Picking a major was hard for me. I knew that I wanted to go into business because I thought I would make a good manager. But, what was the best path for me to get there? In my sophomore year, I started to get those emails from the Division of General Studies that said “Hey, you got to pick a major soon. What are you doing?” I was freaking out! A mid-college crisis. My sister came across the major of Technical Systems Management (TSM) in the College of ACES. I looked into it and found so many options with this degree. After taking the 100-level class, I knew I had found it!
Professor Harper, the former Department Head for TSM, was very helpful in my decision of a major. He pushed us – got me out of my comfort zone, while always being encouraging and supportive. For example, he taught a welding class, and that was something I definitely wasn’t used to! He would go the extra mile to explain or demonstrate something again, so I could really understand.
One my most meaningful experiences on campus was meeting and connecting with people, especially at the Career Fair. There are so many different companies, especially if you broaden your horizons to don’t limit yourself to the career fairs that are targeted toward your college. It is such an eye-opening experience to explore different companies you may not have thought of applying to.
When I went to the Spring 2018 Engineering Career Fair, I had prepared well, bringing a list of companies that I wanted to visit. Union Pacific Railroad (UP) was not on that list. But, the recruiter at UP’s table was so nice and inviting that I went to talk to her. She gave me an interview on the spot! She was so helpful in my job search journey. She gave me some great advice that I still carry with me. Looking at my resume, she told me: “You have everything. You are qualified; you have experience. I can see it on paper that you hit X, Y, and Z. But you need to sell yourself. You need to have confidence in your answers to show me and other interviewers that you’ve got this.” From then on, when I interviewed, I told myself that the company needed me more than I need them. I would tell them the reasons why they should hire me. I would make their life easier. Not that I would say those words, but that was my attitude.
Today, I work for UP as an Operations Management Trainee. I manage people who have been working the railroads as long as I have been alive. Every day is different. It is a completely new experience, with both challenges and great opportunities. I like that in the management trainee program I can explore different functions within the company, as I figure out what directions I would like my future career to take.
For Illinois students out there like me – if you don’t exactly know what you want to do – take it one day at a time. It’s easy to have a mid-college crisis like I did. But sometimes you just have to take a step back. There are so many resources at Illinois – The Career Center, professors, advisors. They can give great advice possible directions. My advice would be to take a breath and use your resources.
(Last Updated: February 2019).