Career blogging might be an even more crowded space than travel or family blogging, so to paraphrase the great Homer Simpson, let’s cram another salty snack into America’s already bloated snack hole.

What Gives?

This blog has been on hiatus for a little over a week now, but I think the coast is clear for me to get back into the swing of things.  A lot has been going on in the last month, and very little of it has involved travel, so I may diverge into some other topics here and we’ll see how that goes.  I’ve been fairly focused on work lately, and very little of that is interesting enough to write about.  Nonetheless, I’ve found myself pontificating in real life on early career advice, and people mostly didn’t walk away.  And you know, if it works with audiences within punching distance of you, it might play on the internet too.

The Interns Have Gone Back to School

I’ve spent almost no time on this blog talking about myself in the context of how and where I spend the bulk of my hours, and for good reason – professionally, I’m pretty boring.  However, this summer I was able to bring on a couple of interns that really impressed me.  I haven’t had interns since my consulting days, and apparently my own department hasn’t had any outside of some very specialized actuarial science areas since I was in diapers.  Being one of the younger members of a fairly seasoned management team, I was pretty excited over bringing on some college kids that could come in and benefit from the collective experience as well as challenge some of our ideas and teach us some new tricks.  I don’t want to jump the gun, but I think my two interns took some high degree of difficulty projects and really stood out from the pack.  But over the course of the summer, we spent a lot of time talking about starting a career, along with some of the good and bad decisions that I made along the way.

What The Heck Do You Know About Basketweaving?

A lot of this is applicable to business-oriented students, but even if you’re knee deep in the most liberal of arts, this might apply to you too.  After all, my degrees are in economics and law, yet my career is in finance – the “model data” kind, too.

Every bit of advice I gave started off with emphasis on finding a balance.  If I might nit-pick every intern I ever met, it’s been a real focus on academics and doing well in classes.  Sure, these people have GPA a full grade point higher than mine, and they’re getting internships – which I might add, I never seemed to land.  So I’m not talking about doing more drinking as much as I am taking a second to look away from the books and figuring out how all of that critical thinking practice might apply to the professional world.  College prepares you to think, so do just that and spend some time on the side picking up some of the skills that employers are telling you they want.

I’m distant enough from the college-age competition that I can safely come out and say that the only reasons I was employable coming out of college was that I’d had some experience in an office (doing technical support) and that I picked up a niche set of programming and analysis skills while in college.  Knowing some SAS was probably my ticket to 22 year old middle class cubicle life, and it was all due to working beyond the exposure I had in the classroom.  Everyone in my econometrics class could probably run a linear regression, but I differentiated myself because I could work with dirty data.

One thing I emphasized a lot this summer is that it’s not about being able to do the modeling and analysis, at least not intiially.  At first, it’s about getting good data so that garbage in does not lead to garbage out. Every candidate I interviewed talked about their projects and the analysis that went into it, and of each I asked maybe 75% of my questions about how they acquired their data – not a single one had ever dealt with the issues of bad data, but the two who were excited about the idea of having to deal with it got the opportunity.  You don’t necessarily have to want to be an analyst to relate to this – the abstract takeaway is that aptitude and enthusiasm for the real challenges out there in the professional world will get you far.

It’s not hard to figure out what employers want.  One trip to Indeed and you’ll know.  Still, if you want to just steal what I did, SAS is still a very marketable skill in many industries.  Every organization is moving toward more data-driven decision making, so you might as well enable that. Even if your major literally is basketweaving, the best analysts are part artist anyway.

What’s Your Point?  Did You Even Edit This?

I’m not sure.  I’m hoping that someone reads it and they go teach them something that lands them a job because they added together what their professors want with what potential employers want.  And if removing the swearing that was present in this when I had the actual conversations in person counts as editing, then yes, it’s edited.

If this made absolutely no sense, you can tell me so in the comments.  Otherwise, prepare for additional installments.

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