Today we have a guest post from Meagan Breidert, MPA Candidate ’12, about her participation in the Washington, D.C. Career Exploration Trip organized by SPEA’s Office of Career Services.
With today’s challenging job market, being offered your next job takes more than sending out a few applications and hoping the employer will get back to you. Instead job searchers everywhere are going to the employers. Sites like LinkedIn allow job-seeking students to connect with professionals in their field, but this is simply a virtual connection. In order to stand out and get your next big job, you need face to face interaction. SPEA understands this need for face to face networking and has come up with a creative solution that capitalizes on SPEA’s vast alumni network.
Enter the Career Exploration Trip. Imagine your high school career day on steroids. The schedule involves multiple panels in the morning with a focus on policy, environment, or nonprofit, followed by site-visits to various employers. Throughout the day participants and panelists alike are given the opportunity to network with each other and exchange business cards for future contact. Finally, there is an alumni-networking opportunity at a local establishment to catch up with old friends and to chat with new contacts in an informal, relaxed setting.
DC is a great, compact city full of organizations and opportunities. A few students, myself included were able to pre-schedule informational interviews and meetings at other agencies and organizations in DC that might have not been participating in the panels. Not only was this trip a great way for me to expand my professional network and connect with alumni, I was able to learn more about my field of development, as well as explore how my skillset was transferable across multiple sectors and organizations.
Personally, I know people can get very timid and shy at such events. It is hard to sell yourself to a room full of strangers, but my advice to get the most out of this trip is to put your fears aside and talk to as many people as possible. Even if you are not the most extroverted, you can still stand out at events like this by being the most professional person in the room. I was glad to have gone on this trip and I will be keeping in touch with many of the panelists that I met. My advice to anyone who is interested in a career in DC would be to attend this trip, but not before honing your resume and printing some snazzy business cards!