the books. I would say you should have a balance – Learn hard and play hard!
Challenge yourself, go out of your comfort zone and do the things that you’ve ever wanted to do, (positive things though 😊). If you have ever wanted to sing in front of a large crowd, join a group that will allow you to explore this. If there is nothing like that on campus, create one for yourself and invite your colleagues to join. If you want to start a business one day, try it out on campus – it is better to make your mistakes while in school, and learn from them than to actually start your business and make mistakes you could have avoided if you gave yourself some time to test it on a smaller scale. Meet people and make friends, there is a lot you will learn from dealing with people from diverse backgrounds. Trust me, it is a necessary skill in the real world, and a lot of leaders lack it.
Whatever your hobbies or interests are, I believe this is the time to unearth and or polish them.
“It is only in doing, that you can perfect your craft or find yourself.”
Tip 2: Seize every opportunity to get some work experience
As a Career Advisor and someone who works closely with employers, I can tell you for a fact that most employers will rather engage a student or graduate who has some internship or volunteering experience prior to applying for a job. To them, this implies you have acquired some basic skills which may be relevant to the job and it also means you have taken time to add value to yourself outside of the classroom. During your long vacation, rather than stay at home to ‘rest’ which you and I know that is not mostly the case, find yourself an internship. The idea here is not to only work in a formal institution. Rather, anything you can do that will help you develop some skills for what you hope to pursue in your future career.
Do not make the excuse of not finding an internship opportunity. I say it is an excuse because if you push hard enough, you would find something to do. Do not wait till the last minute to begin your search.
“Plan early and you will find something to do.”
Tip 3: Speak to a professional about your career plans
A lot of the successful professionals you see today were once clueless about what they wanted to do in future. Well a few are still in that state, and it is just fine! We all need direction at every point in our lives. My dear freshman, seek this support or help early. It is okay at your level to be vulnerable and admit that you have no idea about what you want to do in future. Interestingly, there are a lot of professionals who are willing to help students discover their careers. You only have to find the right people who are well equipped and willing to assist you.
While at it, try to get a mentor. Your mentor can be the same person who is coaching you with regards to your career planning, but by all means, reach out to people who are doing things you are interested in and connect with them. Ask them if they would like to mentor you and make the most out of this rare opportunity. Do not screw this opportunity up – be committed and truthful to your coach or mentor!
There are so many mistakes you might escape if you seek the advice of people who have already gone down that lane. Above all, do not let anyone force you to do anything you are not interested in, with regards to your career planning. Own your career journey but have a support system; people you bounce ideas off and update about your progress.
“It is never too early to start planning for your career”
Tip 4: Do not take the relationships you build for granted
Be very intentional about building and maintaining the good relationships you forge on campus. Your classmates, seniors, and even staff/faculty can be of great help to you when it comes to your career. Be that person people would like to have in their space, or work with on projects. Always bring something of value to the table – it could be your skills, positive energy, kind words, commitment, leadership, amongst others. I know people who never miss out on great opportunities because of the relationships they have maintained and the good they have done for people.
The world is indeed small, and you may never know who would help you when you need that recommendation letter for a job or grad school, put in a word for you, send you an opportunity, connect you to an investor, and the list goes on.
Take this from me, there are people who have never applied for a job! They have access to opportunities simply because of their network – build yours now.
“Be kind to all and help people – you will reap the benefit when you least expect it.”
Let me not overwhelm you with a lot of tips, but I can guarantee you that these would serve you well throughout your stay in the university.
It is my prayer that you will graduate and be in full readiness for the world of work because you would have gained the skills to do exploits in your chosen career.
Need I say more? Graduate unemployment is real.