Entering the workforce straight out of college can be challenging for some, but there are plenty of steps you can take to prepare yourself to hit the job market with confidence once graduation is over.
Plan out your semesters in advance
Depending on the career field you are interested in, such as computer science, education, medicine, or engineering, there will be certain class requirements you need to fulfill in order to graduate. Plan out your semesters well in advance so you are able to get into the classes you want, and leave enough time for studying and other priorities. Establishing an organized system for accomplishing all of your tasks will help to ensure you don’t get too overwhelmed when trying to meet deadlines.
Volunteer and join extracurricular activities
Certainly, joining extracurricular activities can look good on a college application, but it can also look good on your resume or CV.
Enlist in activities you are passionate about. There are plenty of options to choose from, including everything from student government and debate teams, to sports and non-profit clubs. Not only will you reap the benefits of meeting new people, but you will also gain leadership skills and develop confidence.
Even volunteering to lead on a school project can be personally rewarding and demonstrates that you are responsible and committed.
Apply for internships
A great deal of schools advertise internships to students as a way for them to gain hands-on experience in a professional environment and to network with industry experts during their summer/winter break.
In the work world, internships can set you apart from other candidates, and can give you the edge you need to win over future employers.
Seek mentorship from professors and alumni
Your professors are the greatest source of knowledge when it comes to finding out how to make it in your career field. Don’t be afraid to stay after class or visit them during their office hours to ask questions.
You campus alumni can also offer a wealth of information that you wouldn’t know otherwise. Reach out to them and set up a meeting where you can pick their brain about their own college and work experiences.
Both professors and alumni are good contacts to stay in touch with should you ever need advice or a letter of recommendation.
Go to career fairs
Many schools will have annual career fairs where employers set up booths with hopes of recruiting talented individuals to come join their businesses.
Since there will be a lot of other students around, you will have to make an effort to stand out. Dress professionally, carry copies of your resume, collect business cards, ask questions, and come prepared with a personal “elevator pitch” to cite to employers when they ask about your skills and other key accomplishments.
Visit a career counselor
Post-secondary institutions like to see their alumni do well because it’s in their best interest to shape the leaders of tomorrow.
Set up an appointment to visit your on-campus career services. They will have career experts who can give you tips and advice on what you can do to prepare for graduation and help you to develop an employment plan, resume, or interview skills.
Look out for job postings in the career office. This is usually the department where employers send their ads to recruit graduates.
Polish your Resume/CV/portfolio
Start applying for positions early in your last semester. You will need a polished resume or CV that effectively communicates your skills and qualifications. Tailor your resume and cover letter to the position you are applying for, list relevant volunteer or leadership activities, and detail your most recent accomplishment—your education.
For positions that require samples of your work, such as a graphic designer, copywriter, architect, photographer, etc., arrange all your best work in a portfolio for an employer to look at if needed.
If you have been granted an interview, this is your time to seal the deal. Put your best foot forward, be prepared, and arrive early. While you may not have the real-world experience outside of volunteering, demonstrate your skills and enthusiasm through examples of your accomplishments and a positive attitude. If you have made it this far, you can only do your best to make a good impression. After the interview, thank them via email or letter as a polite reinforcement of your appreciation.
Be persistent and keep practicing
Do not stop applying for positions. It may take time to find the job you want, but you need to keep at it if you hope to succeed.
Keep in touch with mentors and ask around for any opportunities where you can get your foot in the door. Even if you have to send out dozens of applications, finding employment is not always going to be easy, and the more persistent you are during this transitional period, the better.
Lastly, keep learning and honing your skills. If you are a graphic designer, journalist, or chef, continue to practice your craft. That way, if you finally land a job one year after you have graduated, you will still have the proficiency to excel in your new position.
What have you done to prepare yourself for life after school? Do you have tips to add?