Advice for someone going to college

Alexander Carrion is a third year law student from Hofstra University Maurice A. Deane School of Law in Hempstead, NY and graduated from Catholic University of America in 2011 with a degree in Political Science. He has worked in sales, immigration law advocacy and interned on Capitol Hill and at major immigration law firms in New York City. As the son of two immigrants, Alex found his calling in Immigration law while working at a legal clinic in Hofstra Law. It’s now his ultimate goal to open an immigration law firm in New York City.

Hi there! I’m Alex. I’m Currently Studying in Hofstra Law School in Long Island New York. I am Studying for Immigration Law and am currently working in a full-time externship at Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington DC for the semester. I’m satisfied with my education, my career goals and even my law school debt (I received a generous scholarship that has opened so many doors for me today, but more advice about PAYING for undergrad and grad school another time!)
I learned a rough lesson about three years ago. I had just graduated from college in Washington DC and I was trying to look for work. It was my dream to work on Capitol Hill when I graduated. I remember learning the ins and outs of political theory and international policy. I was especially fascinated with the Cold War and nuclear policy over the last half century. Often, I imagined getting immersed in the hectic atmosphere of a campaign and helping a candidate address issues on foreign affairs. So as soon as I graduated I looked for work with my political science degree for about a year. I worked on Capitol Hill, volunteered in two campaigns and went to countless networking events over the course of that year. In all that time I did what I had to in order to pay off rent and loans- I worked as a waiter, a temp and a salesman in that year while pursuing my dream. But in that year I found no paying work on the Hill.
One day, I ran into an old classmate in the Capitol’s cafeteria (yes, they have one like any other office building. The food was nice, too!) She did manage to find a job on the Hill not long after she graduated, about a year before I did. What was her major? Drama.
When I left school, I had a GPA slightly above 3.0 and no internships under my belt. I had made a lot of assumptions when I was studying for my undergrad degree, one of which was how much of an impact one’s major has in finding a job in his desired field. It can be important, especially when you are learning a skill with your degree, such as in programming, engineering and architecture. But my conversation with my old classmate hit me with a hard lesson that felt like a ton of bricks: your major doesn’t make you specially qualified for a job. Everything else about you does.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the one thing you have in common with every other classmate in your college is that you are all pursuing a degree. There are dozens if not hundreds of people competing with the same degree from the same school in the job market in your academic year alone. So you need the degree, we all know that. But we need something more; we need to jump out of the page. So follow what my friend did and what I am doing now. Don’t be afraid:
1) To work hard and work early: take an internship and balance it with a part time job. It may be hard to do, especially as a full time student, but this is probably the most important lesson of all. If you learn today to balance a heavy work schedule, you can’t help but learn to handle the heavy workload at the office three years earlier than your peers. And your future employers will see that, too.

2) Take classes that have nothing to do with your degree, especially if they teach you a new skill. You never know when skill outside of your field will be needed. I once had a job application that asked for advanced skill in Microsoft Excel, including how to calculate massive figures automatically on a spreadsheet. Taking advantage of your time at school to learn about a computer program, editing, or even art can, at the very least, be an attention grabber on a resume. At best, it can qualify you for work you may not have gotten otherwise.

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