How can the right questions boost your career?
Back from unforgettable travels working in Southern Africa. I found myself in conversation with many students and alumni- what a treat! One poignant conversation with a new student had me in reflection mode. We connected because I too did my undergrad in political science. She was curious: where would her degree take her after graduation?
I was impressed by her curious questions. At such an early stage in her studies, she has lots of time for career exploration – finding and meeting other political science grads and see where life has taken them after graduation.
It’s common for new grads and even seasoned alumni to feel lost. To be found, students and alumni can enter two phases of questions:
Curious Internal questions: (the ones we say to ourselves about ourselves) What’s next? What’s my first/next career move? Is this the meaningful, energizing career I hoped for?
Curious External questions: (these are the ones to others about others) How did you get from your degree to this point in your career? What do you love about your job? What’s been the greatest challenge so far?
When we feel lost, we look for signposts to navigate us out of this feeling. We look for a compass (or the modern version of Google Maps!). Internal questions can leave us stuck – it’s only when we start looking to our environment – to fellow alumni, neighbours, friends, mentors – that we can explore career possibilities, open our horizons, build our network. To be lost and then found, takes a leap to look beyond ourselves. We can reflect (last week’s trait!) on what we can learn from others to help on our own career journey.
- For alumni and advancement professionals: Ask yourself- What kind of programming do we offer that enables students and alumni to ask curious questions? Consider a mini-audit of these programmes to make sure students and alumni know how to ask the right kind of questions. (if you want to bring the Next Gen Networking online workshop to your institution – press reply and let’s set something up!)
- For students and alumni: To feel less lost, start your career exploration slowly and often. Set-up an Alumni Friday to regularly find alumni and ultimately find yourself!
With alumni curiosity,
Quote from the book
“Alumni have intriguing career stories so we can relish in the listening. Ask questions from the point of curiosity and listening…Approach the relationship with curiosity, kindness, and gratitude.”
The Alumni Way, p. 79
Below Photo: My early morning visit to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town, South Africa. The mist dissipates behind me as I enter the Tree Canopy Walkway – clarity emerges and I am no longer lost!