Graduation season will be upon us in a few short months, and with it, feelings of excitement, pride, relief and anticipation for the future. Whether you are preparing for commencement this spring or are at an earlier stage in your academic journey, it is a good time to define or recommit to your career goals.
UMD School of Public Policy boasts a dedicated Career Services team that supports you as you identify, prepare and develop your short- and long-term career goals and strategies. Conveniently located on the first floor of the School of Public Policy building, they are a vital resource and are easily accessible to policy students. For Director Bryan Kempton and Coordinator Hardeep Chowdhary the spring semester also brings with it a noticeable increase in visits from policy students looking to start their career planning. Regardless of how far along you are in your studies, these practices will provide a compass as you chart your path forward.
- Visit Career Services early and often. Start developing those relationships early on. Job searches take an average of 6 months, and many students wait until late in their college careers to visit Career Services for the first time, not leaving much time to utilize all the services at their disposal. “Coming in sooner than they typically do would be something I would like to see students do more of,” says Chowdhary. Policy students are encouraged to meet with their Career Services team to receive individualized, interpersonal attention and assistance. Both walk-in counseling and scheduled counseling appointments of 30 or 60 minutes are available.
- Let Career Services be your partner. Your Career Services team is here to empower you to take control of your future and help you embark on a satisfying career. “It [Career Services] shouldn’t be scary…We are advocates for students, advocates for the work you are trying to do, and advocates for you connecting the classroom expertise that you are gaining to the policy world. That linkage there, that bridge, is exactly why Hardeep and I are housed within SPP, so we hope that students take advantage of us as a resource,” says Kempton.
- Think broadly about your options and engage in the exploration process to consider the entirety of your options across all sectors. Most likely, you will be working for the next 40 to 50 years, and it’s okay if your first job is not the defining element of your career. There is a lifetime of professional development ahead of you that will allow you to check a number of different boxes across the policy spectrum. When students understand this early on, it can relieve much of the pressure and anxiety they feel. Career Services provides support in many ways, including through individualized internship and career planning, career assessments and skill building, as well as access to a robust network of 3500+ alumni around the globe.
- Connect to your “Why.” All policy students have a reason why they want to go into public policy and it’s never too early to start considering yours. Utilize the many resources Career Services has to offer, including individualized career counseling and planning, to discover the issues that inspire you to want to make a change in the world. What policy issues do you want to tackle? What problems do you want to solve? Use those answers to help guide your search as you’re looking at opportunities and organizations to apply to.
- Make your degree work for you. Take advantage of the Career Services connections. Complete an internship to gain real-world experience and start to discover the issues that you feel most strongly about. If you find yourself unsure of your next step, or questioning the goals you previously set for yourself, or want to check in to ensure everything is on track, reach out to Career Services. This is just scratching the surface of what career counseling can do to support you.
Career counseling and job searching don’t have to be an unpleasant experience. For undergraduates and graduates alike, often there’s a negative connotation to the word “counseling.” There’s a perception out there that people don’t go to counseling unless there is a problem. “While we are problem solvers, we’re here as advisors and as people who are offering sound counsel and pearls of wisdom when it comes to best practices for getting a job,” says Kempton. “When students understand that, and know we’re not just here when they’re struggling, they’re more likely to take advantage of this service early and often, from the beginning.”
As you look toward the future, be intentional in building your career with purpose and defining success on your own terms. Whether you choose to climb the corporate ladder or chase curiosity and satisfaction, do what brings you joy and master the things you do best. Don’t be afraid to dream big, and understand what it will take to achieve those dreams. Utilize the skill assessments, alumni network and access to career connections that your dedicated Career Services team can provide as you carve out your place in the policy world and make a meaningful impact. In the words of William Arthur Ward, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”