Guest Blogger Kristine: Taking a Semester Off

Hey everyone!

I’m Kristine, and I’m so excited to be a guest blogger for the JHU Career Center! Less than a year ago, I was one of those students who had never even stepped into the Career Center, not even to get one of those awesome free water bottles. As I was working through my focus area and upper division courses for my BME degree, I started to realize that I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college, and that “after college” was coming up faster than I had anticipated! I finally went into Career Center and made an appointment with Tracy Carter, and since then I’ve been telling all my friends about how incredibly helpful a good career counselor can be.

Tracy was instrumental in taking me through the steps to find an internship: she helped me figure out what I might want in a career, helped me network with JHU alumni in my fields of interest, and guided me through the process of finding internships, crafting my resume and cover letters, and acing the interview. In January 2012, I decided to take a semester off to really focus on my career goals and my internship search. I was apprehensive at first, but it turned out to be a great opportunity to focus my efforts on learning about different careers and landing the right internship to get a taste of those careers for myself.

I looked at careers and internships not necessarily related to my major, to give me some taste of the wide variety of options that are open to me after graduation. I eventually started to look into careers in computer programming and user experience design. Once I honed in on a career field, I was glad to have my days free to look for internships, draft resumes and cover letters, and network with professionals in the field. Tracy again was a huge help in connecting me with her contacts in various fields and getting me started doing informational interviews with various JHU alumni. After I got started meeting UX designers and game programmers, I began to attend networking events specific to those fields, where I met and talked to a lot more people about their career paths. Attending networking events and doing informational interviews eventually became a bit easier and a lot more fun once I got started; unfortunately, once I started my internship, I had very little free time to do these things.

After a few weeks of networking and applying to internships, I landed an internship at GameDesk, a small nonprofit that makes educational games and works with schools to implement creative programs that make learning both fun and effective. I started out as a project management intern, which was an interesting experience both due to my inexperience in (and eagerness to try) project management, and due to the nature of interning at a startup. When I started, there wasn’t a project manager that I was working directly under, but everyone at GameDesk was friendly and willing to provide what guidance they could. Roles at a startup are fairly flexible, which was great for me as an intern because I was able to explore a variety of different roles. At the same time, I longed for the structure that I imagined a more established company would give. All in all, my first few months at GameDesk were incredibly educational for me in figuring out the kinds of things I’d want to do, and the kind of place I’d want to work at. I was able to experience trying out everything from game programming to project management to event planning to recruitment, and I learned the meaning of “company culture.”

In May, GameDesk offered to extend my internship through the summer as more of a full-time position. By this time, I had become fairly involved in the company. I was a key coordinator of conferences and travel, and I was directly involved in managing the development of one of the games up until that point. I was also able to see the development of the company itself. In April we received a large grant from AT&T, and as a result, we expanded from about 15 people to 45 (and we’re still growing!). I watched us grow to have not only more game developers and teachers to work on our individual projects, but also more middle management to take care of the GameDesk as a whole. By being a part of this process, I learned a lot about company structures and the needs of a growing organization.

My experience at GameDesk has taught me a lot about different careers and what it’s like working in video games and education, along with probably more than I ever wanted to know about running a nonprofit. I’ve met a lot of great people who are not only valuable industry contacts but also have become friends I’ll look forward to keeping in touch with. I started out my semester off a bit anxious about finding an internship that would be a good use of my time. I found that my experiences, not only at GameDesk but also in networking and learning about myself different careers and industries, were exactly what I needed to help me answer the big question in my mind: What comes next? In the fall I’ll be back at Hopkins finishing up the last year of my degree, but while doing so I’ll have my experiences to reflect on and my contacts help me in deciding and discovering where I’ll be after graduation.

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