My time at Duke gave me numerous opportunities, but the one I’ve considered most important to my career was the space Duke afforded me to step back and take a look at what I really wanted to do with my future. Like many of my classmates, I came in with a vague idea of where I wanted my life to go. However, my two years at Duke opened my eyes to new opportunities and experiences that helped me develop some understanding of my future career path, where I wanted to be, and what I hoped to achieve in the long-term. Equally as important, my interactions with students and faculty taught me that there are no fixed paths, no defined roads to where you want to go. Speaking with people helped me learn and understand what I wanted, and what I didn’t want, in the future. I took advantage of the wide network of alumni who were eager to share their experiences and wisdom. I learned a lot from each alumnus that I reached out to. They were engaging, helpful, and excited to assist me in my career search. I also learned a lot from the experiences they shared with me, as well as the mistakes they made in their own career search. They taught me things like how to navigate the recruitment process, not accepting the first salary that’s offered to you, and making sure the job is a good fit for you, as you would be for the job.
I also reached out to people in positions of interest to me within organizations I wanted to join. I found it very helpful to speak with these individuals and hear from their perspectives about the dynamics of the organization, the work environment, challenges they face, as well as the strengths of the job. My conversations with these individuals gave me great insights into the organization, and whether I would enjoy working for the company. I was surprised to find how helpful and willing people were to speak with me, even though I had no connection with them.
Throughout your journey, you’ll find that various opportunities will come your way- some you will act on, and some you won’t. Doors will open, and others will close. But the lesson to learn is that you should use these two years to learn, absorb, and develop the parts of you that you didn’t have a chance to before. Challenge yourself, follow a hidden passion, talk to someone you hadn’t before. The opportunity to expose yourself to something new and make mistakes in order to gain a clearer understanding of the type of impact you want to make in the world is something to be taken advantage of at Duke. And finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to people, ask for advice, and schedule some informational meetings. You will thank yourself later for it.