One of the most impactful lessons I have learned throughout my college experience so far is the importance of mentorship—both being a mentor and finding one. Finding a mentor, whether it is in a formal or informal setting, is something that can help one learn and push their limits. I have had a variety of formal and informal mentors in my lifetime. When it comes to making big life decisions, it’s vital to have a trusted person to turn to who understands your life goals and visions.
FINDING YOUR MENTOR
Join Student Groups Mentors can come in many shapes and forms. If you are in a club or student group on campus, perhaps there is an older, more experienced individual who you can learn from. In my sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, I have two alumni I refer to often for professional and personal advice. Ask to grab coffee with someone who you look up to in your organization. You never know where it will lead!
Use Your Collegiate Unit Another way to find a mentor is through your collegiate unit. Find someone further along than yourself. Use them and their life as guidance. Learn from their highlights and downfalls; ask sensible questions. Additionally, some collegiate units have formal mentorship programs that kick off every fall. Check out the UMD Mentor Program.
Within Professional Work Finally, mentors can be found through your professional work. During my summer internship experience, I was paired with a mentor who had similar goals and values as me. We sat down bi-monthly to discuss the program, my goals, and any questions I had. Within your next professional job, seek out a mentor who will help you navigate work experiences.
BEING A MENTOR: PAYING IT FORWARD Although I haven’t been a formal mentor yet, I have found many instances where I am taken a “mentor-like” role. For example, while working at Career and Internship Services, I have found myself helping younger students who work in our office. I was in their shoes just two years ago and love to help them sift through work, life, or school. Additionally, in my sorority, I’m often helping younger women who are in the business school and trying to maneuver through internships, their majors, or what classes to sign up for.
Through experiences like these, I have discovered the importance of paying it forward and intentionally aiding others as much as possible. I have had profound mentors over the past few years who have significantly changed the course of my life. Being able to give back in some way, even if minuscule, is something I cherish.
I challenge you to not only find someone to help you with your career goals but also find someone who you can help. When you do this, you will find ultimate fulfillment.
Assess Yourself:Taking assessments to see where my strengths, interests, and personality fit best while also reflecting with Pro Staff in the Career office.
Explore Options:Mid-college crisis of double majoring and/or minoring while also seeking publishing opportunities and creating my network.
Develop Skills: Gaining and improving my professional and editing skills through my position as a Hmong Outreach Intern.
Market Yourself: I formatted and wrote both my resume and cover letter to not only benefit me, but also the company I’m interested in.
Now that I’ve made my way through four steps, that just leaves one more: managing my career. The last update I had was my experience with internships and how it benefited me in ways I didn’t think of; it helped me realize what my true passion is and what I do and do not prefer in a work environment.
My past internship did not directly relate to my career plans however, it was still a field I was previously interested in. Going into my fourth and final year of college, I realized that before I could move forward, I had to step back a bit and focus more on developing the skills I need after college which is anything and everything related to the publishing field.
I had mentioned that I applied to become an editor for The Bark, UMD’s student run news organization, but didn’t receive the position. However, when fall semester started, I was recruited by the current student staff to not only be an editor but also to become a writer along with recruiting creative writing. In just a few months, I got my first experience as an editor and ended up writing five articles for the organization! Although that’s not much, it’s still a step forward in the right direction of managing my career.
Another way I have been managing my career was by frequently checking my GoldPASS powered by Handshake account and staying active. It paid off, because in November I received an email about a paid internship opportunity right for after graduation as an Editorial Assistant in downtown Minneapolis! Although it was half a year away, I wanted to get ahead of other applicants by applying right away. Luckily with the internship I had last summer, along with The Bark, I switched around experiences on my resume and cover letter to better reflect my qualifications for this new internship position.
Two weeks later, I was offered a phone interview and within another two weeks, I was offered an in-person interview. Here, I realized that marketing myself through my resume and cover letter wouldn’t get me this position but rather who I was as a person and my passion in the field. I went into the interview relaxed and friendly, sharing experiences I had already listed while also sharing experiences I had as a child which was able to answer the question. Two days after my 2nd interview, I had received an offer as the Editorial Assistant!
After so many years of confusion, doubt, and not knowing what my fate was, I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. From finding my strengths, to almost switching my whole academic plan, to dipping my toes in a different field, to finally managing my career as an editor.
Stepping back and reflecting has been a huge part in my journey and I’m grateful that those who are reading have come along for the ride! This is the end of my Career Planning Process but I can already sense that it won’t stop there. As long as you put your mind to it and are willing to take time the time to get to where you want, you’ll make it!
Talk about careers. It’s getting to that point in the semester where life is hurling self-discovery and crises (peep my last blog post) right at you. You are into your first, second, third, fourth, or maybe even fifth year of college and you don’t know if what you are doing is really leading you down the path you initially hoped for. Maybe you’re not doing so well in a class, contemplating your life choices, feeling the heat of the real world getting hotter and hotter, or worrying about your orange cat, Garfield, who is in the hospital. It seems that life is just crumbling at your fingertips and you don’t know what to do. That happens to most of us, especially when we least expect it. But it’s okay because we pick ourselves up and move along one step at a time. Right?
Well for some of us, it’s not that easy. You might be wondering, in the midst of all this mess, “Where do I even start to pick up?”. Well, Career & Internship Services is right here waiting for you! You are NOT ALONE.
Where to begin… Despite everything that is going on, you have to start somewhere! Even when it feels like you are losing control of your life right now, don’t let that consume you. Here are a few things I think you should try. It doesn’t have to be in any particular order; just do what works for you. As much work or stressful as it might seem, it will all pay off in the end.
I have to admit, these few suggestions have definitely helped me. I, myself, am going through this crisis of whether or not my decided major is fit for me. There are so many things I want to dip my feet into, but I only have so many limbs! I can’t swim if every piece of me is in a different body of water. And I think we can all definitely relate to this.
If you want more suggestions/tips, look for our interactive bulletin board in the hallway of the Solon Campus Center!
Reflect Once you have taken the time to follow through some of these suggestions, REFLECT. Ask yourself:
How do these results resonate with me? What do they make me feel? Is it true to me?
What are my options?
Where do I see myself in the next 2, 4, or 6 years given these results?
How am I going to apply these results to my current understanding of my situation?
What is my end goal?
Take a moment to lay out all your options, considerations, and interpretations on the table. Talk it out with a career counselor, advisor, friends, or even family if need be. Weigh your options and even make a pros and cons list. Your questions, concerns, and understanding of everything may not be solved, and that’s okay. Taking these small steps will lead you to the answers you seek. It all begins with you, and the initiative you take to control what you can, instead of worrying about what you can’t.
If you ask a career counselor how to pick the right major, internship, or career path you will likely be directed to assessments. These are quizzes that help you determine your strengths, values, and interests. Career & Internship Services offers online reading about how to seek your fit. But what does it look like once you have found your fit?
Looks Like Signs that you have found your fit include that you…
lose track of time being absorbed in a project for the class in your major or task at work.
experience positive or productive dreams about working on that project or related to your classes or work.
follow news and social media about the field you study or work in.
feel engaged in your classes or work.
imagine yourself in possible roles in your future career.
Doesn’t Look Like Signs that you have not found your fit include that you…
challenged with starting homework or tasks in your field.
going to work or classes.
consider working on a project or participate in an activity in your field
during your free time.
tasks you complete for class or work to be unfulfilling.
thinking about the field you study or work in.
Finding your fit doesn’t mean you love everything about your classes, work, and field all the time.
The potential of the fulfillment your field offers may not be apparent until taking higher level courses, after settling into work, or following further research.
Changing your trajectory does not make you a failure! It highlights flexibility and honesty with yourself.
If you ever need help
finding your fit, stop by 22 Solon Campus Center and schedule an appointment
with a career counselor.
There are so many paths you could take during your career planning process: assessing yourself, exploring options, developing skills, marketing yourself, and managing your career. Not one person is the same and it doesn’t matter which order you choose to do these in. In this blog post, I’ll be writing about and giving advice based on my experience and the path I’ve been going about!
In one of my previous post, I shared my experience with an assessment offered by the Career and Internship Services office, this is where I first started my career planning process: assessing myself. After that experience, I started to question if my major and minor were ‘good enough’ to get me to my career goal: an editor. From this point on, I went to the next step in my career planning process: exploring my options. There are so many places one can choose to explore that it might seem overwhelming, and even scary, but it can be as easy as asking a friend for advice.
Since registration for Spring Semester was approaching, I first looked into the possibility of double majoring and/or minoring. I asked for advice from co-workers, both students and full-time staff, as well as family and friends. From there, some of my friends had recommended I speak with their friends who then advised me to speak with some professors at UMD who are knowledgeable in my field of interest. Turns out I was already taking a course taught by one of the recommended professors! She assured me that the path I’m going down is fine and was actually similar to hers. With assurance from my professor, I went on to speak with a friend who was majoring in Journalism, a field I thought about double majoring in. After our conversation, I crossed that option off my list because it wasn’t the right path for me to go into for editing however, she recommended I speak with both her significant other who was a Professional Writing minor and her close friend who actually works as a managing editor for the student-run news organization on campus, The Bark.
Weeks of talking with many different people with different backgrounds led me to finally choose to add on another minor: professional writing! Now that I settled confidently with my educational path, it was time to explore more options to give me experience related to editing. I got in contact with two student employees from The Bark and was given a publishing opportunity! About a week after speaking of the opportunity, I was going to get one of my written pieced published on their website but first I went in to discuss the edits I would have to make. When I went into their office, I found out one of their workers was actually a person I sat next to in class. After the meeting, I was referred to a job posting by The Bark to apply as an editor!
Within 2-3 weeks of exploring my options while going through my career planning process, I added on a new minor, I have a piece published, and I am connected to new people who are experienced in a field I want to have a career in! Exploring options may be something as small as reaching out to a friend and it could lead you to something as big as a job offering or an internship! No matter what you choose to do, all it takes is one step and from there, you’re already closer to your career goal.
Before college, I knew that I wanted to be a therapist. From middle school until junior year of high school this was my dream profession until I began to worry I wouldn’t make enough money. At that time, 16-year-old Eva didn’t understand that success is measured in thousands of ways and depends on who is holding up the ruler. When I started college through PSEO (Postsecondary Enrollment Options) a couple months later, I enrolled in pre-business classes, but one economics course steered the fate of that short-lived decision. In the following years, I would scramble to find the perfect career that would make me rich, successful, and better than “normal.” I felt a lot of pressure to perform and compete against other students for scholarships, grades, and recognition. This mindset might have been the perfect environment for some people to thrive, but for me, it meant that my goals were made with skewed parameters that required unsustainable levels of energy. I think a lot of people have felt the way I did my first few semesters of college.
Before I go on, I have to acknowledge something super relevant to my experience. I am a young white woman from a middle-class family. I think many people in college, whether first-generation or legacy, white or POC, able-bodied or disabled, can feel pressure from their families and communities. My particular brand of pressure is inseparable from ableism and white privilege.
After my brief stint as a business major during PSEO I switched to nursing. I got my CNA license, enrolled in pre-nursing classes at LSC (Lake Superior College), and was given my first pair of super-cute teal scrubs as a high school graduation present. I loved that as a nurse I could help people in such a direct way. However, after three years of caring for elderly people as an aide, caregiver trauma started to seriously impact my mental health. That realization was incredibly difficult but necessary because it helped me understand my limits.
I explored my options: I was always told that I wrote well, but I was repelled from an English or Writing degree because of the (untrue) stereotype that graduates with liberal arts degrees are unsuccessful. I tried for several months to transfer to UMD for a biology degree but the core science classes at LSC only counted as electives at UMD. I couldn’t afford another five semesters of college and that fact allowed me to ignore that I was still headed in the wrong career direction. Another area I had done well in was laboratory procedures, which sounded like an acceptable route. I signed up for Medical Lab Technician classes at LSC. There were parts of the classes I really liked, such as drawing blood, looking through microscopes, and learning about pathology. Overall, I felt overwhelmed and disappointed with my choice.
By this point I started to realize that I had been shoving myself into a box I didn’t fit in. I had been trying to make my idea-centered brain work with numbers and logic. Not only was this wasting my strengths, but because of the low enrollment cap on the program I might have prevented someone else from succeeding.
When I looked back I realized that whenever I’d talk about being a nurse or lab tech I felt like I was talking about someone else. All of the prerequisites and checklists felt like I was a hamster in a wheel and not someone about to begin the rest of their adult life. Back to the drawing board. My favorite classes had been sociology and anthropology and many of my role models had similar degrees. After a lot of Google research, I decided that anthropology would be a great place to start. After three and a half years of college, I finally figured out my priorities – and was proud of them.
But wait! There’s one more twist to this story. My first full-time semester at UMD I began working as a Peer Educator at Career and Internship Services. I remember talking with the counselors about all the careers I thought I might like, but after years of chasing the wrong degree I knew I still did not feel right. Part of the student employee training involved personality and strengths assessments, all of which hinted (shouted) that I should consider counseling. I liked the sound of it, especially because it allowed me to help people hands-on, but caregiver trauma is a relevant issue for counselors I couldn’t ignore. Then I had a “could have had a V8” moment when the thought occurred to me that I should look into career counseling.
I could help people, have a useful career that took advantage of my strengths, work in a position that aligns with my values, and have a reliable income. I felt like a massive weight was lifted off my shoulders, almost literally. The pieces clicked together with an ease I had never experienced before. I know that I might change my mind in the future. At least for now I have a plan, which is more important than the plan actually happening.
As a female anthropology student, I always get a bit excited when I see other women’s names stamped onto studies and publications. Although anthropology has been traditionally a man’s vocation through the last couple centuries, there are many women who stand out as incredible role models for all anthropology students. I think having someone to look up to is important no matter your interests or profession. So, here I will talk about three of my favorite female anthropologists and the impacts they have made on my education and worldview.
Dame Jane Goodall (1934 – Present) Goodall is a primatologist (a scientist who studies primates – she focuses on chimpanzees). When she started her chimpanzee research in the 1960’s in Tanzania she did not have much formal training, which may have been what allowed her to think outside the box and make observations that had gone unnoticed by more experienced primatologists. For example, she would give the Chimpanzees names, such as Frodo, instead of numbers. Thanks to her we now know that chimpanzees make and use tools and have complex social orders, which gives us insight into our own human behaviors. She also has been a dedicated environmental and animal-human rights activist her entire life. She paved the way for many women primatologists and anthropologists and advocated for engaged and participatory anthropological methods. For me, the greatest impact Dame Jane Goodall has left on me is to stick by what you know is right and to always treat people, animals, and the earth with kindness.
Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978) If any of you have taken an introductory anthropology or sociology course, you will probably have heard of Dr. Mead. She was a revolutionary cultural anthropologist. She faced discrimination from her peers and the general public as a bisexual woman in the 20th century, but the quality of her research and person rose beyond those biases. Many tenets of today’s intersectional feminist theories on gender, sexuality, and personality stem from her study of cultures in Samoa, New Zealand, and the US. Reading Mead’s work has taught me to truly listen to the stories that other people tell and try to put myself in their shoes.
Ursula Le Guin (1929 – 2018) Technically, Ursula is a writer, not an anthropologist, but she has made a huge impact on my life and my education. Her parents were renowned sociologists and anthropologists so many of her writings contain a certain cultural depth. She is mostly known for her science fiction pieces. The first piece of literature I read by her was The Carrier Bag of Fiction. In it, she discusses her approach to science fiction writing, which is to say she tells “real life” instead of tall tales about the heroes. From her, I learned to celebrate everyday stories, because within them are the solutions to a lot of big problems.
Honestly, each one of these tabletop games warrants their own “career advice from” post. Here are some career advice highlights from the tabletop genre. Caution, possible whiplash causing transitions ahead …
Dungeons & Dragons on Stranger Things
Dungeons and Dragons (D&D): Sometimes life is a dice roll.
Don’t get too attached to your D&D character, they may be annihilated within hours into the game depending on your dungeon master. I spent hours on my first character sheet coming up with a great back story and carefully assigning ability values. Despite time and effort, my character was mortally wounded and I had to quickly roll a new character for the remainder of the quest. Likewise in the real world, ample time and effort may be invested into planning a particular career path which ultimately might become unfeasible. Factors out of your control like the job market, loss of interest, or simply life can set you back semesters or even years of career development. Re-roll your career path and stay flexible. Use that same in-game imagination to find a career that best fits your abilities. You might even find a chat with a Career Counselor more fruitful than probing an NPC for information with failed persuasion rolls.
Settlers of Catan on Big Bang Theory
Settlers of Catan: Take advantage of your resources.
In my opinion, Catan is a close second to Mario Kart for games that wound friendships: “Oh you want this wheat?…TOO BAD”. If you are familiar with your opponents you know what their 10 point win case strategy is; building roads, constructing houses or collecting development cards. This also means you know which resources you can starve your opponents from. In an ideal and moral world, your career building resources are not being stolen from you. However, you might as well discard your cash if you do not take advantage of UMD’s on-campus resources! Part of your tuition funds resources like those provided at Career Internship Services. Choose a major, hunt for an internship, prep for a career fair, explore graduate schools and look for a full-time job. Our career resources may not be not as straight forward as wheat, lumber, brick, ore, and sheep.
Pro Poker Player Annie Duke
Poker: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em”
Personally, I do not play poker but after taking Introduction to Probability and Statistics I respect the mathematical and emotional intelligence required to become a pro-player. My favorite poker anecdote is when professional poker player Annie Duke won the 2004 World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions. Duke struggled during the World Series playing behind all day and in one case taking far too much time to make a decision on live television. I equate applying for internships, receiving offers and declining offers to playing poker with a little more control. Throughout college, I have navigated a spectrum of internship challenges. Sometimes there is a lack of internship offers. Sometimes there are too many offers – which enables the ability to negotiate an hourly pay and benefits increase. Sometimes there is a need to respectfully decline offers. Throughout this journey I have asked for the guidance of career counselors, They can read drafts of emails, brainstorm respectful rejection letters, and help keep doors open for future opportunities.
Magic The Gathering
Magic The Gathering: Timing is everything.
A novice painter can not churn out a Van Gogh even with the most expensive paints. Similarly, a novice Magic player can not win against an experienced player with the same deck that won Magic Pro Tour. Activating triggered abilities, understanding the stack, and playing cards at the perfect game phase sets apart an intermediate and an expert player. Think about navigating a job fair or networking the same way you judge using an instant spell. Use your mana wisely…
Avoid engaging in conversation with the CEO of your favorite company when your mouth is full of hors d’oeuvres.
Do not visit your top pick company at the job fair first, settle into the environment and gain confidence.
Wait until the recruiter’s table is less crowded to chat and present your resume.
40k got a huge overhaul with new 8th edition rules replacing the 2014 7th edition. Unlike previous rule updates, the game was redesigned to make it easier for new players (myself included) while letting current players use miniatures from the 90s. Most 40k community members are keeping fluid during rule changes in hopes the playerbase will grow. Flexibility is a highly valuable trait of any employee, leader or entrepreneur. Staying flexible can also mean you keep career opportunities open when attending UMD. Consider applying for a work study position, land an internship, or conduct an informational interview with a professional in an industry you are interested in. Sometimes a one track mind on what your future should look like can eliminate perfectly good career options with equal or greater success. Keep your options and dice on the table.
If a Game of Thrones character walked into Career and Internship Services… What kinds of questions would they ask? Would they come in with a plan of action? Or be completely bamboozled?
Tyrion Lannister Despite confidence he could land an internship by sweet talking recruiters without even practicing an elevator speech, Tyrion decided to make use of all available resources and seek professional career advice. Tyrion strutted into SCC 22 with a battle plan – draft of a resume, draft of a cover letter and a couple of positions he wanted to apply for. Among the desired positions included a Pathways Internship with the Department of Defense, a summer internship with the NSA (National Security Agency) and a semester long opportunity at the White House. Tyrion picked a Peer Educator’s brain, finding ways to reword his accomplishments and best communicate his qualifications.
Daenerys Targaryen Slamming her hands on our welcome desk Daenerys demanded an internship. Surprised that the … enthusiasm… was coming from a student and not a parent, a Peer Educator explained that students have to pick out desired opportunities and the office helps with the application process. Daenerys understood that landing an internship would set her on the path to victory to rule the Seven Kingdoms, whatever that means, but did not know what industry she would fit best in. A Peer Educator set her up with career assessments; StrengthsQuest, Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and the Strong Interest Inventory. After discussing results with a Career Counselor, Daenerys found her top strength is “Activator”, she identifies as an INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving) through the MBTI, and she would be good at circuit speaking and political campaign interning.
John Snow John is the comeback kid of our office. He has been rejected from career opportunities after online applications, interviews, and cold calling but does not lose hope. John Snow first came into the SCC 22 knowing nothing except that he wanted to work in cooler climates, like Antarctica or Alaska. After scheduling an appointment and meeting with a career counselor, John found a great research opportunity studying ice cores with the United States Antarctica Program, job openings for students in Alaska, and plans to talk to UMD’s Study Abroad Office about a semester in Europe.
Cersei Lannister Sitting on a throne of academic awards, A+ essays and a senior design project Cersei asks “Now what?”. She, unfortunately, waited until her senior year to visit Career and Internship Services. Although it is ideal to stop in SCC 22 as early as freshman year it is not too late for Cersei to take complete control of her future! Fortunately during her years at UMD Cersei was involved in student organizations such as Greek life, and Industrial/Organizational Psychology Club, Political Science Association, Socratic Society and rugby to enhance her resume. A Peer Educator showed Cersei how to use GoldPASS, a portal of job postings especially catered for University of Minnesota schools students. After her resume was approved Cersei found dozens of jobs she was qualified for.
Samwell Tarly Shy yet armed with tons of knowledge Sam sought interviewing help in preparation for the Fall E-Fest Job and Internship Fair. Sam wants to intern at an engineering firm next summer, familiarize himself with popular interview questions and curb his social awkwardness. A Peer Educator shared helpful interview tips with Sam and showed him how to use InterviewStream, an online interview practice tool. Sam quickly became conscious about the number of “um”s he uses.
Photos by HBO, Paul Schiraldi and Sloan Helen from “Game of Thrones”
a) enjoy teleworking in your pajamas?
b) like to work after hours, letting a project eat your life?
c) strive for a work-life balance lifestyle?
d) just want a vanilla 40-hour work week?
If you answered any yes to any of the above, the world of Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) careers are for you! STEM is uniquely comprised of careers for every person with every desired lifestyle. If you are still pondering degree options or have been destined to go STEM since your toddler days of LEGO construction I will expand on the often overlooked advantages of getting a STEM major. Working environments, networking communities, and possible projects of STEM majors will be explored.
Working Environments Stereotypes of interns coding in bean bag chair, taking breaks in sleep pods, and grabbing a complementary snack at a company cafe are real incentives that industry offers STEM interns and professionals. Mainstreamed by “The Internship” movie, Google has a famously appealing workplace. One of the Google locations has a “Google Garage” where all the equipment is on wheels making collaboration, hacking, and brainstorming easier. “I’ve always described Google as a kind of mix between kindergarten and a classy law firm,” describes Alex Cuthbert of Google while reflecting on workspace design. Another company with a surprisingly innovate workspace is Capital One. Intern alum from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur shared, “The work culture in Bangalore office is very open. People decide their own work hours in accordance with their teams. There is also the option of working from home.” If an open floor plan hinders productivity and frightens your inner introvert, traditional cubical workspaces do exist and often exist as alternatives in the Googles of the world. NASA has adopted start up like collaboration spaces with walls of whiteboards, media stations to share presentations and various comfy chairs. When you choose a career in STEM there are working environments for those who like to work in a team, solo, in a start-up studio setting or telework in a hermit’s shed in the forest. You can discover your ideal work environment by taking our career assessments.
STEM Communities The hashtags are everywhere: #CSforAll, #WomenIn(insert STEM discipline here), #(insert ethnicity/identity here)InSTEM, #ProfessionalEngineers, #IEEE, and #ILookLikeAnEngineer. The growing diversity in STEM has created support groups for everyone to network. Often these communities are online groups or host weekly/ monthly in-person meetings featuring presentations from group members about their work in STEM, talks from tenured professionals in industry, tours of various parts of the workplace or other STEM companies. A Professional Engineers group at NASA Johnson hosted a suite of presentations by employees about their favorite project. A fellow NASA Co-Op talked about her work with Curiosity Rover’s martian surface sampling drill arm. Having a community, a network, or mentor can assist in navigating the workplace, be a source of new ideas and connect with those necessary to complete multidisciplinary projects. There are a number of STEM communities at UMD too such as; Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Biology Club, Institute for Electric and Electrical Engineers (IEEE), Tau Beta Pi (an engineering honor society), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and dozens more found on UMD’s Bulldog Link. Some of these communities continue past college as company, city, state-wide and national chapters!
Interns build Mars terrain navigating robots, picture by NASA Ames
Meaningful Projects What you work on in STEM has impact on society and often humanity’s advancement, leaving a sense of fulfillment every day after work. In private industry, you compete against other companies to create what society wants or needs most efficiently. Similarly, in government and non-profit sectors, you do you best to research and innovate for all humankind with the future of humanity in mind. Even as an early career STEM professional, including intern or co-op, you will likely be contributing to meaningful work. Microsoft Intern Arush Shankar described his contribution, “Work quickly became challenging yet rewarding. I was making a lot of design decisions on my own as my team began to trust me with more work… I was treated more as just another full-time employee on the team. Squashing bugs, checking in new code, and iterating.” Maria Carrasquilla, NASA Johnson Space Center Intern and engineering undergraduate was tasked with modeling effects of Micrometeoroids on space habitats and crafts. Her mentor, Dr. Eric Christiansen, expanded on the importance of the task, “We really appreciate how Maria quickly learned to run hydro-code simulations and provide meaningful results on the effects of non-spherical hyper-velocity impacts on spacecraft shields.” Dr. Eric Christiansen is the NASA lead of the Hyper-velocity Impact Technology group. The higher demand for STEM professionals, the higher the likelihood an early career professional will be trusted with game-changing tasks.
Maybe you are filled with doubt which is keeping you from pursuing a STEM career; “I’m not a math person,” “I don’t want to burn out” and “Those guys aren’t going to hire me.” Again, STEM is uniquely comprised of careers for every person with every desired lifestyle. There are flexible working environments, caring STEM communities and a future of meaningful projects that will propel you through the challenges. Give STEM a chance, regret often comes from a chance you didn’t take.