The clock is ticking. You have 3 seconds to explain your first association with the word “career.” Is it:

A) A fuzzy future maybe including a stint with the Peace Corps, or graduate school, or Wall Street, or…who has time to think about this?!?

B) A navy-clad 40-something slouching off to a miserable desk job in a windowless office?

C) Right here, right now.

If you chose a, or b, this article is for you.

“Career” describes the progress made, actions taken, and work accomplished by a person throughout a lifetime…not just one position. The implication? You already have a career, right now. Choosing to pursue a college degree is part of it. So are the roles you take on to develop your strengths and interests: undergraduate research, fraternity member, part-time employee at Target, singer in Women’s Chorale, Resident Assistant, camp counselor, etc.

Managing your college career with intention helps you to invent and create opportunities for yourself. Down the road, this identity capital and first-hand experience can be leveraged to start your professional career.

But for now, here are 3 tips for rocking your career as a college student:

1. Your career can’t be mapped out on paper…don’t even try.


“Planning ahead” might sound smart, but creating a 10-year life plan (and expecting to stick to it) is a fast route to an anxiety attack. No “plan” can take into account the variables that shape your life from day to day: a conversation with a mentor that shifts your understanding of a field, an internship that leads to a job offer, a new opportunity introduced to you through your network, etc.

Instead of trying to conform the world to your paper outline, pay attention to the lessons and insights of the moment. Reflect often. Make adjustments based on the new information you gain about yourself, and your options. Remember, a change in plans doesn’t equal a failed plan, just a natural evolution into the next best thing.

 2. Say yes to new opportunities.

career2When Johnny Depp accompanied his friend to an audition he wasn’t looking for a career path…but he agreed to read for a part, and the rest is history. Saying yes to new experiences increases your chances of learning about an opportunity, making a friend, or discovering an interest.

There are hundreds of opportunities to take advantage of at NAU, every semester: Study abroad. Join a club. Go downtown. Talk to the person sitting next to you. Get to know your professors. Volunteer. You never know what door will open next.

 3. Understand that managing your career is your responsibility – and act like it.


There was a time when your career was managed by your organization. (If this sounds like the 1950’s, it was.) As long as you showed up and worked hard, you could reasonably expect to be groomed for promotions on the clearly-labeled rungs of a career ladder. (Well, as long as you were a man.)

Those days no longer exist. Millennials are changing jobs every 2.2 years on average, exploring different industries, fields, and positions along the way. Some people take a break from the workforce for a “radical sabbatical,” or accept a lateral move (one that does not come with a pay increase) to develop a new skill, or work towards a mission that’s personally significant. So, who’s thinking about the big picture of your career? YOU.

Lead the way in your own life by choosing your commitments with intention. Ask, how will it develop your network, skill, self-awareness, or insight? Will it stretch your boundaries? Look for opportunities to be challenged, and go after them wholeheartedly.


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