My visit to D.C. has been extremely impactful in that it completely changed the way I will approach jobs and internships. One meeting with Mike Feldman, former senior adviser in the Clinton-Gore White House, was all it took to alter my career plans forever.
(In photo: Students with CCPA Professor Rita Kirk and Journalism Professor Carolyn Barta.)
Stepping into the bright offices of Glover Park Group, a top consulting agency in D.C., I found myself imagining what it would be like to work at this chic establishment. I imagined running around in a slick suit putting together advertisements, editing presentations and meeting with potential new clients.
It is a fantasy that I’m sure many of my fellow students share. And with solid grades, a few jobs behind the belt, and beaming letters of recommendation, why shouldn’t we get our dream jobs?
We are the generation of the future. Who else knows how to text on a Blackberry, surf the Internet, and listen to an Ipod at the same time? Multitasking at its finest. Yet I found that no matter how driven you are, rarely will you end up where you thought you would in D.C.
Sitting at the conference table waiting for our next speaker to appear, I was already thinking about how many years it would take me to reach my dream of becoming a creative director at a top-paying agency. And just as I was contemplating this, Mike Feldman walked into the room. This was a man who had been there and succeeded.
The story of how he got his first job was a surprising one in that he had actually walked into the wrong interview, and when he was hired subsequently, he got the wrong job. Although he did not get the job he wanted, he wouldn’t have gone as far as he has if he had not stepped outside his comfort zone and tried something new.
The main point in his speech was to not go into D.C. – or any job market, for that matter – and have one set career goal because rarely will your expectations meet what is actually going to happen. “Try anything” was the most important piece of advice he could give us. This was a point made by most of the speakers our group met with.
Alumni who wanted to work in politics and ended up in advertising, professionals who started out in children’s education and were now consultants in political firms – all had their career goals change.
In D.C., jobs are like a constant melting pot always in a state of flux. Positions are always opening and closing, and nothing is ever for sure. So it makes sense not to have only one job aspiration to live by, but to be willing to throw yourself into any open position.
Other advice included: Be prepared to do dirty work, such as cleaning up after a hard day or running errands, always ask whether someone needs help because it shows that you care; and be happy to be where you are even if it isn’t what you wanted or you’re not getting paid. And most important, be willing to try anything.
So even though I haven’t given up on my career goal, I am expanding my horizons and hoping that whatever internship I receive I will do to the best of my ability. Having an open mind and knowing there is no one way to getting what you want are keys to success. In the end, your career might not be where you thought it would be; it could be better!