I spent this past Saturday talking to students at the Northwest Returnee Conference on Education Abroad (NWRC), a conference for college students who have recently returned from studying or interning abroad. I have always been passionate about education and international travel, so when an event combines my two favorite topics you can imagine my excitement.
I’ve attended many conferences like this, though this time I went with a fresh perspective. I could relate to these students on a whole new level. Many of them were in their final semester of college and would soon be in the same position I was when I arrived in Portland: in search of meaningful, inspiring work.
The surprising power of saying “Yes”
One student asked me point blank: What is your top piece of advice for job seekers? It didn’t take me long to come up with an answer: Say yes to whatever opportunities come your way.
The vision of Jim Carrey in Yes Man flashes in my mind. While I’m not advocating for saying “yes” to absolutely everything, saying “yes” is a powerful tool in life and in any job search.
Create unexpected opportunities
We spend a lot of time thinking about how to market ourselves to employers by arranging informational interviews, attending networking events, or building killer resumes. Sometimes doing all of these things may not land you a job, but can lead to unique opportunities that give you valuable experience and expand your resume.
That was, after all, the reason I was at the conference. After an informational interview with the founder of Casa Verde, an educational nonprofit doing service work in Nicaragua, I was asked to join the organization’s advisory board. Am I getting paid for my work on the advisory board? No, but am I going to gain experience related to my career ambitions? Yes, absolutely.
Practice skills, grow your network
The same can be said about guest blogging for Mac’s List. I’m not paid for writing this and my other posts, but if I’m able to practice my writing skills and share some insight with other job seekers, I’m happy.
The next time you’re asked to volunteer at an event, do some pro bono work in your field, or attend a conference, I suggest you say “yes!” It will increase your odds of talking with future employers or experts in your field and give you a sense of purpose during your job search.