Career counselor Jing Peng said many professionals find themselves in job positions they never expected while they were in college, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where they went right.
“People can tell you where they started and where they ended, but the thing is, during the process we’re not really sure,” Peng said. “I’m sure they’re not really taking classes getting ready for that.
“It’s more about experiences. They don’t hesitate when the chance is approaching. If you ask them if they are very careful about their choices, they probably are. If you ask if they’ve ever let an opportunity slip, they probably haven’t.”
Renee Nicholas, junior in nursing, said the opportunity she’s taken advantage of is being a part of Project Uplift, which she hopes will help her become better at working with children.
“I work with a kid once or twice a week and I just help them with homework and we do fun stuff,” Nicholas said. “I’m thinking about being a pediatric nurse practitioner, so this definitely will help with getting that one-on-one with the kid.”
Peng said it’s important to take advantage of opportunities, but stressed getting as much information beforehand as possible.
“We need to be very cautious, but we also need to be very investigative,” Peng said. “Lots of students, when they have to make a decision, they don’t really gather information and they just go straight to the decision or they just ditch the decision without even attending to it.”
Peng said one student she counseled was wary of pursuing an internship offered by someone who asked her for directions on the Concourse because she wasn’t sure if it was legitimate, but Peng said it’s important not to rule anything out without a good reason.
“If it’s not something you really want to do, don’t do it,” Peng said. “I do believe if you don’t have the heart for what you are doing, there’s no way for you to do a great job. But if you think you are scared because you feel the challenge is too huge, it’s not because you’re heart is telling you, ‘I hate this.’”
Peng said the internship became a great opportunity for the student in Boston, and taking the time to research the position kept her from missing out on the experience.
Being a nurse practitioner is one step below being a doctor, but Nicholas said she is up to the challenge and hopes to specialize in pediatrics during graduate school.
“If I wanted to be a doctor, I feel like just having a strong educational background with nursing would build a foundation for that as well,” Nicholas said.
Just expressing an interest in something outside of the classroom can look good on a resume, Peng said.
“On campus maybe you can organize some kind of workshop,” she said. “I have a friend who has a heart for international cultures. What she decided to do was hold a Thursday night international dinner at her house. It started with one or two people, but it turned to 25 or 30 every week.
“People from different countries all gathered in her house, and so did American students with similar interests as hers.”
Peng also said it’s important for students to network with people who have contacts within their field of interest.
“If you can invite someone to come lecture on campus, that would make a great way to learn more about this field and let professors know about your interests,” she said. “If I know you are interested in this, and I’m a professor with different networks and contacts out there in the field and an opportunity pops up, you might be the name just on the top of my list.”