Whether you are traveling to visit friends and family, or taking a break in Chicago, these strategies can help you reach your career goals.
Photo credit: imbd.com
1. Build Local Connections
If you’re visiting an area that you might call home after UChicago, take advantage of being physically present by connecting with local professionals. Reach out to an interesting person at a local organization, and schedule a time to meet with them to chat about their career path. If you are actively applying to positions, you can also let potential employers know that you’ll be in town. You could include this information in the final paragraph of your cover letter or in an email to someone at the organization. Use language like “I will be visiting [CITY] on [DATE], and I would love to stop in and discuss this opportunity further.” Capitalize on your visit by intentionally building local connections.
2. Practice Your Elevator Pitch on Friends and Family
Have you ever faced a holiday party with dread because you know you’ll get questions like “So what are you doing at UChicago?” or “What exactlyare you studying again?” Whether you’re talking with a family member, old friend, or someone you’re meeting for the first time, these questions can be tough to answer. Why? Because we’re often thinking too much about ourselves and not enough about our audience. Tailoring your message to your audience is one of the key principles of preparing a good elevator pitch, which is a short, 30-60 second self-introduction to who you are or what you do. Preparing a good elevator pitch is essential for job fairs, networking, and interviews. Next time you’re at a holiday party, think of it as a chance to practice a few different versions of your self-introduction. But remember, always keep your audience in mind!
3. Talk to Friends and Family to Learn About Your Strengths
Knowing your strengths can help you figure out which careers may be a good fit. Often, people who know you well—family and friends—recognize and appreciate certain things about you. They may rely on you to organize get-togethers, or they may acknowledge you for your ability to help resolve disagreements. These and other qualities can translate into professional competencies, such as organization and communication skills. If you’re spending time with family and friends over the holidays, ask them, “What do you think my strengths are?” or “Which of my qualities stand out to you?” Use the insights they provide when you’re exploring careers. For example, when reading a job ad, ask yourself whether your strengths are a good fit for the position. Or, if you are conducting informational interviews, listen closely to what skills are needed to be effective in a role, and then consider whether those skills coincide with your strengths. Knowing your strengths is the foundation of career exploration and development.
4. Spend Some Time in Quiet Self-Reflection
One perk of the Thanksgiving break is the opportunity for quiet time—a chance to step off the graduate school or postdoctoral treadmill and just be. If you find yourself with a few spare minutes, consider using that time to engage in some quiet self-reflection related to your career goals. Grab a pen and paper and spend some time writing about what has made you happy or unhappy during your graduate or postdoctoral studies. Which problems, tasks, or assignments do you most enjoy? When do you feel energized? Alternatively, which problems, tasks, or assignments leave you feeling depleted or bored? Ask these same questions of your previous jobs, internships, or voluntary positions. Once you’ve finished writing, reread your work and see if any patterns emerge. Perhaps you notice that you seem to feel most engaged whenever you are working with undergraduates. This is good information to have—it points to interests and values that can guide your career search.
5. Chat with Fellow Travelers—or Just Relax!
If you’re traveling for the holidays, why not consider chatting with your fellow passengers? Networking with strangers may seem daunting—especially if you’re shy—but think of it as a way to spread holiday cheer. When you reach your designated seat on an airplane, for instance, try employing simple gestures like smiling and saying “hi” to your neighbor. If your neighbor doesn’t acknowledge you, don’t worry; they’re someone you wouldn’t want to talk to anyway! If your neighbor says “hello” and then puts on headphones or buries their nose in a book, then hey, at least you tried. It’s likely, though, that your neighbor will be up for a few pleasantries. There’s always a chance that a wildly wonderful scenario will unfold in which the two of you really hit it off. You may spend the flight conducting a career-related informational interview or gaining a new friend. If all else fails, you can press the eject button—mentally, that is—and simply focus on recharging yourself. Look forward to all of the love, wine, and merrymaking that the holidays are, after all, traditionally about.