Careers for College Students: Should I Focus on Role or Industry?

Careers for College Students: Should I Focus on Role or Industry?

Career posting sites such as those managed by your college or third-party companies like Monster are always asking you the same questions. Some are easy: Where do you want to work? How many years of experience do you have? For some, however, the two fields entitled “Role” and “Industry” on the search form pose more of a conundrum. As a student and soon-to-be grad, what if you’re not sure either way?

The good news is that like most aspects of recruiting, making the right decision comes down to confidence and research. In this post we’ll review the benefits of picking your job with either of these two parameters at the forefront of your decision.

How college students choose their careers by role or industry

The benefits to choosing your industry first

There are many who swear that the industry is the only thing that matters in your decision, primarily because you get the opportunity to build industry knowledge. It’s easy to see why they feel this way. Knowing how your industry has changed over time is essential to innovating and moving it forward. Beyond that, you’ll make your life easier if you stick within a particular industry through the vocabulary you’ll build and the contacts you’ll make.

Another factor is that the industry is what you’ll be immersed in every day. “Think about how difficult it is (or would be) to be constantly thinking about, talking about, planning in, or executing in a world you just don’t care about,” writes Henry Hsu, the general manager of growth and new markets at NerdWallet in a contribution to LinkedIn. “You might be at the most respected data analytics company in the world, for example, but if you don’t have any interest in data analytics, you’re signing up for some pretty long days (regardless of how many hours you work).” In other words, choose an industry for which you have some passion, or you may find yourself quickly becoming bored.

The benefits to choosing your role first

Just to clarify, when we speak of “roles” here we’re not referring to “titles.” Especially for those of you who are recent grads or new to a particular industry, a title matters very little when you balance it with the actual responsibilities listed under it, and thus should not contribute greatly to your decision.

There do exist certain circumstances where the role can be prioritised above the industry. These are usually for anyone who seeks to become a sole practitioner or consultant in a trade someday. For example, if your dream is to delve into the mysteries of SEO and get the skills you need to run your own SEO consultancy in the future, it might not matter where you’re working as you cultivate these skills. Whether you’re researching keywords for website pages having to do with nail salons or B2B technology, you’re still honing your passion on a daily basis.

Other considerations

Let’s fast-forward to when you start to receive your job offers. If you find yourself having to choose among several, consider the company. Are you looking for a startup where you can carve out your own role by taking on more responsibility? Or are you looking for a bigger company with an established and reputable training program and more predictable promotion ladder? Either way, look at the number of employees that already exist within your department. You want to make sure that you’re putting yourself in a position where there are opportunities available for the taking, so make sure you identify any bottlenecks that may get in your way.

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