How Networking Helped me Pick my Career

As an undergraduate student, I admittedly did not have a lot of direction when it came to my academics and future. I entered college undeclared and changed my major a total of six times in three years–once I even changed it three times in a single semester! I found myself in a constant cycle of taking a class, enjoying it, declaring my major based on my love of that particular course, realizing I didn’t like any of the careers that came out of that major, panicking, and then quickly changing it to something else. This haphazard method of choosing a new major every few weeks only served to stress me out even more than I already was.

Once I was in my junior year of college, it became very clear that I was not going to graduate unless I finally picked a major and stuck to it. At the time, I was a math major and really saw myself doing something with numbers. I took the Focus 2 self assessment and found that I aligned well with a career in analytics. This inspired me to change my major for the last time to Economic Analysis, and I settled on finding a career as a financial analyst–or so I thought.

As a senior, I began searching for full-time opportunities to start after graduation. I was online every day applying for jobs as an entry level financial analyst and not having much luck. A friend advised me to begin networking to help me get my foot in the door and level up my job search. This is how I reached out to an alumnus and conducted my first informational interview! I was fortunate enough to meet and connect with a fairly recent graduate who worked for an investment bank in New York City. I spent about thirty minutes talking to him about his career trajectory, what responsibilities he had, and overall how he liked his position and his company. The answers were not at all what I wanted to hear. While I appreciated the alumnus’s honesty, the career he described was filled with extremely tight deadlines, never-ending spreadsheets, high stakes work, impressing important clients, and long hours. I immediately knew that this was not the career for me and I stopped applying to finance positions.

While I knew that this informational interview saved me from pursuing a career that would make me unhappy, I also was more scared than ever. I was graduating in less than six months and still had no idea what I wanted to do! At this point, it was far too late to change my major for a seventh time. I had to think hard about what I really wanted out of a career and what kinds of positions could satisfy that, and if any of them related to my economics degree.

With almost no time to spare at the end of the semester, I discovered the field of marketing. This seemed like it could be the perfect fit: there was a lot of strategy and data involved, but it also allowed for creativity and task variation. Even better, my economics degree was very relevant to the positions that I was seeing. My failed attempt to become a financial analyst inspired me to talk to a few marketing professionals before I moved ahead with applying to positions in this field, and I connected with a marketing manager at Fox News Media. This time, when she described her career to me, it sounded like something I could see myself enjoying. Her work was also high stakes, but she worked on a lot of creative projects. Spreadsheets and data were a minor part of her work that she used to track efficacy and drive new ideas. Marketing encompassed everything that I was looking for in a career.

Now, two years later, I work as a Marketing Coordinator. I feel a sense of relief that everything worked out for me, but I also wish that I had realized how helpful informational interviewing was a lot sooner! It might have saved me from so much uncertainty at the start of my college career. 

To get started with networking, I recommend making a Mentor Match account and also looking through LinkedIn. You can schedule an appointment with a Fleishman Center staff member for help navigating the resources we have available for those looking to explore majors and careers.

By Julia Sullivan '20
Julia Sullivan '20 Assistant Director of Communications