Time Machine Message to Myself… 16 Career Years Later

I remember attending a Career Services seminar while I was in college and being asked the question “What are you looking for in a job?” I answered “security.”

It’s an especially ironic thought now while I’m in transition to the other side of 35. Reading some of these entries has inspired me to reflect on a time when I was looking forward to just being rid of school and getting a job.

Having seen blogs that talked about what the “old me” would say to the “young me”, and realizing that we can and should learn from the mistakes of others, I’m inspired to reflect on a time when I was looking forward to just being rid of school and getting a job.

So, with the magic of creative writing on my side, I’ve decided to step into my imaginary time machine to advise my 22-year-old self . . .

Dear 22-Year-Old Caroline:

I know you are so anxious to be DONE with school and start working. Here are some tips I’d like to pass on what I’ve learned after being in the “Real World” for a time:

Investigate Your Options

The prospect of returning to school on the other side of 35 is rather daunting. Although obviously people do this all the time, it’s a multitasking challenge! It can be very overwhelming when there’s rent and other bills to pay, plus bosses to keep happy, or if you need to bring work home . . .  all while you’re trying to focus on school! But going to grad school right after receiving your Bachelor’s may not be so bad . . . you’re already in school mode after all.

Financial considerations aside, focus on how grad school would benefit your early career: more (and better) job opportunities, plus solid relationships with different professors and other professionals which could help you later in your career.

Get to Know Yourself: Values, Interests, and Goals

It’s worth the time spent in Career Services or at the library and reading about different occupations, talking to professors, department heads, or alumni. It’s worth attending events related to your potential professional interests. It’s worth joining organizations related to your personal interests.

What Color Is My Parachute? by Richard Bolles is a book that helps you to get to know your favorite skills, type of work environment, interests, values, and goals. Granted, yes, you don’t have a lot of actual work experience. But this classic book is detailed resource that will get you thinking! It’s really OK not to have all the answers—just be honest with yourself.

Informational and Mock Interviewing

The best time to investigate a potential path or job is BEFORE you actually try it. Think about the kinds of places and career paths in which you’re interested, do some preliminary research about the said place(s) and career path(s), and then brainstorm questions based on your research. Ask Career Services about potential employers who may be interested in participating in these activities.

Find Internships!

Practical exploration may be more helpful than any form of research . . . and that’s where internships come in. And I’m NOT talking about the part-time job you turned into a cooperative education experience to fill in some remaining credits! Internships during school, and even after you graduate, help you gain more experience and contacts. Internships provide insight into what you may want to explore as a career . . . and also what you don’t want to do. Plus, you’ll get practice working with people of all backgrounds and personality traits. Work world success—and sometimes survival—depends on developing these “soft skills”!


Did you ever think that volunteering can also lead you toward a job or a career path? Watch for opportunities to use your skills or in which you can develop new skills. In addition to the benefit to others and feeling good about yourself, volunteering means meeting new people, which leads to networking. It could also be a good way to create your “personal board of directors”—coaches, champions, and mentors! Even better—volunteering at a place where you might actually be interested in starting your career.


Just like volunteering, hobbies are ideal for developing skills and connecting with people who like to do what you do. Again, think “board of directors” and networking! Not to mention—fun. Pay attention to what it is about your hobby that feels natural and fun. The key to finding what is you want to do with your life lies in these feelings.

OK, OK, I’ll stop now! Above all, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to keep an open mind and heart to career change, as well as changes in your personal interests. And be sure to genuinely LIKE whichever path you choose.

Chase your passions! You’ll thank me later!


Your Future Self


About the Author: The first time Caroline Howell thought she wanted to be a writer was in 5th grade. She used to spend her summers reading and re-reading books (mostly the kind a preteen would like, but still . . .). Today she has channeled her love of the written word into a broadly based communications career that has included promotional copywriting, proofreading, and book publicity. For over 13 years, she has written for audiences as diverse as banking customers, book reviewers, and physical therapists. In her most recent position, she helped to relaunch an internship program.

Learn more about Caroline on her LinkedIn profile.

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