As a transfer student from Santa Monica College (SMC) to the University of California, Berkeley, I was uncertain about my future. At this time, I began my slow journey towards better self-knowledge and greater self-confidence. Although this was a confusing and unsettling time of my life, these years laid the foundation for my career path.

 

conquer feeling lost on the job hunt

I became involved in student life throughout college; a plan I would advise for developing a focus on a career at the outset. I was shy and anxiety-ridden in my late teens and wanted to feel proud of myself. I pushed myself to get a job as a restaurant server. This gave me confidence to get involved in student life, so that I could make new connections, gain new skills and experiences for my resume, and become closer to realizing a career path. Eventually, at SMC I talked to my school’s counseling office, peers, and teachers about school involvement. These experiences showed me what I wanted and did not want to do, which is just as important to realize.

At SMC I became the Vice President of the Anthropology Club, a student advisor and mentor, a member of two honor societies, and a volunteer in multiple initiatives. A friend gave me a referral to intern for a professor and I worked on Cultural Mindedness Training for California State University, Fullerton’s School of Nursing. These experiences revealed my focus in Cultural Anthropology, which I realized could apply to numerous lines of work. I changed my mind often as I explored the broad application of Cultural Anthropology to different career paths.

If you are in this position, I recommend asking people in fields that interest you for informational interviews. These are casual meetings to learn from those with experience. Initially, I was afraid to talk to professionals, but learned to gain confidence. Ask people you trust for resume and cover letter advice. Find confidence in your story and in your voice to improve your interviews. Remember, interviews go both ways—you are also interviewing them. A professor who sponsored my internship found two contacts who have become long-term mentors. Meeting biweekly for months now with one mentor has given me motivation and hope.

I felt like I needed to get a job right after college because I would get “behind” if I waited, but then I realized that I needed more time to soul search and find my voice before I forced myself into the job hunt. With the support and encouragement from my family, friends, peers, mentors, and instructors, I overcame my anxieties to feel proud of my accomplishments. I was willing to experiment with things that aligned with my values, and would recommend that for others. If something new might enhance your journey, try it out.

Instead of rushing, allow yourself to take your time and get to know yourself. I juggled a waitressing job and two babysitting gigs as a postgrad for the past year to make money. I conducted informational interviews; I went to job fairs; and I often skimmed Indeed, an employment website. As I submitted applications, I was rejected by many employers. When I felt downhearted, I was compassionate with myself. If you feel low, schedule days that are dedicated to relaxation, especially outdoors.

One year after college, I finally landed my first job as a practicing anthropologist. I am an Office Specialist for the Public Works department of the City of Santa Barbara. I found this employment after a friend told me about a job fair where I learned about this position. After providing my resume and cover letter, I received a call for an interview. In this government job I’m responsible for communication with the public, answering questions, and completing administration duties. I think it is important to learn an organization from the ground-up, so administration positions are a great first step.

My department respects its employees and maintains a positive work environment. I align with the values and practices of my organization, which enhances customer interactions. This job may not seem directly related to Cultural Anthropology, but there is a key connection. I deal with a diverse customer base using varying communication styles, so having an understanding of cultural differences is essential for addressing customer inquiries on behalf of the department. I hope to get involved in my passions—community outreach, corporate social responsibility, and/or wellness initiatives.

The journey might be rocky—it was for me—but keep trying. Once your inner self feels rejuvenated, you’ll be ready. Take care of yourself first and then go explore your options. In time, you will feel confident on your job hunt.

See ACRN:

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About the Author: Chloe Aitken

Chloe Aitken
My name is Chloe Aitken and I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and a minor in Health and Wellness. Through a lot of panicking and soul searching, I finally have an idea of what I’d like to pursue. Here’s a snippet of my story and why my number one piece of advice is to get as involved in student life as much as you can.