BY JORI HAMILTON
For many college students, the whole point of going in the first place is to discover what really interests them, earn a degree, and quickly land their dream job. As a student, you want to make a huge difference in the world and your career. But for many students, going from earning good grades in classes to accepting their dream position seems like a vast canyon that can feel improbable to hurdle over.
Many recent graduates actually struggle quite a bit to find a job in their field after college. In fact, over half of all college graduates will hold down a job that doesn’t require a degree at all at some point after graduation. It takes a bit more forethought and preparation to find something really great to transition into.
That being said, when and how to start strategizing for a post-college career is frequently at the forefront of the minds of many students. Here are five ways to begin preparing early and successfully.
Try Out Potential Careers
You may be super passionate about your degree and completely dedicated to completing your major so you can work in your chosen field. But why wait? Far too many students wait until graduation to actually apply for jobs in their field, and many quickly realize that working in the real world is a lot different than studying a topic in college. Some even decide that field is not for them after all. Trying out different potential jobs can make it easier to smoothly transition and make an impact right away.
Getting job experience in fields you are interested in during the two or three summers between school can be invaluable, so don’t be afraid to start early. Not only does it give you a taste of what life after graduation will look like, but it can help build work experience and skills that will give you a leg up when it comes time to apply for a permanent position.
Expecting to know exactly what career is well-suited for your interests is a bit of a stretch. Sure, you will certainly figure it out over time, but getting advice and input can put you on the right track a lot faster. Visit your college’s career center for advice on all sorts of things, from existing jobs out there, to internship opportunities, to resume and application support.
Take it a step further once you are in an internship position by asking your new co-workers for their input on how to be successful. The vast majority of them are more than willing to share what did and didn’t work for them, as well as what they would have done differently if they were in your shoes. Mentors can shed light on tips and tricks to successful applications that you didn’t even think of.
It may seem outdated, but many people still get jobs because of who they know or who has put in a positive word for them. Because of this, the value of networking cannot be understated. Join clubs, keep up with old supervisors, build relationships with professors, and attend events related to your field to interact with professionals in the industry. All of these things could make the difference in quality recommendations or even direct job offers.
Build a Resume and Cover Letter
Start working on a resume early and try to keep it updated with everything you do that could help you to get a job later. Many professionals keep a “master Resume’ with every shred of experience they’ve acquired and only copy the best and most necessary information into the resume document they send potential employers. The same can be said for a cover letter. There are great resources for building the perfect cover letter or resume.
Getting started on a resume can be challenging, but once you have a template lined out, it can be relatively easy to maintain. College career centers are full of resume experts that can get you set up and proofread everything before you send it out. Many previous employers and mentors are often happy to offer resume suggestions that can make you stand out as well — so don’t be afraid to ask!
Prepare for an Interview
Preparing and successfully executing the interview is the last major step to landing your dream job. The majority of jobs that you will apply to and interview for will present similar interview questions. These are usually the most important ones to nail, so it helps to think out answers ahead of time. Once this is done, more time can be devoted to job-specific interview questions.
While interviewing, try to highlight some of your soft skills as well as your specific qualifications. Practice answering questions with friends until you are able to answer them with confidence. Likewise, spend time thinking of questions to ask your interviewer. Quality questions show that you have thought about this organization and what your place in it might look like.
Transitioning into your dream job after college can seem like a real challenge, but with the right preparation, it can go smoothly. Build a network, ask for advice, and learn from mentors. Try different positions during internships and figure out exactly what is right for you. Finally, use this information to build a great resume and prepare for an interview that will blow your future employer’s socks off. Good luck!
Bio: Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Northwest who is passionate about education and social justice issues. You can follow her on Twitter @HamiltonJori