Become a Career Entrepreneur

Everette Fortner – December 20th, 2017

Everette Fortner

Everette Fortner
Associate Vice President, Career and Professional Development

Last year at this time, I encouraged you to prompt your students to “exercise a different side of their brains” over the Winter break by exploring career options and using design thinking to begin “designing their lives.” (Read “Why Breaks Matter”) This break, inspire them to become a “career entrepreneur.” Perhaps you’ve heard much about entrepreneurship at UVA, which is exciting for those students with entrepreneurial aspirations, an interest in innovation, or students just looking for a like-minded community. But all students need to be “career entrepreneurs.”

In their book The Start-up of You, authors Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha argue that in today’s ever changing employment landscape, driven by globalization and technology, “if you want to seize the new opportunities and meet the challenges of today’s fractured career landscape, you need to think and act like you’re running a start-up:  your career.”

So, I have four recommended winter break activities for you and your son or daughter to help them become career entrepreneurs:

Get to know one’s self. 

The first thing an entrepreneur needs to know is her/himself. What are your students’ interest, values, and skills? A good place to start is FOCUS2, an online, self-assessment tool available to UVA students. The tool is self-contained, and your student should walk away with good insight on where to start their career search. As a bonus, encourage your student to make an appointment at the Career Center to discuss the results or stop by the Exploration Center in 1515 on the Corner for a chat about next steps.

Start Networking. 

Networking doesn’t come easy to most of us, much less this generation. You and your student can start with Linkedin's Student Jobs 101 (watch at least Part 1 and Part 2)—LinkedIn has a great tutorial on job search, networking, and building a LinkedIn profile. A common misperception is that LinkedIn is primarily for business. Not so. LinkedIn is an excellent research tool and place to start a network. After watching those videos and creating/improving your (and your students!) LinkedIn profile, go to the UVA School Page (search for University of Virginia), click on See Alumni, and begin exploring the 154,294 UVA alumni who are on LinkedIn.

Pretend you are doing research by creating research questions to answer:

  • What jobs/titles do people have who majored in ____?
  • What jobs to alumni have that work at Capital One (for example)?
  • What is business development? 

Play with this tool. Identify ten local alumni from your local area that might be interesting to talk to. Reach out to them via email, set up a coffee chat or phone call. While I discourage you from doing this for your students, you might do it with them, or guide them in getting started.

Explore Handshake

Encourage your student to explore Handshake for events, jobs and the upcoming career fair list of companies. January and February are the busiest months for the Career Center. Everything we do can be found on Handshake. Add calendar events that might be of interest like the Marketing Symposium or the Music Industry Networking Breakfast

Spring Job & Internship Fair

Handshake also contains a list of the recruiters attending the Spring Job & Internship Fair on January 31 and February 1, 2018. Research a few and plan on visiting them, prepared with good questions and a polished resume.  Even if a company is not hiring, a career fair is an excellent place to learn to have networking conversations with young alumni doing interesting things at interesting companies.

ELA 3300 Designing Your Professional Summer Experience. Spring 2018 T 3:30-4:45PM
Design Your Professional Summer Experience

Finally, if you’re son or daughter wants a disciplined approach to their summer job search encourage them to take ELA 330–designing your professional summer experience. I would love the chance to work with them.

Entrepreneurs take charge of their career.  Now is the time for you to help your students adopt a start-up mentality and think like a “career entrepreneur.”