Career Tips

Young Alumni Job Search Part I: Know Yourself

By Dave Isbell and Kim Medlock

Undecided about your career? Well, that’s the place you need to start your job search!

Many recent alumni are unsure of what they are able to do with their degree once they have graduated. There are a few important things to remember as you begin to explore your opportunities in employment:

• Your degree is not a permanent stamp: you need to consider the skills you have rather than what program you pursued in school.

Take the time to research your options.

• Remember that employers really only care about three things: Your ability to do the job, your motivation for doing the job for them, and how well you fit in their culture. You should take your time to assess your skills, personality, interests, and motivations and be prepared to talk about these things before you even start researching job opportunities.

• If you need help identifying your knowledge, skills, abilities, personality, etc. or talking about yourself, find a good career coach/counselor and address these issues.

• Schedule informational interviews. They are one of the best ways to gain first-hand, tangible information on how those with careers you admire got to where they are. Plus, you have the opportunity to build your network by following up to thank and let the people who you interviewed know what you learned, what you did as a result, and what you intend to do next. Then, make it a point to stay in contact and look for ways to repay the favor.

• Don’t apply to jobs you don’t want! If you know you would be unhappy completing the tasks on the job description or moving to a town that doesn’t suit who you are – don’t apply. While your dream job might not open up right now, a job you can tolerate certainly will eventually.

• Use your “non-dream” job to catapult you toward understanding what you really want to do. Describe exactly why your current job is not your “dream” and then ask yourself what it would look like if you had the opposite of whatever you hate in your current job.

• Pay attention to the things you love to do:

If you recognize that the process of building a career is a life-long journey it will help you to keep perspective that your current circumstances are not always an indication of your future destination. You can make choices that will create the life that you want. You don’t have to have all of the “right” answers right now, you just have to have one idea you are willing to follow now, and you might have to be patient as you work through it!

Next week: We’ll talk more about the job search process. See you then!


Dave Isbell is the Alumni Career Service Coordinator at Michigan State University. He has been a Career Coach since 1999. He is also pursuing a Master’s in Social Work/Family Studies at MSU.  When he is not working or studying, he is enjoying domestic bliss with his wife and kids, or playing rock music on his bass guitar. You can find him on Twitter (@helpingspartans) and sometimes he writes about compassion, collaboration, and career for this blog, which he owns and begs other Spartans to write for.

Kim Medlock is a Michigan State University alumnae with degrees in Professional Writing and English. She works as a marketing writer by day, but fancies herself a creative writer by weekend. As a Lansing native who has always preferred writing as an artistic medium — she remains passionately in love with both of these things. 


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