Tanima Narang, ’23SPS, Enterprise Risk Management, studied law in India and Germany, taught English in Japan, and worked as a business coordinator at a medical devices company in India. While preparing to enter graduate school at Columbia, she learned about the unique challenges of the U.S. job market, and decided to enroll in the U.S. Career and Communication Accelerator course. She discusses what she learned during her time in the summer class, how she approaches the U.S. job market as an international student, and her current experience as an ERM student and a member of Student Government.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you decided to take the USCCA course.
After studying law and business, I was working as a teacher in Japan until the pandemic started. Then I moved back to India to work in the business sector. When I attended Columbia’s informational sessions for admitted students to the Enterprise Risk Management master’s program, they mentioned the USCCA course as an introduction to the US job market. In one information session I attended, a few alumni discussed their experiences with the job market, and learning how active you have to be in the process made me nervous and want to get a head start, which is when I realized I wanted to do the course.
Since I was going to be both living in the U.S. for the first time and starting a new career, I figured the program could only help me. It was a four hour daily commitment for four weeks, but I was spending a lot of time at home due to the pandemic and decided I’d be able to make it work. It seemed like a great way to start my transition to grad school and get into the rhythm of how Columbia works, and I knew I’d at least gain some level of confidence in applying for jobs. Of course, during the course, all of us realized how much more valuable it was than what we initially expected. I feel more confident in approaching applications now than I would’ve been without the UCCA course, which finished before the start of my program and my busy schedule.
2. How was the learning experience?
I’d never done an online class before, so I had no idea how virtual learning would be, but I actually didn’t ever feel lost. There were about fifteen students, so we were able to get individual attention. Also, the way I am, I’ll speak up and ask questions whenever I feel confused anyway, and the teachers were happy to clarify all doubts.
The professors also often put us in Zoom breakout rooms, where we’d do activities and talk about our experiences. After a month of learning with each other for four hours every day, we got to know everyone well, so we were quite excited to meet up once we all arrived at Columbia.
3. What skills for navigating the U.S. job market did you learn from the course?
They taught us how to structure and write resumes, and a lot of us ended up transforming ours completely. I’m using a lot of other practical tools I learned in the course as well. I’ve already done two or three informational interviews, I’ve reached out to people on LinkedIn. There used to be nothing on my LinkedIn as I didn’t ever use it, but now that I’ve updated it, I’m excited to make use of its features and benefits!
We learned that with a lot of companies, applications are screened by AI technology and sorted before even going to people at the company, so they helped us with how to take that into consideration when crafting resumes. Before, I had just one resume, which listed previous roles and responsibilities, and I used that everywhere. In the USCCA course, they taught us how to tailor it for each position.”
4. Did you take advantage of any Columbia career resources?
Career coaches Diane Spizzirro, who is the SPS Director of Career Education and Development, and Brittany Ober, who teaches in the American Language Program, made us feel totally comfortable about reaching out whenever we needed to, so I took them up on that a few times. Even when Diane was busy one particular week, she immediately connected me to someone else who could help. Columbia also assigned me a career advisor once the course finished, who I’ve already reached out to a few times.
5. Have you gotten involved in any other ways at Columbia?
I knew I wanted to be a part of SPSSG--the school’s student government. I campaigned and have since been elected as Member-At-Large, and am excited to serve as a representative to my peers in the ERM program.
I’ll also be involved in The Greater Good Challenge, which the Career Design Lab holds in partnership with the Beba Foundation. I saw the challenge on Diane’s LinkedIn post one day, back when I was still in India, and I didn’t know anyone else at Columbia, so I posted about it in the social media group for the USCCA course, and now four of us are working together as a team! The idea is to come up with a business proposal for global and societal good, so we’ve built an idea and are working on a proposal now.
6. What was the highlight of the USCCA program?
The course gave me the opportunity to really look within and at my past experiences and see what skills I have accumulated. I had never done that before, and now I know how to define my transferable skills and exactly why someone should hire me. I’m confident in presenting my “authentic self,” which is a concept we focused on in the course. Each individual learned about their personality and what they specifically have to offer in the job market.
We learned not to try and be what we think a company is looking for, but instead, to be confident in what we have and showcase that. If you can figure out what you genuinely have to offer and consistently show it, then you will do well. People will take note and watch you deliver, which will build trust and confidence. Learning how to structure a resume was incredibly important, but the most impactful part was the confidence we all cultivated.
Learn more about Columbia’s U.S. Career & Communication Accelerator course.