To Undeclared Students: Your Future Is as Open as Your Mind

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By Kexin Yu, Peer Advisor

Last week, we, as the representatives of Career Center, tabled at Major Blast 2014 and spoke to hundreds of freshmen within 2 hours. They all looked aspiring, but unsettled at the same time. They bombarded us with similar questions. “I don’t know what to do in the future.” “How can I choose a major?” “Does Career Center offer personality assessments?” I smiled to them, whispering in a voice that they could hardly hear, “Don’t worry. I know exactly how you feel. You are just as the old me one year ago.”

I was under great pressure during my freshman year. When my friends already stamped their ambitious, four-year timeline on the wall and were quite determined about their major decision, I was even struggling with my class planner for my very first quarter. I couldn’t start with the right pre-major courses. Also, being undecided seemed to me a negative state of indecision. I felt so timid (and even a little shamed) every time we were asked to introduce our names and majors to other classmates, since I was still unready and unable to determine my goals.

But I tried to calm down. Being undecided can also mean being open-minded. You can investigate new areas before you make up your mind. This is probably the last time you have such freedom to design your own dream studying plan. When you start to work, endless assignments and responsibilities consume you and you have so little time concentrating on your own interest. Sometimes, people who seem to have a clear vision about their future may be just compromising the matter with their parents. So first, I took introductory psychology, which was one of the fields that I was most eager to explore. The course offered me unparalleled insights into a brand new world. I was totally amazed by the wide application of psychology and the exciting research opportunities it has to offer. We read good books authored by patients suffering mental diseases and even got to meet the writers in person at the end of the quarter. However, it also gave me realistic views about an area which I thought I was very enthusiastic about. I then realized, although psychology is a great subject, that’s not what I want to do for a career.

Don’t be discouraged by words like, “You make little money if you do this job”. You will definitely feel uneasy about this later on in your life, since you reject the opportunity to have a try. Also, don’t push yourself so hard in the first year. Taking  GE courses and seminar might also be a smart choice. The film class, architecture history and political science that I took greatly enriched my freshman year at UCLA and led me to get inspired by the ideas and expertise of prominent professors from various cutting-edge areas.

Another advice: being strategic when you enroll in classes. Narrow down your choices by crossing off the ones that fail to appeal you. Choose subjects that not only intrigue you but can also fulfill the requirements of a great many majors. Then you will not fall very behind and graduate in a timely manner just as others. For example, I took Chemistry 20A rather than 14A since the former can apply to more science majors. Starting from scratch will definitely stress you out, especially when your peers are already half the way there! Do more research in the syllabus and contents of the courses that you are likely to choose. Sometimes having the knowledge of what material will be covered help you realize whether or not you are truly interested in this subject. Is this what you really want to spend time exploring and do it for a living?

Also, talk to peers with various majors. I originally thought I would never care about how a computer software actually works and were so prejudiced against programming geeks. And I always believed computer science is an area in which I had no talent. However, it turned out that it was only because I had never tried. A lot of my friends were “tortured” by C++ at that timem and so I also boldly took up this new challenge. To my surprise, I totally fell in love with it. Now, I’m even thinking about take Mathematics of Computation as my major. Moreover, seek answers to your questions from upperclassmen. Get to know what they consider as the most wonderful experience in those upper division courses and learn from their experience.

Remember, everything you learn or spend energy on eventually pays off. Maybe just in an unexpected way. People are frustrated when they begin to do something new because they feel what they’ve already done is just a waste of time. I also took Management 1A, Principles of Accounting, in the spring quarter. Although it seems not related to my curriculum, its philosophy influence me a lot. I become familiar with how a corporation actually runs and how to keep it organized and make best practices. This can apply to all aspects of life and everyone should at least have some knowledge of it. The course also helps me build a broad set of transferrable skills that will provide me not only a meaningful job but also a purposeful life in the future. And which employer would reject a well-rounded applicant?

Try to engage in as many self-discovery activities as possible outside the classroom. Going to Career Center to access our amazing assessment inventories can help you find your way. Also, during the spring break, I joined the UCLA Career PREP program which helps its participants get a glimpse of what a particular industry looks like through a one-day job shadowing experience. Actually, I stayed more than one day but a whole week during my host company, Park & Sylva Law Firm, after I found out that my experience was more than I could have expected. This externship provided me early exposure to professional law world and I could then decide whether or not I still want to enter that field. To get involved in a real working environment gives you more reliable facts about that industry than any TV series version. This unique experience even encouraged me to use what I gained to help other programs at Career Center grow. And that’s how I became a peer advisor for this academic year. (Now it’s only Week 4 and I still have a lot to learn. However, I already feel so lucky and fulfilled being in this position.) Helping others is just helping yourself. I grow so fast when I attempt to address the concerns of others in the best manner.

Although, sometimes my friends frown at my “random” class schedule and always seem confused, “What exactly is your major?” But, see? Isn’t it great sometimes being undecided? I always believe that everything starts with coincidence but ends up with destiny. Things that best match your capabilities and interests will come up to you while you keep wandering and wandering. Also, you should know that your major does not determine your entire career! So don’t freak out!

You should know that you are actually in great company! Studies show that 75% college students change their majors before graduation. Do not figure out all things on your own. Take advantage of resources around you. Make regular academic counseling with your advisors and eventually you will be able to make a concrete, sound choice independently.

So Bruins, take off your anxiety and embrace the chance to explore! Have a nice academic year! 

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5 Tips to Better Market yourself on LinkedIn and Create and Online Presence!!!

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I’m sure most if not all of you have heard of LinkedIn. If you haven’t, where have you been hiding on this social media platform? Some of you may be wondering what distinguishes LinkedIn from all the rest of the social media that you use. Others may wonder if it is like Facebook, just for older people and professionals. Well, to answer your questions and concerns, LinkedIn is not the Facebook for old people, it is so much more. LinkedIn is your gateway to a world of possibility, it’s your network! Anyone who has a professional career or hopes to have one someday needs a LinkedIn, consider it a marketing portfolio, but for yourself. It is a portfolio highlighting you at your best, containing your best photo, your accomplishments, best projects and significant experiences. You may be wondering how you can turn yourself, or your LinkedIn into a marketing tool. Here are 5 simple tips to help you start your LinkedIn and market yourself to grow your network.

  1. Upload a nice, professional looking picture of yourself. The qualities of a good picture are: you dressed in professional attire, it can be a picture that shows you from your shoulders up if you prefer. You should have a warm smile, exude confidence and in a neutral background with a neutral color shirt. Avoid crazy patterns or backgrounds. It doesn’t matter if the picture is taken outside or inside, however the lighting should be good. You should not re-use a Facebook picture!

 

  1. Fill in your about me section. This section should be fun, genuine and professional. How do you balance fun and professional, you ask? Well, one way to do that is to include hobbies and passions that are unique to you, include qualities about yourself that highlight your skills, aptitudes and character. Your personality should shine through because you are more than a resume and a cover letter, you have interests, passions, personality traits that make you unique from the rest. You can include where you grew up, where you went to college and any dreams you hope to achieve that align with your professional goals.

 

  1. Join groups that interest you or that are affiliated with professional organizations that you are a part of. The great thing about joining a group is that it is an easy way to grow and expand your network because people  who may have been considered third connections (otherwise known as people you could not request to connect with you without first being introduced), are now your second degree connections. You can start discussions and add questions, all the while increasing your online presence and getting yourself noticed. You never know when a discussion can lead to a potential job offer or re-connection.

 

  1. Under your education section make sure to list any activities and organizations you were a part of. Any accomplishments that you had while in college or recognitions. You can also list projects or coursework that relates to your particular career field. It is a great way to make you stand out from others who don’t have those items listed on their LinkedIn.

 

  1. Have someone recommend you on LinkedIn. You can have colleagues, employers, supervisors, professors or anyone who knows your skills and qualities write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn. What better way to market yourself than having someone else talk about how great you are. Be polite when you ask and make sure to thank them for the time they spent writing a shining recommendation.

 

I hope these tips are helpful, come to the Career Center to find out about more ways to market yourself online. Keep updated with our workshops, sign up for a Career Counseling session or talk to one of our peer advisors next time you stop in. Have a great week and don’t forget to follow the UCLA Career Center’s LinkedIn page!

CONFESSIONS OF A PEER ADVISOR (VOL. 5): INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWING

Greetings everyone!

Welcome to a new edition of Confessions of a Peer Advisor, this time with your Peer Advisor, Vesta.

I’d like to start out by introducing myself, giving you a little bit about my background so you can understand one of my most important tips to Career Discovery: informational interviewing.

If you’ve ever been stressed over figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your life, welcome to the club! Seriously, I’ve been there. And that was probably one of the things that caused me the most anxiety during my initial time as a college student at UCLA (and sometimes still does!) My journey of undecidedness has brought me from coming into UCLA as pre-med to an interested-in-science pre-health-something-or-other, to an I-no-longer-want-to-do-science-what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life-HELP sophomore, and finally, a I’m-still-figuring-things-out-but-I’m-happy-while-doing-it junior who transferred into the film school. Yes, you read correctly, film school. I changed my major from science to film, and my career trajectory from pre-med to pre-Hollywood. Big jump, right? How do you think someone (in the right mind) comes about that sort of (literally) life-altering decision? Well the process definitely isn’t easy. But something that really helped me during my frantic, “I need to figure out what direction I’m going to take my life in NOW” mode and guide me towards my ultimate, firm decision was informational interviewing — and I didn’t even know I was doing it!

The concept of ‘informational interviewing’ was conceived by Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the best-selling career handbook, What Color Is Your Parachute? In his book, Bolles describes the process as “trying on jobs to see if they fit you.” He notes that most people choose a career path without taking the time to speak with professionals in their field of interest. As a result, they find themselves in careers that are not a true match for their skills, values, interests, and abilities.

Therefore, an informational interview is conducted when you “interview” someone who has a career you are considering to see if it is really something that you would like to do. Now I’m sure some the more anxious ones of you out there have already partaken in some form of information interviewing, one way or another. It could have been asking a family friend how they liked their job if you were considering that field, or talking to your dentist or doctor about how they got to becoming the healthcare professional they were if you were considering it. These informal interactions are definitely informational interviews in essence. But what if you are interested in a certain career and you don’t know anyone in it to talk about with? Did you know there is a formal informational interviewing process you can be making use of as a college student that could put you into contact with virtually any professional in any career you could be considering? There is! And most students don’t know about it or don’t even believe it to be an acceptable thing.

So what is a legitimate informational interview? Essentially, it is a highly focused information gathering session with a networking contact designed to help you choose or refine your career path by giving you the “insider” point of view. Networking contact, you say? How does one procure one of those, exactly? Well it’s not too hard when you go to UCLA! We have a huge alumni network here, which you can use to find plenty of potential contacts with which to conduct informational interviews. (Use the Alumni function on LinkedIn or see http://alumni.ucla.edu/bruinworks/).

Case study: Me!

Long story short, an important reason behind why I was able to make such an enormous, yet confident, career-path shift during my first two years at UCLA was through informal and then formal informational interviewing. I figured out I didn’t want to be pre-med after an in depth conversation with the director of admissions at Drexel Medical School (who was also a practicing internalist and my mom’s good friend). I did the same thing with researchers in the Psychology lab I volunteered at, and slowly started figuring out which career paths weren’t for me. When I started testing out the waters of the entertainment industry, I decided to take a producing class in the film department where the professor brought guest speakers every week to talk about their specific careers and roles in the industry. Afterwards, I would go up to each professional whose story interested me, and ask them follow-up questions about their job (whether they liked it, where they felt like it was taking them, etc.) The answers that I received gave me a better sense of what it was exactly that I wanted to do. Flash-forward to today, when I am trying to figure out which specific department on the corporate side of the film/television industry that I want to ultimately work in. I recently used one of the networking connections I made in that producing class to conduct my first formal informational interview with, and the experience was amazing.

What happens during a “real” informational interview?

Basically, you arrange with your networking contact to speak with them (usually face-to-face in their professional environment, although it could also occur over the phone) and ask them questions about what they do.

You use their answers to help guide your own career discovery: whether a career like theirs is something you would like to have or not, and if so, to help determine your path to getting there. Networking contacts are almost always more than happy to conduct informational interviews for students like yourself, their advice is 100% free AND helps ensure that you are indeed making the right choice when it comes time to answer that dreadful question: what am I actually going to do with the rest of my life?!

What more can you ask for?

I hope I’ve convinced you to look into informational interviewing and try it out for yourself.

To view some tips about how to find contacts, set up informational interviews and prepare for them, visit http://career.ucla.edu/students/ExploreCareers/WhatIsAnInformationalInterview.aspx. And for more personalized advice, you can always set up an appointment to meet with a Career Counselor at the UCLA Career Center.

Happy interviewing!!

Take Charge of Your Life at Career Fairs: First-hand Experience From a Peer Advisor

Jan. 7, 2014 — day before UCLA’s Internship & Fellowship Night

To my parents [on the phone]:

“Tomorrow is UCLA’s Internship & Fellowship night — I’m so nervous! What am I going to talk to the employers about? I’m not familiar with most of the companies or what types of internships and jobs they offer, so what in the world am I going to talk to them about?!”

To my supervisor at the Career Center:

“It’s my first time going to a career fair tomorrow night, and to be honest, I’m so nervous! What should I to talk to the employers about? What am I supposed to wear? What is the proper way to approach them?”

To my brother [on the phone]:

“Is it normal to be nervous about career fairs? Honestly, I’m starting to have second thoughts about going. What if the employers are not impressed with me? What if my resume is not good enough? I just can’t wait until it’s over!”

To everyone else who listened to me rant about my nervousness:

“I’m totally going to mess up my 30 second pitch… should I start by introducing myself, my year in school, and my major? Or should I give my resume first? Should I let them do most of the talking? Or should I talk about myself and my interests?”

You might wonder why I would start my blog post with a number of conversations with my family, supervisor, and friends. It’s for two reasons, really. First of all, most students are not aware of the purpose of career fairs, as well as what exactly they entail. Second, and more importantly, most students are terribly nervous about participating in career fairs — so nervous that they decide to take the easy road and just not attend.

There is an easy fix to the first reason — you can always learn more about the purpose of career fairs online or from the wonderful and knowledgeable people at the UCLA Career Center. In regards to the second reason, however, what can you do to reduce the fear of attending an event that presents the opportunity to introduce yourself to employers from TOP companies?

Hmm… now that’s a tough question to answer.

Let’s try looking at this statement in a more positive perspective —

You (yes, YOU) are given the (rare and incredibly awesome) opportunity to introduce yourself (along with your interests, accomplishments, and career aspirations) to employers and recruiters from TOP companies (who are particularly in search of hiring UCLA students for internships, as well as possible full-time jobs.)

I know what you’re thinking —

“Well, now that you put it that way, where can I sign up?!”

Am I right? So, what exactly am I trying to convey through this blog post? As a Peer Advisor at the UCLA Career Center, I have become familiar with the various events, such as career fairs, that the Career Center organizes. Furthermore, I have come to realize just how advantageous and rewarding these services are for undergraduates! *Sigh* If only more students knew about them…

But that’s my job as a Peer Advisor — to familiarize UCLA students to our free resources as well as encourage and inspire them to attend anywhere from small-scale events, such as workshops, to large-scale events, such as the career fairs!

Now, before I get into my personal experience at career fairs, let’s start from the beginning. My name is Cynthia and I am currently a junior, studying Psychology. Just recently, I gained interest in the field of Human Resources and Industrial Organizational Psychology. For this reason, I knew that finding an internship in this field would give me hands-on experience in a potential career path. So, of course, my next step was to search for internships for the summer of 2014. And that’s exactly what I did. I began to look through BruinView and other job search sites, only to find one or two possible internships that were focused around Human Resources. I realized then that there were two upcoming events, “UCLA’s Internship & Fellowship Night” and “Bruin Career Connections Fair,” where I would be given the opportunity to actually network with employers from top companies, such as The Walt Disney Company and Twentieth Century Fox. I figured this would be my grand opportunity to learn more about a myriad of summer internships.

With the tremendous guidance I received from the career counselors at the UCLA Career Center, I was able to overcome the stress and anxiety that I felt prior to the event. The best advice was to always be prepared. What exactly does that mean in regards to career fairs? Well, here are a couple of examples:

  • Prepare your professional/business attire the night before (something you would wear for an interview)
  • Print 5-10 copies of your resume to hand out to employers (UCLA Career Center offers resume critiques; stop by to get one!)
  • Rehearse a 30-second pitch (“Hello, my name is Cynthia, I am a third-year student studying Psychology… I’ve recently been interested in the field of Human Resources….”)
  • Research more about the different companies that are visiting — this might be a way to impress the employers 😉

So what about my personal experience with career fairs? Here’s what happened —

When I first walked into the Career Center for the Internship & Fellowship Night, all I could think about was how awkward and uncomfortable I was going to feel when I talked to the employers. There were a couple of companies that I was interested in, but I wasn’t sure how to approach the employers. At around 6:30 pm, I walked toward the first table for Oakwood Worldwide; the table consisted of fliers, pens, and other giveaways. Two women with big, bright smiles were standing before me waiting for my introduction. And so I began. My smile grew big and suddenly I was a professional woman. Soon enough, I learned more about the company and the various summer internships they offered (they even had one in Human Resources!). Who would’ve thought?! At that point, I was already so excited. After that, I handed my resume to them (which they, more than gladly, took) and received their business cards in order to stay in contact. Finally, I smiled, thanked them, shook their hands, and moved on to the next table. 

Wow! All it took was a short conversation with the employer for her to immediately consider me for a summer internship? HOW COOL IS THAT?! 

That night, I handed my resume to around 5 employers and collected about 7 business cards. The following day, I emailed a thank you note to the each of them in an effort to show my appreciation for their visit, time, and consideration. You can definitely say it was a successful night for me — I felt so lucky to be a part of the minority of students who actually KNOW about career fairs and decide to participate in them. I truly would not be able to emphasize just HOW useful and advantageous that night was for me! 

Of course, after attending the Internship & Fellowship Night, it was relatively easy for me to also attend the Bruin Career Connections Fair. In fact, it was actually a lot of fun! I felt comfortable and more energized than ever. One of the coolest things I learned at the Bruin Career Connections fair was that successful interns may be offered full-time jobs once they graduate. Ok… C’mon, HOW COOL IS THAT?!

Now you might ask — well, Cynthia, how did you get rid of that fear and nervousness that you were talking about in the beginning?

To be honest, apart from preparing ahead of time, the only way I overcame my fear was by actually PARTICIPATING in the event. Once I was physically there (with my high heels and whatnot), the fear disappeared within… minutes, perhaps even seconds!

With all of that being said, please take the time to learn more about our services; I really cannot emphasize the benefits it will provide you with in the long run!

Look for upcoming career fairs, events, and workshops on our Facebook page and the UCLA Career Center website [links below].

https://www.facebook.com/pages/UCLA-Career-Center/256011207748013

http://career.ucla.edu/Students/CareerFairs.aspx