Don’t you love those moments where a conversation sparks a flood of memories? And you look back to see how far you’ve come… and think about all the roads that brought you here?
I had one of those moments recently while mentoring one of our interns here at YouTern…
One of our social media interns will graduate in December. After graduation, her career goal is – and seemingly always has been – to work in law enforcement. In fact, I’ve never encountered someone who knows so much exactly what she wants to do, and precisely how she’ll get there.
More recently though, through her YouTern internship she has become interested in how social media is used in marketing. Confusion sets in.
For the first time, the laser focus she’s had… her major… the informational interviews… previous internships dedicated to law enforcement… is blurred by a new interest. Her new passion: social media marketing.
But now… she’s worried this new found interest will be perceived as a lack of focus on her LinkedIn profile and resume. She asks, “Will employers think I’m wishy-washy because I have two completely different career paths?”
The short answer: No matter what we do, life moves pretty fast…
Let’s look back at my senior year in college. I remember a conversation with a friend during class in our last semester of college. It went something like this…
My friend: “Dude. We’re graduating in a couple months. What are you gonna’ do after graduation?”
Me: (trying not to reveal the internal panic… the sleepless nights and the anxiety-filled days stressing over the thought of graduating soon with absolutely NO career direction): “Ummmm.”
A few months later, I was working for a minor league baseball team. From there I went to work in marketing for the San Francisco Giants, and then to account management at some large high-tech corporations. And then, in social media for YouTern.
“Baseball,” you say, confused, “has absolutely no connection to social media.”
It does… if you allow the sum of your career to be one baby step after another… and tell a great story.
Try Stuff… Lots of Stuff
Not everyone is like the heroine of our story. We don’t know exactly what we want. Not all of us know what career we want to pursue… much less one that fits exactly with our major.
Hell, the only reason I got into baseball was because I met someone who knew someone who was hiring. “Sure, I’ll try that…” I said. (Awesome decision, by the way. I learned a ton in a very short time about marketing, PR, promotions, sales… even grounds-keeping!)
Eventually, as much as I loved baseball, I realized I wouldn’t make a great wage in sports. I moved on to work in the industry that surrounded my upbringing in Silicon Valley – high tech. Here too, I didn’t really have a focused career direction.
And that was okay. I added to my already-gained marketing experience and acquired large scale account management and customer service skills. I earned a good living. And I kept learning. And growing.
Connect the Dots
Now, back to our intern’s conundrum… whether employers will see her different career interests as unfocused or “wishy-washy”.
In any industry, in any position, you work to develop transferable skills. Nothing in today’s economy is that black and white; organizations everywhere are looking for multi-talented team members.
Our brilliant intern could easily live out her passion to work in law enforcement and use her social media knowledge to help the police department connect with the community. In such a role, she would make a huge difference in her community while further developing her social media expertise. That combined knowledge would not only serve her law enforcement career well, it would transfer well to another industry if she chooses to leave law enforcement.
The moral of our story…
Despite what our parents tell us, and how we were brainwashed in college to believe that our major is all that matters, you do not have to stay in the same industry or on the same career path in order to “appear focused” to employers. You just have to connect the dots for them… show that, over the course of the roles you have filled, you developed a desirable package of skills that fit that employer’s needs.
Have some fun in your career0. Follow different paths0. Eventually, you’ll tie them all together into your story – and the right career path for you.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while … you’ll miss it.
PS Our intern, the one who worries so much… She’s going to do just fine in her career. I know it.
About the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and is instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Content and Community Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter!
Image courtesy of skinnyartist.com. Thank you!