I am often asked by students to provide them some career advice.  Most of these questions are very generic, indicating that they really have not dived much into their own research.  My favorite (or perhaps, most irritating, really) is: “What career advice can you give me?”

Well.  Advice number one: Don’t ask vague open ended questions like that to any potential employer.  Be specific, be precise.  Ask questions during the interview. Do some research about the company and / or the type of projects they have been involved in.  One of the best questions a potential new hire asked me once was “What obstacles did the company have to overcome to grow from XXX to YYY employees over the past three years, and how can new employees contribute to that?” At a minimum, the question told me the recruit had actually read the company’s history; additionally, it clued me in to an element of ambition.  The student was already thinking about the big picture in business.

Advice number two:  This is my most critical piece of information that I can convey, and 95% of people will not take it.  Become an expert in your field.  No, correct that. Become THE expert in your area.  I don’t care if your first job is developing webpages in javascript.  Become fluent.  Read.  Be apprised of upcoming shifts in popular technology.  Curiosity, and the ability to research and act on it will enable you to transition from task to new task quickly and efficiently.   Do not just try to learn the basics needed to perform your job (or class assignments).  Learn as much as you can.

It’s April.  Spring has sprung.  Good luck in your job hunting, padawans.