Finding your passion and pursuing it

As a kid, I was told I needed to get good grades in school. If I got good grades in school, I could get into college. If I got into college, I could secure a job in the workforce. If I secured a job, I would make money. And if I made money, I would be happy. I learned this “formula for success” and began to live by it.

Although this course of action holds some validity, it’s missing a key component: passion. Some of us have been told we must choose a sensible career that’s realistic for our abilities, but we don’t enjoy what we are doing. Maybe your parents want you to become a nurse, so you are studying to enter the medical field. But you hate the idea of working in a hospital or physician’s office. Deep down, you love writing and graphic design. Your dream is to work for a major publication one day. But for fear of failure and disappointing your parents, you stick with nursing. Ultimately, you are unhappy because you are not doing what you really enjoy.

Many of us have been caught in this conflict of passion vs. pursuit. In her book I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, Barbara Sher examines our struggles with discovering our passions in life and finding a career where we can foster them. Now you might be asking yourself, how can I figure out my life’s purpose from a book? Being the perpetual skeptic that I am, I thought that exact same thing. But Sher has many valid and helpful insights that have made me more confident and comfortable with my aspirations. I believe you too can benefit from her advice.

A few of my favorite sentiments from her book include:

  • “What you love is what you’re gifted at. All of us have talents we’ve never used.” We all have things we love to do, but we may feel we can’t pursue a career involving them. But there is always a way to tap into your passion. For example, you may love music, but believe it isn’t realistic to work in the industry. But, you could teach, perform, or work for a music store, publication, or record label. There are many avenues by which you can take your passion and run with it.
  • “College graduates can expect to hold ten to twelve jobs in three to five different fields during their working lifetime.” You probably will not be working the same job you have now in twenty years. So if you feel stuck, know that there are other opportunities in various areas waiting for you.
  • “Even action in the wrong direction is informative. You are a success every time you face down fear.” At one point or another, we all deal with rejection. It can be easy to get discouraged by rejection and decide not to go after what you want. But you can also take rejection and turn it into a learning experience.

Written by Emily, Student Office Assistant

What are you going to do with your major?

So you’ve chosen a major. That process may have been easy or difficult for you, but the important part is that you do not have to stress about it anymore. Although that stress is gone, a whole new wave of stress may come after you have made the choice. Now that you have chosen what you want to study during your four years as an undergraduate, what are you going to do with your major after graduation?

There are multiple resources in Career Services that can help ease your stress and narrow down possible career paths for you. In the office library, we have a “What Can I Do with This Major?” binder. This binder contains pages on every major that are covered with career options. The options are first broken down into area of career. For example, on the Math major page the areas include Industry, Government, Insurance, and many others. Within each area, multiple types of employers are listed. This binder can help you explore the different types of careers that people with your major have.

I came into school my freshman year knowing exactly what career field I wanted to be in after graduation and what I should major in in order to get there. Although I knew these things, I was still stressing, because I had no idea how to achieve my goals of being a physical therapist. I never thought to look at resources such as the “What Can I Do with This Major?” binder, because I knew exactly what to do. I finally opened it up one day and was surprised to find that there were also strategies for each area of work outlining what to do that may help you break into that field.

Another helpful resource is the College Majors Handbook. This book outlines majors and careers, and also provides extensive information including job outlook, average salaries, and places to work about a multitude of careers.

Whether you’re in the early stages of choosing a major, or you know the exact career path you are planning on taking in life, the “What Can I Do with This Major?” binder and the College Majors Handbook are incredibly valuable resources to take a look at in order to fully prepare yourself for life after graduation.

Written by Shannon, junior Biology major

Life Planning Errors

Donald Asher’s book, How to Get Any Job: Life Launch and Re-launch for Everyone Under 30, highlights three errors that are very easy to make when picking and planning for a career. These three errors are “confusing what you’re good at with what you like to do, confusing avocations with vocations, and confusing one aspect of a job with the whole job” (61).

In my opinion, the third one is the easiest trap to fall into. When trying to choose what career field we want to go into, we are often asked, “Well, what do you like to do?” The example Asher uses is of someone who likes to write. This person may grasp onto the idea that he likes to write and then only want to be a writer. That is what people who like to write are supposed to be, right?  This could not be further from the truth. There is a whole world of careers out there in which writing is a huge part of the job, but it is not the whole job. Some of these options include college professor, legislative assistant, attorney, and many more.

Once you figure out what it is you like to do, research different jobs to see if that skill is used. What you like to do does not have to be all you do in your job, but it can be a part. Just because you like to write, does not mean that you have to be a writer. Be careful not to stick yourself into a category without pursuing different options. You never know what you may find.

Written by Shannon, junior Biology major

Learning to Gracefully Say No

As college students, I think we often find ourselves in an environment where we’re constantly encouraged to say “yes” to every opportunity possible: Of course I’ll join that club! I would love to take on that extra project! Yes, I will volunteer, take that extra class, accept a second (or third) job, etc. We’re told that every experience makes us well-rounded, more diverse and more appealing; and each experience gives us one more thing to potentially put on our resume. When it comes time to apply for jobs, we may find ourselves “mass-applying,” submitting as many applications as we can—even if they aren’t all “ideal” jobs—and hoping the one we really want will stick. Trust me, I know the feeling. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a firm believer that every opportunity is a good opportunity, and I’ve spent much of my time taking every opportunity I can in the hopes of building an ideal future for myself.

Since the time I was a freshman at the University of Portland, I have held at least two part-time jobs while maintaining full-time student status and commuting from my home off-campus. At one point, I was working 3 jobs while taking 17 credits. At another point, I was working 2 jobs, volunteering, and taking 16 credits. I’ve had a really hard time saying “no” to anything. All the while, I’ve been telling myself that everything will pay off; that each new task I take on will help me to create opportunities for success and maybe one day I won’t have to do quite so much. Each time I begin looking for new work, as I am now, I go into panic-mode, thinking nobody is going to want to hire me, wondering how I will ever find a job, etc. So I fill out tons of applications and anxiously wait. This time around I’ve been lucky enough to have several offers, which is great! But then I come to realize that I can’t accept all of them. Which means that I have to say no to several of them. Which is really hard for me. But it has also taught me a really important lesson—how to gracefully say no. Last fall I conducted several informational interviews with managers and directors within a company I’m really interested in working for, and many of them told me that I need to learn how to say no; they told me that learning to say no is one of the most important lessons they ever learned. I never really understood what they meant until now.

Saying no is hard. It doesn’t always feel very good. Especially when we’re so used to saying yes. I have found myself having a really hard time telling somebody I won’t be able to accept the offer. Maybe part of it has to do with the fact that when I say I can’t accept the opportunity, part of me thinks that saying no means I’m not capable. Why can’t I do everything? I start to question myself and wonder, “Well, is there a way you could make it work? Couldn’t you find a way to balance it all and juggle it all?” But I’m coming to realize that saying no in a graceful and professional way is the best thing I can possibly do for myself. Each time I say no I become a little more comfortable, partly because I know I’m handling each offer as best as I can. I make sure to thank the employers for their time and consideration, and acknowledge what a great opportunity they are offering and ask that they keep me in consideration for future opportunities. I don’t know what I’ll be doing a year from now, or 5 years down the line, or for the rest of my life. I may come back to these employers looking for work, so making sure to be professional, courteous and respectful is very important. And, the truth is, by being selective and choosing the opportunity that’s truly best for me, I can commit everything I have to thriving in that position, which is best for everyone involved. So ironically enough, although I’m in an environment where I’m so used to saying “yes,” I’m learning that by saying “no” to certain opportunities, I’m really dedicating myself to giving my all and bettering my future. And to me, that’s a big “yes!”

Written by Sarah, junior Finance major

How to Stand Out as an Applicant

For many of us college students, life after graduation seems like a dark abyss of job hunting, soul searching, and ramen eating. Stalking job boards, building resumes, and reaching out to successful professionals can seem both intimidating and impossible. Actually applying and interviewing for jobs appears even more daunting. How do I stand out from the other applicants and make a company want to hire me? What can I do to look calm and confident during an interview, when inside I’m a nervous mess? Am I being annoying if I try and get in contact with the employer multiple times? With so many questions and concerns, it can be tempting to just give up and watch another season of American Horror Story on Netflix. But have no fear, on Wednesday, March 26, four successful UP graduates shared their insights on how to wow employers in your applications and interviews during the “What Employers Want: How to Stand Out as an Applicant” alumni panel in Career Services.

With careers in human resources, management, marketing, and recruitment, the alumna had many tips and tricks up their sleeves on how to conquer the job application process:

  • Take the time to customize each resume and cover letter for the company and position you are applying for. Emphasize skills and qualifications that match the company’s needs in your resume. Cover letters should be relevant to the company’s needs, reflect its mission statement, and show your interest in the position. Additionally, any grammar and spelling errors are sure to send your application straight to the trash can. Double, triple, and quadruple check everything you send out.
  • Try to make inside connections to the company you are applying to. Network, network, network, and then network some more. It’s totally okay to name drop all the way up to an interview.
  • Informational interviews are essential. Try to do as many of them as you can.
  • Clean up your social networking profiles because employers will look at them. Those pictures from that party might have gotten you a lot of likes, but your boss probably doesn’t want to see you doing a keg stand.
  • Be five to ten minutes early for interviews and make sure you dress appropriately for the job and company. It’s okay to ask what the dress code is when setting up your interview.
  • Make sure to ask good questions throughout your interview, not just at the end. This shows your ability to think critically. Be enthusiastic and confidant, but not cocky. Have five stories of difficult situations you handled well that you can talk about during your interview.
  • Always follow up any interview with a thoughtful email or thank you card.
  • Don’t be afraid to dream big. If what you want to do doesn’t scare you a little bit, you aren’t dreaming big enough.

With all of this new found knowledge in mind, you are ready to kill it in the job market. Good luck!

Written by Emily, Student Office Assistant

Jobs of the Week!

With the summer job search heating up, here are a few opportunities posted on

iMovie/iPhoto Organization – Job ID 3389329

A busy local family is seeking someone familiar with MAC OS, and specifically iMovie/iPhoto, to organize video clips and photos, and create photo books online. Likely 2-4 hours per week. Flexible on days/times – just a few blocks from the University of Portland.

Governor’s Office Intern – Job ID 3420827

The Governor’s Office Internship Program offers a variety of opportunities for you to gain academic and professional experience in a dynamic environment at the State Capitol in Salem, Oregon. Great opportunity for anyone possibly interested in government work!

Social Media Intern – Job ID 3450230

This role will focus on expanding the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s social media presence locally and regionally, as well as interacting with local media and LLS staff to bolster coverage of events, initiatives and stories.

Corporate Relations Intern – Job ID 3453169

Columbia Sportswear’s internship program provides college students with relevant work experience and exposure to business practices beyond the college classroom. Interns have the opportunity to perform work related to their field of study or work in areas where new skills can be developed. Columbia has several other internships posted on College Central Network.

You need to have an account on to view these job postings. Come to Career Services for assistance applying for these positions Please contact Career Services at 503.943.7201 or if you want have questions.

Written by Sarah, junior Finance major

Leading Yourself to Success through Volunteering

Leadership is becoming one of the most sought-after skills for employers in almost every industry. Leaders are considered smart, intelligent, capable and powerful. The communication skills necessary to be a good leader can carry over into professional settings; and employers seem to be really attracted to people with natural leadership abilities. As a student of the Pamplin School of Business Administration, in our junior year we are required to practice being leaders. For my class, this meant leading a group of sophomores in a community service project. All the sophomore business students were rounded up at 8:45am on a Saturday, and my group went to the Linnton Community Center. The Linnton Community Center is a local non-profit just across the St. John’s Bridge that provides before and after-school programs for kids, as well as emergency food boxes for families in need and a garden space for community members to plant, grow and maintain a garden. My group was assigned tasks such as weeding and building garden boxes; and while the tasks may have seemed small and were not exactly what any of us wanted to be doing on a Saturday morning, the overall experience taught me a very valuable lesson.

Through my experience I learned how beneficial it can be to combine leadership and volunteer work. You can do this in a few different ways—you can create leadership opportunities in volunteer work you are already doing or you can use a leadership opportunity to give back to the community. By doing so, you feel the reward of volunteer work and the knowledge that you’re helping to make a difference. You also gain and/or polish leadership skills that can help you in your career. Combining leadership and volunteer work can also serve as a great networking opportunity—just in the few hours I was volunteering, I was able to network with several different people and tell them about what I’m studying and what I’m interested in. Not only was I able to meet people, but they were able to see me utilizing leadership skills in a real-world setting. They were also able to see that I value being involved in and giving back to my community. Each of these traits can be very important and very appealing to many employers.

So start looking for opportunities to show off your leadership skills while benefitting your community! I think you’d be surprised how easy it is to find something you love and create positive opportunities out of it. If you love sports, maybe consider coaching a summer sports camp—you can volunteer your time to help lead a group of young athletes and have a really positive impact in your community. If you love reading, you can volunteer at a local library by leading a book circle or a children’s’ summer reading program. Whatever your interests may be, there are countless opportunities already out there; or you can create your own opportunities! The rewards and benefits are endless, both in the short-term of how you feel after completing the project and in the long-term, through the skills and networking opportunities you can gain. Come to Career Services; we can help you search for leadership opportunities and volunteer opportunities, and assist you in preparing your materials if there are applications required. As Steve Jobs once said, “Things don’t have to change the world to be important,” so why not start creating positive opportunities today?

Written by Sarah, junior Finance major