By Liz Mosher ’10, CES Peer Advisor

Throughout this semester, my main focus has been to discover a career path that might spark a passion—and I ended up singling out non-profits. After all, I’ve always taken an interest in community relations, marketing, and helping the greater good; non-profits sounded like the perfect fit. But I was thrown off course last month when I unexpectedly connected with recruiters from an organization far from what I was exploring. Three days after meeting them, I found myself drinking a chai latte with two charismatic women during an informational interview that ended with an incredible internship offer!

While anticipating a disinterest in what the organization might have to offer, I found the meeting to be an amazing opportunity to share my story and personalize my experiences and skills. Not only did I discover more about job positions I never knew existed, I was challenged with questions that allowed me to practice articulating who I am and what I have to offer.

One question threw me, though. As we were nearing the end of our allotted time, I was asked why I took such an interest in non-profits. This seems like an easy question and yet I found myself scrambling for the appropriate reasoning. That’s when I realized I needed to practice articulating my interests and goals OUT LOUD. As much as I reasoned about non-profits in my head, I never verbally articulated it. I was not as prepared as I thought I was to respond to such a straightforward question. How exactly did I land on non-profits anyway? In the end, even though I stumbled my way through that question, I walked out confident, with a new-found interest in organizations outside of the non-profit world.

Since that first informational interview, I’ve decided to keep going and find more people to chat with; I guess you can say I have been on a networking high. For the past couple of weeks, I have been connecting with our own Puget Sound alumni from the ASK network, including Shannon Hughes, the chair of the Alumni Council CES Committee. After chatting with an advisor in my office, it seemed like Shannon and I shared some common career interests. Surprisingly, with no hindrance on our conversation, our particular career interests did not quite match up. But it turns out that my conversation with Shannon was helpful in an unexpected way!

While we were swapping stories over the phone, Shannon asked me to consider what different interactions and conversations in the past have excited me the most. I paused. Despite my talkativeness and desire to fill in the silence, I couldn’t formulate a response. It was then that Shannon and I discussed how helpful networking can be, especially when you gauge your level of excitement over certain topics; it really helps narrow in on your passions.

By stepping outside of my interests and connecting with people of different fields, I broadened my scope of careers to consider for the future. Not only did I learn that I should practice articulating my skills and interests out loud, I also learned to evaluate my energy level during conversations in order to learn what excites me the most. Long story short, there is no such thing as bad networking. People know people who know other people, so you never know who will be your most helpful resource!

Visit the CES Job Search Tools page for tips about Informational Interviews.

© 2009 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo: Kris Hay