Much to the dismay of many parents (and students) who fork over thousands of dollars to institutions of higher education, going to college doesn’t teach you HOW to get a job.
Throughout my career I have encountered many students who wait until their senior year to start trying to figure out what the next move is. Career planning starts when you begin college, not three months before graduation. Senior year comes and well-meaning parents ask, “how is the job search” or “have you found a job yet”, but fail to recognize often that their soon to be college graduate doesn’t even know where to even start looking.
While your philosophy professor can help you expand your horizons, his job isn’t to teach you how to put together a resume.
So if college doesn’t teach you how to get a job, who does? It is a combination of asking others who have been where you are, reading and learning along the way. Your professors are largely there for the purpose of equipping you with knowledge about subject areas. While your philosophy professor can help you expand your horizons, his job isn’t to teach you how to put together a resume. They are experts in their fields, not the field of career preparation. Connect with industry professionals, use career services on campus, join professional networks, build your network and do internships.
Figuring out what you want to pursue and planning your career does not happen only in the confines of the classroom. If you are a freshman, use these tips to get ahead of the game. If you are a senior, all hope is not lost, you just need to act quickly.
1. Start on Campus
Some colleges require students to complete some sort of career awareness class that will use self-assessment tools to point you in the right direction of the best career fit. These courses also sometimes provide general information on the job search process, writing resumes and interviewing. For the most part, they tend to be 1 or 2 credit hours and are not super challenging. Take this course your first or second year and it can potentially save you some time (and money) by helping you pick the right major sooner.
2. Don’t Waste Your Breaks
When you are in college, life revolves around fall, spring and summer break. Did you know that the best summer internships are found in the winter. How can you maximize those weeks between fall and spring semester? You can volunteer, do an internship, take a non-academic course online that can teach you a different skill, read books, and do informational interviews. I am not saying that you have to be all work, all the time, but I am saying to not waste your time.
3. Intern Early, Intern Often
You MUST complete an internship before you graduate. I don’t care if your major doesn’t require it, I am telling you, do an internship. I’ve placed over 400 interns with major companies across the country, many of whom went on to be hired. It is actually in your best interest to do multiple internships. I did eight internships in college so I know it can be done.
When you graduate, you will be competing against thousands of other recent graduates also with good grades from a good college. You have to begin to separate yourself from the pack. Internships give you the hands on experience that can be the difference maker for you. Finding an internship doesn’t have to be daunting or overwhelming. You can download my free Internship Manual Toolkit for quick and easy steps to getting your internship search underway.
4. Learn How to Network
Networking doesn’t have to be scary. The process of expanding the circle of people you know is something that you must embrace to be successful. Who you know can be the key to landing a great internship and potentially a great job. It isn’t just about collecting friends on Facebook or followers on Instagram, I’m talking about building quality relationships with people that will be invested in, and care about your future.
Your network will supply you with internship or job leads, connect you to mentors and connect you to others. Aim to fill your network with peers as well as professionals. Building your network is not just about finding people that you can help you out, but also about helping others along the way.
5. Understand the Tools
In today’s job search climate you also need a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a social media network used for building professional contacts. Social media can be a burden or a blessing. Be mindful of your social media accounts across the board, what you post and what you are tagged in. Employers are often checking out your accounts looking for things that might eliminate you from competition. Understand the power of social media and how you can connect with companies and learn about brands and internships, but be sure you don’t let these tools come back to bite you.
You must have a professionally done resume for your job search. I’ve developed an affordable online course The New Grads Guide to Creating a Standout Resume which takes you from A-Z in creating the best resume possible. My course includes resume templates, videos and worksheets to walk you through creating a resume and awesome cover letter. If you are not ready to invest in my course, head over to your career services office to get assistance with putting together a resume that reflects your skills and abilities.
Strong interviewing skills will also be something that you should build over your collegiate career. Participate in mock interviews and get feedback so you can perfect your interview style. Interviews happen in person, over Skype, on the phone or even over lunch. Start learning about the interview process in general so you’ll be able to find your comfort zone in all situations.
Career planning is an ongoing activity. Even after you have laid out your plan for what you want, it will likely change over the course of your college career. As you meet new people, expand your interests, become a leader, get involved and complete internships, your plan will change, and that is totally OK! Your college education will give you the substance and the background qualifications to go after your career, but the How is up to you.