This “Practical Advice for Students” was written by Northwestern Global Health Alum Kay Kim, who serves as the Resource Development Director at a non-profit that promotes community-driven development projects around the world, called Global Peace Connect! (www.globalpeaceconnect.org).
Advice for students:
#1: Write down your goals and you are bound to achieve them. Dare to be great and dream big!
#2: You are the average of your five closest friends. Surround yourself with people who are passionate and positive in their outlooks. Also, having a mentor in your professional life, be it your best friend or a colleague in a leadership position, is crucial.
#3: Incorporate writing and speaking classes. Effective communication skills are highly desirable in any profession. Immerse yourself in different kinds of writing – academic research, journalistic-style, business, etc. Having publications under your belt will definitely be a plus, whether or not they are published in academic journals or in student magazines.
#4: Expose yourself to different classes that require different skill-sets. Don’t limit yourself to classes pertaining to your major. I came to NU as an Integrated Science Program (ISP) major, graduated with a degree in biochemistry, went into finance and now work for a nonprofit. You never know where life will take you. In retrospect, I wish I had incorporated social science and economics classes!
#5: Be active on/off-campus. Take leadership roles in a student group or in an on-campus job. You’ll not only fine-tune your leadership skills but you will also gain people-skills. One of the challenges I often face while working in a team environment is in dealing with all types of personalities – including the difficult ones!
#6: How many languages can you speak? Take a language course and supplement it with a studyabroad, internship or travel overseas. Get acquainted with new cultures and languages, especially if you are interested in working in a specific region or country overseas.
#7: Network, network, network! Different colleges at NU offer great seminars and conferences which are the places to network with professionals or professors who are already working in the field. Outside of NU, see what the city has to offer. Think tanks such as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs always host events around the issues of development. If there is a seminar on an issue that you are passionate about, use the time to gain knowledge and to engage with NGO professionals. Also, ask if they have any openings for internships or jobs.
#8: How is your web 2.0 (Blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)? Use social media networks to get in touch with professionals and to learn more about the professions of your interest. You might want to join a LinkedIn group comprised of experts in the field of your interest to engage in their conversations or to ask for advice about how they got there. Someone is bound to give you a lead. For news coverage, are you following any of these global development experts on twitter? (http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/sep/21/global-development-twitter-users-follow)
#9: Your first job after graduation might be menial or less-interesting than what you thought it would be. Try to learn as much from the job. Also, see how you can contribute to your team or to the organization. What is your “legacy” that transcends your tenure? For example, a legacy can be introducing an innovative method that effectively increases team communication and productivity. Or maybe it can be the way you influence people around you. How do you want to be remembered by your colleagues? What will you leave behind for your organization?
#10: I discovered after a couple of years that I didn’t like working in the private sector so I quit and tried something else. What you have envisioned yourself to be might not be the same after college; be flexible and patient with yourself. Your priorities, interests or circumstances might change over the years. Being a twenty-something is all about discovering yourself, your strengths/weaknesses and interests. Give yourself the time to try out different things to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Above all, follow your passion!