By Siyu Wu
Narrowing down industry and job function can be one of the most overwhelming parts of finding an internship or job. It is very easy to get caught up in the commonly discussed post-college options, such as investment banking or management consulting. In actuality, there are many different positions available (even just within an investment bank!), and it can incredibly difficult to determine which role is the best fit for you. Figuring out your dream job will involve a lot of trial and error, but here are some tips to guide you in that process.
1. Self-reflection: Identifying your personal strengths, interests, goals, and priorities
Before even considering specific jobs, first look inward to consider your own strengths and weaknesses, and personal preferences. For example, do you like multitasking on many projects or focusing all attention on one assignment? Do you prefer interacting with a lot of people, or doing most work alone? Knowing the answers to these questions can give you a lot of direction in terms of narrowing down types of jobs that would be a great fit. Consider taking a personality test (i.e. Myers-Briggs or KOLBE) – regardless of whether you agree with the outcome, use the questions to form a clear sense of self-awareness.
2. Online research: determining the skills, experiences, and responsibilities different jobs require
After noting your own skills and interests, take time to do in-depth research on a variety of industries and roles to better understand what each position encompasses. Some personality tests will match you to jobs that may be a good fit. Use the wealth of resources available online – including job descriptions, industry publications, and career websites such as Forté – to learn about different career paths. For finance specifically, Vault guides, Mergers & Inquisitions, and Investopedia are great resources. Also check out Goldman Sach’s career quiz, which uses situational questions to help narrow down specific divisions that may be of interest.
3. Informational interviews and job shadowing: dipping your feet in
Perhaps some of the best ways to learn about a job first-hand are through informational interviews and job shadowing. Informational interviews are conversations – phone or in-person – during which you can ask someone in that profession questions that really allow you to understand the intricacies of the position. Job shadows often offer a unique opportunity to watch someone at work and learn about what they do on a daily basis. These may seem daunting to set up, but take advantage of campus career resources, alumni networks, and connections made at conferences or events! Many people in the industry had the informational opportunities when they were in your shoes, and they are typically more than willing to pay it forward and meet with you (even if only for 15 minutes).
4. Internships: figuring out your likes and dislikes while on the job
It may appear that internships are the be-all-end-all when it comes to shaping your career path, but I beg to differ. In fact, internships are an ideal opportunity to really figure out the best fit. Treat internships as a trial-and-error period – even if your role is not exactly what you envisioned, the experience is still invaluable in that you’ll know what to look for and what to avoid in your next internship or job experience. Also, remember that there are many divisions with different roles at every firm. If your division isn’t the perfect fit, seek opportunities to arrange informational interviews – or even to ask for additional projects – from other divisions.
It is scary to be a college student and make decisions that may affect the rest of your career. But, you won’t know for sure what you like until you try it. For that reason, be open to opportunities to learn more about a position, even if you don’t think it’s the right fit. Doing research, having conversations, and thinking about your own preferences are essential steps to finding your best career fit!
Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.