A look back at Career Exploration Day

Advancing San Diego is a multi-faceted initiative to strengthen relationships between industry and education systems in San Diego. The vision behind the initiative is an environment where more San Diegans have access to quality job opportunities, and employers of all sizes have established effective recruitment partnerships with locally-serving education institutions.

In ‘normal’ times, EDC hosts on-campus events throughout the year for San Diego employers to connect with students. The unique opportunity of a virtual event is that we are not limited to one campus and one group of students. On October 20, with support of our title sponsor Qualcomm Incorporated, EDC hosted Advancing San Diego: Career Exploration Day and Virtual Career fair – a free event that brought together employers and students of San Diego schools for a full day of career exploration, professional development, company information sessions, peer learning, and networking. Throughout the day, 150 students logged on to chat with employers in the virtual career fair and listen in on a webinar series on job search strategies. Attendees represented schools throughout San Diego, including San Diego State, CSU San Marcos, UC San Diego, Community Colleges, National University, San Diego Code School, a handful of high schools, and more. Nearly half of attendees were first-generation college students, and 65 percent were studying either computer science or engineering. Representatives from more than 20 San Diego companies participated in the event, and 244 job applications were submitted directly through our platform, vFairs.

“As a company of Inventors, we know that it takes diverse skills, experiences and cultures to develop and enhance world-changing products and technologies like 5G,” says Heather Ace, Executive Vice President Human Resources, Qualcomm. “Events like Advancing San Diego’s Career Exploration Day are critical to engaging students from all backgrounds by providing exposure to innovative companies and real world advice from employers who are all looking for top talent in the region and beyond.”

With so much uncertainty around the job market, workplace environments, and career opportunities, students are in somewhat uncharted territory when it comes to career exploration in 2020. Speakers throughout the event offered consistent advice to students navigating their career path through challenging times: lean in, stay focused, and be confident in yourself, your abilities, and your value. Below are some key takeaways for students.

  1. Lean in

We are fortunate to live in a time where we have access to technology to help us adjust and stay connected through a global pandemic. Lean in to your career exploration by actively updating your LinkedIn profile. Take time to research companies and jobs you may be interested in and direct message representatives from those companies on LinkedIn, and ask for an informational interview (people are more accessible than you may think!). Build your network by joining a club or getting to know your professors, and activate that network by staying in touch with friends, family, and professors for guidance. Your network will gladly open doors for you when you need them to.

  1. Stay focused

You may be spending more time at home these days. Stay focused on the things you can control and use this time to invest in learning something new outside of school. Research free online courses, trainings, conferences, or certificates related to your career interests. Pursue passion projects, or volunteer. Whether it’s blogging or coding or drawing, set aside time to apply and refine your new skills often. Your first job or internship may not be your dream job, but don’t be afraid to bloom where you’re planted, and use that time to develop your skills so you can figure out where you want to go next. Make a short-, medium-, or long-term term plan for your professional development. No one expects you to be an expert early in your career, and employers will be impressed that you’re working towards a goal.

  1. Know your goals and own your value

People at every age, in every type of job, have experienced imposter syndrome, or feeling like you lack the qualifications to be taken seriously for a job. Before you can start planning for your career, define what your goals are for a job or internship and what skills you bring to the table. If you have little or no professional experience to reflect on a resume, be sure to include your college job, volunteer work, or experience in a club. Think critically about how skills you gained in those experiences will translate to a professional position. Define the environments where you thrive and use that to guide you in selecting a company or job that is right for you. For example, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, enjoy flexing your creative muscle, and are adaptable in a fast-paced environment, a smaller company or startup might be right for you. If you appreciate defined processes, structure, consistency, and clear direction, a larger company might be a better fit. Use internships as a time to learn about different roles and company cultures, and seek out mentors.

Leaning in, staying focused, and knowing your goals will help you identify jobs that are aligned with your strengths and values. Building your professional brand means knowing what you bring to the table, and having the confidence to own and communicate those strengths. Believe that you belong there and that you belong in that job, even before you’re there! Finally, always remember, you’re interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you.

Best of luck in your job search.

–Team EDC

Learn more about Advancing San Diego