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Career advice

I've been counseling graduate students recently on their job searches, now that the CMU MHCI design capstone has wrapped up. I consolidated some of the messages I've been giving into 10 points:

  1. You’re probably not going to land your dream job. Find your reality job.
  2. You only hear about the glamorous stories, but there are the other 99% of organizations where you can do important, meaningful work.
  3. You can work in a job that doesn’t check all your marks and still build your career. It might be in an unhip city or in an industry you find boring. You can find a new job, too. Heck, you can even switch career tracks or go back to school.
  4. There are many paths to success. It doesn’t have to go through FAANG. My colleagues have come from many different fields—most don’t have graduate degrees, some are self-taught.
  5. Times are always changing. The job market may be tight now. I got laid off months after my first job after the dot com bubble burst. I had to work part-time and took unemployment checks for a while. I didn’t become a full-time worker for many years.
  6. Job searching is hard work and stressful. Don’t obsess over it and take care of yourself.
  7. Hiring is a messy, defective, and inequitable process. For the most part, it’s not you, it’s them.
  8. So much of this is about opportunity and timing. You might be a perfect fit for a role, but they may not have the budget to hire right now.
  9. Lean heavily into your personal and professional network. This isn’t about schmoozing, it’s being an engaged member of the community. Most people love to flex their expertise and help others.
  10. Be kind and stay curious. We are all learning along the way, and people you meet today may have an impact years or decades later.

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