“Small steps, especially when you’re a young professional, can still be valuable.”
Lindsay Hiser is a Development Coordinator at National Public Radio (NPR), where she manages donor acknowledgements, contributes to annual reports and impact reports, and coordinates donor stewardship efforts. In December 2018, she graduated from the University of Michigan with majors in Communication Studies and Organizational Studies and a minor in Writing. In this interview, she reflects upon her past experiences as a current young professional and offers advice for current undergraduates looking to enter the job industry.
Q: Any advice for undergraduates who are recruiting?
“In college we’re always asked the question: what do you want to do when you graduate? It’s a great question with good intentions, but maybe also an idealistic one. When you respond, you risk setting your expectations too high, thinking you should be doing your ideal job, in your ideal industry, with exactly the people that you hope to surround yourself with. While it’s great to have an ambitious goal, it shouldn’t be necessary to check all of those boxes in your first job out of college. That’s something I sometimes lost sight of as an undergraduate.
The piece of advice that I would have most appreciated coming from college is that small steps, especially when you’re a young professional, can still be valuable. Even if you don’t check all of your ideal boxes, you can continue to pivot and take small steps to grow in your career.”
Q: How do you understand your strengths, and weaknesses as you build your career?
“At one point, I thought of strengths as things that you like to do, whereas weaknesses were things that you didn’t like to do. I think I believed that you should like the things that you’re naturally good at, and vice versa. Since starting as a professional, I’ve realized that’s not always the case. For example, I consider one of my strengths to be my ability to connect with others, though I sometimes find myself drained from too much interaction! Making the connection that ‘this can be a strength of mine and not be my favorite thing in the world’ was great because I no longer felt compelled to define myself by the things I perceived as strengths or weaknesses. I could also define myself by the areas I wanted to improve in. For example, I consider one of my weaknesses to be numbers and data, but that’s an areawhere I’m interested in growing my skills.
It’s important to understand your natural strengths and weaknesses, because those inform the kind of professional you are. At the same time, interrogate those perceptions and assumptions and ask yourself where you want to improve. Then do the work!”
Q: What is the worst piece of advice you have received?
“Write a resume and cover letter that are general enough to send to a bunch of organizations, then call it a day. I’ll preface by saying that this strategy does have its merits, especially if you’re looking to increase visibility or see what opportunities are available. Personally, I found that following that advice weakened my application materials. I wish I had spent my time researching the organizations, asking questions, and connecting with people so that I could craft fewer, but more thoughtful application materials.
Halfway through college, I started to be more thoughtful in my cover letters, trying to exude as much of my personality as possible while also addressing my interests, questions, and curiosities specific to the organization and the role. Not only has that approach been more successful, it has also allowed me to learn more about myself. Even if I get rejected, having spent that extra time to really dig into what I want has paid off in future applications.”
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
“I want to make sure that I’m in a role where I’m learning and I’m asking questions. In transitioning from student to professional, I realized how much I missed learning when it wasn’t forced on me. I want to continue to be a lifelong learner, both in and outside of work. Over the last two years, I have enjoyed mentoring and sharing my experience with students and young professionals, even if that isn’t a part of my day job. Lastly, I want to improve my work life balance. I’m ambitious, and I was excited to graduate and find a job, but I’m understanding the importance of creating a well-rounded life.
Mostly I’ve learned that if you think you’ll have your future figured out by a certain point, chances are you won’t. Maybe you’ll have a little bit more confidence and self-awareness, but at the end of the day, you likely will never have it all figured out. I hope that in five years, I’ll still be asking myself these questions, reevaluating my interests, and reflecting. It’s not only productive in helping to achieve my goals, but it also makes the experience more meaningful.”