Thursday, October 8, 2009

Getting to Know the Real CAPS

by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig

Now that the mercury is falling and the homework is piling up, summer might seem like a distant dream. In fact, looking for work is probably the last thing you want to think about as the quarter kicks into gear. But next summer—and for fourth-years, graduation—tends to come more quickly than you think. That doesn’t mean that you need to start looking for a job or internship today. But when you are ready to start, the good news is that you don’t have to figure things out alone. Whether you’re looking for a job in finance, the nonprofit sector, government, the arts or journalism (among others!), the CAPS staff is here to help you.

You may have been to CAPS several times, or never. Either way, you probably have a few ideas about what we do here…and a few impressions about how we do it. As an undergrad, I was fairly certain that it was CAPS’ job to get me a job, and I was a little disgruntled when I realized that CAPS is primarily a planning and career exploration service. Once I figured that out, I wondered what other myths about CAPS were floating around. So, to help you get to know the real CAPS, over the next two weeks I’ll be exploring, in descending order, the top six myths about CAPS, as well as explaining what we actually do.

6. The Crystal Ball

Imagine the following: John Doe, a fourth-year, is looking for a job, but isn’t sure what he wants to do. He figures that he should go to CAPS, since they can tell him what to do with his life.

Sound like anyone you know? The truth is that no one but you can tell you what to do with your life, or what’s in your future. Life is unpredictable, and the process of figuring out what you want to do is an internal one. While you might have wanted to be a ballerina or a firefighter when you were younger, your career goals have probably changed as you’ve grown up and figured out more about yourself. At CAPS, we offer resources such as career counseling, career exploration workshops, and a wealth of programs and networking events to help you learn about and explore your options. However, we can’t do it for you, just like we can’t look into a crystal ball and tell you what your future holds.

5. The Box of Jobs and Basket of Internships

When I started working for CAPS, more than a couple of my friends asked, “So you can find me a job now, right?” They were joking (sort of), but it reminded me of my mistaken assumption that it was CAPS’ job to find me a job. While it would be great if all CAPS counselors had a magical box of jobs or basket of internships under their desks to dispense to students, that’s not the case. The truth is, job and internship searching requires dedication and hard work, and it can be a long process. The old saying “looking for a job is a full-time job” is often true. That can seem daunting—but the good news is that CAPS does have a bevy of resources to help you out. First and foremost, we teach job-searching and networking skills, so that when you find that golden opportunity, you can take advantage of it. Second, we help connect students, employers and alumni, because networking is a big part of finding a job. Third, we have an extensive online job board, as well as several job fairs each year. If you invest some time in your search, and take advantage of the resources CAPS offers, chances are you will be well-positioned to capitalize on opportunities that come your way.

4. The Secret Map to Success

It’s commonsense that the most direct route between two points is a straight line. With this in mind, it would seem that there must be a “direct route” to the job or internship of your choice. The myth is that every CAPS member has this ”secret map to success” tucked away in a desk drawer, and that getting the job you want is as simple as following the prescribed steps. While this is partly true in some cases (you need to go to medical school if you want to be a surgeon, for example), for the vast majority of students there are a number of different ways to reach the same goal. Your path may have branches, loops or dead ends. The most important thing to remember is to be flexible and keep an open mind, because you are the one who determines your career path. What CAPS can do is help you learn more about the career(s) you are interested in, and connect you with people and resources in that field. One last thing: never feel that your major must determine your career. Film studies majors can work in finance, just like Economics majors can become actors. It’s all about how you choose to pursue your interests.

Check back next week to read about the top three CAPS myths...

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