By: Emilio Lorenzo and Emily Tasca
Emilio Lorenzo is the assistant director of career advisement in NSU’s Office of Career Development. He understands the importance of helping students reach their career goals and works with all students, including undergraduate, graduate and professional level students, to achieve their professional goals.
Emily Tasca is a member of the career advisement team in NSU’s Office of Career Development. She works with current students and alumni at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.
Stretching and participating in yoga can help you feel more relaxed, as well as help with your physical flexibility. Reaching your professional goals will require a similar type of flexibility because, early on in your career, you must evaluate options and pursue opportunities that may come in nontraditional avenues, which will give you a new perspective on your professional development as a whole.
Examples of this type of professional flexibility can involve taking unpaid internships, working for companies that may not have the strongest name recognition, and having a proactive mindset in whichever internship or job you obtain. This mindset of being open to new ways of reaching your goals can open doors that you did not know even existed while also establishing a professional brand for yourself than can pay dividends upon graduation.
The more you practice flexibility, the further you can reach in your career and the higher the ceiling you will set for yourself going forward.
The value of unpaid internships
Many students associate unpaid internships with free labor or the equivalent of a volunteer opportunity. In reality, unpaid internships can be a great avenue, not just to develop key skills needed in your industry, but also to make an impression on an employer regarding your passion and work ethic. Just because an internship is unpaid does not diminish its value because, at the end of the day, it is about the nature of the work involved.
For example, if you participate in an unpaid human resources internship, you will have an edge over your peers who did not take on any internship roles. When it comes finding a human resources job, you will now be able to highlight on your resume a section called “Human Resources Experiences” to show the future employer that you have real world experiences in the field.
Whether you were paid or not is irrelevant, as the employers are more focused on the skills, knowledge and overall abilities you gained from this exposure to the field. Many interns are hired full-time after the completion of their internships. This is even more prevalent when those internships are unpaid. Showing the employer that you are willing to work on an unpaid basis goes a long way in showing the employer your passion and dedication to the profession and their organization.
Don’t focus on name recognition
Professional flexibility is not limited to just unpaid internships, but also the actual company itself, as many students are consistently drawn to employers whom they have heard of before. Taking an opportunity at a lesser-known organization can also create a situation where you are a big fish in a small pond. These opportunities can offer you a chance to develop additional skills needed for the future.
For example, let’s say Bill and Ted are both marketing majors and will do an internship their junior year. Bill takes an internship with a well-known, large marketing firm where he is one of many interns, and his job description is very focused on specific responsibilities. In Bill’s internship, he does not get an opportunity to flex out of his normal responsibilities.
On the other hand, Ted takes an internship at a smaller marketing firm that is new to the area and is still building up their brand. In Ted’s internship, he is required to wear multiple hats and, as a result, he has been able to get exposure to a variety of marketing functions and settings. In Ted’s role, he has also been required to provide training to new interns, and his supervisors view him as a leader in the organization.
Now, the time has come for Bill and Ted to begin their full time job searches. Although Bill has experience with a well-known company, he is missing a few requirements necessary for an entry-level role he found. Ted is interested in the same opportunity and meets all of the requirements because, in his internship, he received tasks that are typical for such entry-level positions in the field.
All internships have value, but evaluating opportunities in terms of the nature of the work and potential for exposure to other areas of the business outside of the direct job description can lead to not just strong professional flexibility, but also put yourself in a position for success.
Be open and go the extra mile
Just like Ted in the example above, being open to take on projects and experiences outside of your written role in an organization is an effective strategy for your overall professional development and a mindset that can be applicable to various career settings.
For example, if you have obtained a finance internship with a bank, you should keep an open mind if avenues arise which can give you exposure to a different area of the bank, such as wealth management. This type of flexibility sends the message to the employer that you are in it for the long haul. It also shows that you are an individual who is truly passionate about such areas and showcases the self-starter mindset that organizations crave.
Being open to getting outside of your comfort zone can also assist in your own growth. The more you strive to go the extra mile, the more likely opportunities to do so will come. If an employer sees that you are consistently taking imitative and being proactive in your approach, he or she will then identify you as an asset, as well as a leader, that this organization must hire for a full-time role.
Overall, professional flexibility is not just a key skill set but also an overall mindset you should develop early on in your career journey. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take; if you are open and willing to go the extra mile and consider nontraditional avenues for your professional growth, it would be more advantageous to you finding that dream job upon graduation.