Far too many college students think that preparing for a career starts the second semester of their senior year with a trip to their career services office. Many others never even make use of this crucial campus resource, believing that good grades are all they need to get a job after graduation.
Although earning a high GPA in a major that suits your strengths and interests is a good start on the college-to-career pathway, in today’s tough economy, good grades are not enough. Here are some steps that you should be taking as early as your freshman year to ensure that your job search will be successful:
Visit the career office.
Ideally, you should start tapping into the resources offered by your career office as a freshman or sophomore. This will help you discover a career path that you will enjoy and give you time to build your resume with experiences that support that path. The career office will also review your resume and cover letter, so when the time comes, you can be ready to submit applications.
Do your research.
Don’t wait until after graduation to begin your job search. Researching career options throughout your college career will help you to understand what is expected of you within various careers, determine which jobs are in high demand, and learn about industry trends, such as which business firms are strong and which are faltering. Use the library for books, articles, publications, blogs, and websites on various career paths.
When the time comes to begin applying for jobs, keep an eye on all kinds of websites, want ads, and job boards. Use the job boards on campus or online and the listings your school offers. They can help you target your search and be more knowledgeable for your interviews, which will be essential to getting that job.
It has been said that up to 85 percent of jobs are found through personal contacts. So whenever you get a chance to talk to someone about your career interests, do it. Talk to your instructors or administrators who know you. Have conversations with a regular customer at your part-time Dunkin’ Donuts job who works in your field of interest, or make more formal contacts through social networking sites such as LinkedIn. Reach out in whatever ways you can.
Engage in extracurricular activities.
Extracurriculars reveal you as a leader—a caring, thoughtful, creative, and engaged person. If you can manage to keep a high GPA, hold a job or internship, and be involved in clubs or activities, that shows that you know how to manage time and multitask. It is also another route to building connections and supporters.
Attend campus events.
Watch for Career Week events, job fairs, and other special presentations on campus given by alumni or others in your field of interest. They can offer valuable information on what it’s like to be in various fields and provide opportunities to network.
Get an internship.
Evidence shows that internships are key to career readiness. They allow you to test the waters in a field of interest, build a resume, and build your networks. The career office can help you find internships, and you may also find opportunities through campus organizations and members of your department.
Request informational interviews.
Look for an alumni network or mentor program on campus that facilitates networking and informational interviews. Contact local businesses and organizations, and ask if someone in your area of interest would be willing to meet with you. Informational interviews give you the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about a career path from people actually working in the industry. This type of interview is specifically meant to gain information and broaden your network, so you can make better career choices and be better prepared when it’s time for actual job interviews.
Getting a job after college involves work and planning. You need to make it part of your entire college experience and build toward it as you go. Every experience and every encounter matters. You might not start out at your dream job right away, but if you follow the steps above, you will have a much greater chance of finding yourself on the path to a career you will love.