Part of being a mentor is listening to the different questions mentees have, and apply my own experiences to let them think about how they can answer them. Most people ask me how they can know what kind of organization fits with their interests and personality. Finding this out generally starts with curiosity, combined with a pro-active attitude: if you see an interesting person or organization on LinkedIn, hear someone speaking at an event, or read about someone in a magazine, just reach out. Most will actually appreciate it.
I often hear, and understand that this way of contacting organizations feels too direct, yet it is exactly the curious and pro-active attitude many organizations are looking for. You put effort in requesting that phone call or to drink coffee at their office. You show genuine interest. And in my opinion you can never be too busy investing time in finding out what career path might make you happy. So don’t only send out motivation letters and wait until you might or might not hear something. I’ve once read that saying you don’t have time to improve your thoughts on where you want to go is like saying you don’t have time to stop for gas because you are too busy driving. Eventually it will catch up with you. So, be curious.
Like me, many students have doubts about the kind organization they would want to start their career at. In my opinion this search starts with writing down what actually drives you. For example, I wanted to work in an organization with opportunities in Asia, and a young and ‘social responsible’ culture. I also wanted to learn a skill that would help me become better in making people passionate about my ideas, like a coach or manager (e.g. consultative or sales skills). And I wanted to work in a fast paced and dynamic industry (e.g. IT) where a lot of change would happen. So I looked for (1) the kind of people that work at an organization, (2) the kind of skills I would learn, and (3) the kind of industry I would operate in.
I read on the same book I referred to before (The monk who sold his Ferrari) that clearly defined priorities can then serve a role similar to a lighthouse, offering you guidance and refugee when the seas become rough. I couldn’t agree more. Because if you don’t know what you are looking for, how will you ever find it?