What’s funny about being a student at MIT is that there are so many opportunities. Do you want to be pre-med? We have an event for that! Do you want to learn how to use end note? The library is running a seminar on that! Do you want to learn about thesis presentation? These are the names, subjects and room numbers of the thesis defenses in your major!
A lot of these ‘easy’ opportunities are no longer beneficial to me. Often this is because I have already tried something similar. Somehow, I think I’ve come to a saturation point for CPW; I no longer enjoy the rush of students and events in the same way. I learned how to plan, register, advertise, and execute an event for both small and large groups of people. I don’t need more practice at that skill. Other times, the opportunity simply isn’t relevant to me anymore. It can be simple: I can’t apply to scholarships for rising sophomores but I still get the emails! Or it can be complicated: there is an upper limit to how helpful career and major information fairs can be. To be clear, as a freshman and sophomore, these events were critical to me narrowing my interests. These events helped me in a process of elimination. I learned that I do better in one on one interviews rather than the rush of a career fair. I now focus my energy setting up meet ups and interviews rather than diluting it on prearranged opportunities where I do poorly. The easy opportunity doesn’t fit me because I already used it to my best advantage.
Now, I’m searching for opportunities that are a good fit for me. I don’t need generic opportunities that show up in email blasts. These well publicized events are often low effort and low impact. I’ve gone to dozens of seminars and talks due to publicizing emails; I don’t remember any benefit from most of them aside from the free food. What I need are carefully tailored opportunities that fill in the gaps of my experience. These niche opportunities aren’t well publicized or low effort, but often they offer a big impact.
The carefully selected (or created) opportunities are the ones that you both have the best shot at and will garner the most reward for. For example, my Smithsonian internship was intended for students who didn’t have much experience working at a museum. That was exactly the opportunity I needed; I was exactly the candidate they wanted. Now that internship is the foundation for my resume, displaying my interest in the field and interpersonal skills.
No opportunity is going to be perfect. If you find an opportunity that inspires you but has a problem, pursue the opportunity and get creative in improving it. At the Smithsonian, I was disappointed I wasn’t working directly with their conservation studio but I ended up befriending one of the interns and also going to the Museum Conservation Institute symposium. That experience was a stepping stone to the opportunity I have now at the MFA. The internship I have now was a perfect fit for my interest – working directly with research conservators – but I was worried that it didn’t pay. So, I got creative and pursued funding from other sources. The extra work you put into tailoring a self-made opportunity will pay off! I can now write about my successful pursuit of funding in addition to my hands on experience.
You have to find an opportunity that is the best fit for you. In that moment, look towards where you want to be in the future. Identify the experience, skills, or qualifications you need to get there. Then find opportunities that fill those gaps. Clearly demonstrating your dedication and excitement for the field, you’ll make important career connections. If you create opportunities, no one else applying for a job will have that same unique experience and resulting skill. Focus on the best fit opportunities once you know what you want!