Career Tips for College Students Graduating in 2014
Your college years can be some of the most exciting, enjoyable, and inevitably stressful part of your life. Life-long relationships are formed, an endless amount of information is learned (with most of it being forgotten) and hopefully, some life and career skills are honed. However, just like all great things, college must eventually come to an end, which marks a new chapter in life, known to many as the dreaded “Real World.” No, not the terrible MTV series, but the life of a professional.
Many students who graduated this past May are now realizing how difficult the post-college career search can be, and with the current state of the economy, who knows when the job market will start to turn up. However, young people are known for their inspiration, as life hasn’t had enough time yet to take its toll on them, which allows for some optimism in the face of despair (some reports have 1 in 2 recent graduates unemployed, ouch!). If you want to give yourself a fighting chance to land a job that a.) you don’t hate, b.) you aren’t bored doing, and c.) can earn you enough to get out of mom and dad’s basement, try these tips:
1. Don’t Procrastinate!
Four years is a long time right? Think back to that first day of college. Remember thinking how much time you had to enjoy yourself, have fun, and not worry about what to do with the rest of your life? I remember thinking the same thing, and now I am halfway done my college career, not knowing where the time went. In another blink-of-an-eye, I will be finished my time as an undergraduate, at risk of leaving school with a fancy piece of paper, a ton of student loans, and no job. The first tip I can provide is do not procrastinate. “Between my studies, social life, and work, I don’t have time to be worrying about life after college. I’ll figure that out when I graduate. I’ll have a degree and find a job and everything will work out.” Classic college kid excuse. However, like they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Career preparation can be the same way. Give yourself a weekly or daily goal (if you are feeling ambitious) to accomplish some task to improve your career preparedness. It could be as simple as taking your resume to a career services or writing center (which I assume most campuses have) and ask someone to look over it. Also, schedule mock interviews or read the Wall Street Journal or anything informational for that matter. The resources on college campuses are unbelievable! Sadly, many of them go wasted. Four years is all you have at college – maybe five, but regardless, it is up to you to decide how you spend those years.
2. Network, Network, Network
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Another classic, overused quote. However, in today’s world, I don’t know if it has ever been more correct; and, if there is a better time and setting for networking than while in college. Social opportunities in college are endless. Take advantage of these opportunities, starting with your peers. Find out what your friends want to do after college, ask them what their parents do, and share work experiences. You never know where a key business relationship or opportunity can be born. The more open-minded you are about it, the more likely that once-in-a-lifetime chance will fall into your lap. Facebook can be a good start, but develop a LinkedIn profile and encourage your friends to do so. This will give you a head start on your competition and open up connections with people that you didn’t even know. Next, move on to your professors. Believe it or not, those men and women teaching your classes are pretty smart, and get paid to do more than just lecture. Instead of sitting on the couch watching television, go to your professor’s office hours. They are experts in their fields and at the very least can offer advice about their experiences. Relationships are arguably the most important factor in getting a job. That being said, doing the bare minimum isn’t going to get you that six figure salary just because you were the most popular kid on campus. But having a strong professional and social network, along with grades and work experience, can definitely open some doors to opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. On the other hand, becoming best friends with the son of a Fortune 100 CEO sure wouldn’t hurt either.
3. Learn About Yourself, and How to Sell “You”
College is a time for great learning. Students in college learn so much about a variety of different topics, but possibly the most important thing students should learn while they are in college isn’t about economics or history or biology, but about themselves. Students need to learn what their strengths and weaknesses are, what skills they possess, and how they can be of value to businesses. If you do not understand how you could help a company, then how would a hiring manager know how you could help their company? Selling yourself through your resume, cover letter, and the interview process, is the difference between getting hired and being unemployed. Once you have figured out how you can best help a company, and how to articulate your skill set on both paper and through presentation, you will have a much better chance of a business leader perceiving you as a better candidate than your competition.
4. Develop Leadership Experience
Employers want ambitious, proven leaders, even for the most menial positions. With the competitiveness of today’s job market, just doing enough to get by with a degree simply isn’t going to cut it. Students coming out of college normally do not have much professional work experience, and because of this, their resumes can look very weak (and very similar to their fellow graduates). However, if you want to stick out from the crowd, take the initiative to join a campus organization. Work hard to contribute to that group, and eventually become a leader of that group. Such experience gives you a competitive advantage, and the more leadership roles you have undertaken, the better you look. The increased sense of responsibility felt after being a student leader can help in the workplace, and also at home, where Mom and Dad won’t always be around to do the cooking and cleaning.
Intern at Barton Career Advisors, LLC
Lerner College of Business & Economics
University of Delaware, Class of 2014