Many college hopefuls and current undergrads alike are so busy trying to get into or out of college, that they lose sight of the main goal—landing a good job after graduation. This short-sightedness can have dire consequences. No matter how well-intentioned your laser-focus on school is, you could lose out on the job of your dreams if you don’t start thinking about life after college sooner rather than later. Alas, there’s no time like the present. In this article, we address ten top tips for becoming gainfully employed once your college career has ended.
1. Start Networking (Now!)
If you’ve already crossed off the important step of choosing a college major, then it’s likely you have a fairly good idea of what it is you want to do after graduation. This puts you in a good position to take another important step and begin networking with professionals in your field. Believe it or not, college is a great place to begin making professional connections that can provide big career benefits down the line. Unfortunately, not all students take advantage of these opportunities to get to know people who can make things happen for them after graduation. In many cases, these unsuspecting undergrads are unaware of the networking opportunities available to them. On the other hand, they may just have tunnel vision about completing their degree requirements and successfully graduating. Whatever their reasons, they’re missing out on one of the most significant advantages to attending a postsecondary institution of higher learning in the first place.
Don’t let this circumstance become your reality. Instead, make the most out of your college experience by getting to know your professors, joining student organizations in your academic field, and visiting your school’s career services department to stay abreast of additional networking opportunities. As you get closer to graduation, you may also consider joining a professional organization in your chosen industry. These associations will often accept membership applications from students still working on degrees in the field. Joining one of these organizations will expand your networking opportunities by granting you exclusive access to professional conferences, lecture series, and other industry resources.
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2. Research Your Job Market
The chances of getting a job after graduation depend on several different factors, but one of the big ones is the current status of the job market in your chosen industry. Many variables can affect the demand for employees in your field, including the economy, societal trends, new technologies, and more. Since the demand for occupations is always fluctuating, it’s a good idea to keep your finger on the pulse of these changes. You can do so by visiting the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly, talking to professionals in the field, and reading industry publications. Conducting this type of research can help you develop your professional skills by following the current needs and trends in the field you’re planning to enter. You may need to alter your degree plan to include a specific specialization or certification, for instance. Adding a double major or minor are more drastic steps you can take to ensure you’re well-qualified for the positions in your field that will be most in-demand upon your graduation.
3. Start Working On Your Resume
Whether you’re just starting school or you’re on the brink of graduation, the time to start working on your resume is now. No other single document (other than your diploma) is more critical to the success of your job search efforts, so don’t procrastinate on the important task of developing an impressive resume. As a college freshman, you likely won’t have all of the necessary material to build an impressive resume, but you can still get started on the process. In fact, envisioning what you want your resume to look like eventually can provide the motivation you need to take the next right steps like joining that student organization or getting a start on your industry-specific volunteer work, for instance. Whatever you do, resist the urge to fill in any perceived resume gaps with half-truths or exaggerations—3/4 of hiring managers have reported disqualifying a job candidate based on inaccurate information reported on a resume!
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4. Build an Online Reputation
No matter what stage of the job hunt you’re in, it’s never too soon to start building your professional reputation online. If you start this process as a college freshman, for instance, by the time you graduate, you will have built quite the brand—and the following—for yourself. The process of building your online presence may be somewhat nuanced depending on your field, but there are some general guidelines you can follow here. For example, you can use LinkedIn to begin building an online resume and connect with professionals already working in your field. Other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, for instance, may be more suitable for following industry trends and influencers. You may even consider building a dedicated personal website that illustrates your talents and outlines your interests and plans for the future.
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5. Re-Brand Yourself on Social Media
While you’re online, take some time to clean up your social media profiles and rebrand yourself as an up-and-coming professional. Any online posts featuring frat party shenanigans or any other unsavory content need to go—immediately. While this social media image may be acceptable for a college student, employers will look down on anything posted online that could be considered less than professional. A recent survey of employers found that more than half have eliminated a job candidate based on their social media profile. And remember—it’s not just your profile that counts. Comments made via social media are also fair-game, so take the extra steps to scour the web for anything you may have posted that you wouldn’t be proud to stand by during a job interview.
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6. Get Some Experience
Many college students mistakenly think that they have to earn their degree before getting any real experience in their field of choice. This isn’t the case, though. In reality, there are plenty of opportunities to begin getting your feet wet in your chosen industry before you receive your formal credentials, and not taking advantage of these opportunities is doing yourself a disservice. Of course, you may need to get a little creative to find such opportunities. Studying to be a teacher, for example? Get a part-time tutoring gig or volunteer at an after-school care center. Whether paid or unpaid, any official experience working in your field (or even a closely related one) is definitely resume-worthy!
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7. Utilize Your College’s Career Services
Though their popularity amongst undergrads is growing, college and university career services departments are notoriously untapped resources for students looking to break into the job market after graduation. These offices provide a host of invaluable resources for students who want to get a head start on the job hunt. Some of these offerings include resume assistance, interview preparation, career fairs, and even internship and job placement services. You don’t have to wait until you’re a senior to take advantage of your school’s career services, either. In fact, the sooner you begin planning for your future career, the better your chances of landing your dream job. Even as a freshman, you can take advantage of career services resources and consultation. Career counselors can advise you as to the best courses to take and specializations to consider in order to prepare yourself for achieving your career goals.
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8. Prepare to Work Hard to Find Work
Sometimes, the key to achieving a goal is to alter your mindset. This strategy holds true when looking for a job after college graduation. It’s a common misconception amongst university students that the transition from college to the workforce is a seamless one. While some students are lucky enough to get hired even before their official graduation date, this is the exception rather than the rule. Adjusting your expectations about the job hunt can make all the difference between becoming employed quickly and lingering in post-graduation unemployment purgatory for months on end. The best strategy is to go into your job search with the knowledge that finding a job is, in fact, a job in and of itself. Your duties will likely include drafting endless cover letters, checking and rechecking job search boards, and interviewing with prospective employers. Be prepared to work hard in this quasi-occupation, and your efforts will likely be rewarded in the form of a real job sooner rather than later.
9. Tap into Your School’s Alumni Network
Do you plan to join your school’s alumni network after graduation? If so, you’ll have access to a large database of professional contacts that could prove indispensable to your post-graduation job search. Often, a college or university’s previous graduates are more than eager to help recent grads find professional opportunities, including meetings with potential mentors and employers. The larger your school, the more extensive your alumni network will be, but even small networks can be beneficial. To make the most of this resource, you’ll want to make a point to attend as many alumni events as possible, and be sure to connect with any contacts you meet on social media as well. In doing so, you’ll be creating a virtual database of professional contacts that could potentially help you land a great job in the near future.
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10. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Less-Than-Perfect Offer
Shooting for the stars is admirable, but if you’re not getting the job offers you were expecting after several months of searching, you may want to adjust your expectations. It’s okay to accept a job offer that doesn’t check all of your boxes, and in some cases, it’s the best thing you could do for yourself. After all, not many companies offer top positions to newly-minted grads, so give yourself a break already. Taking what you may perceive as a lower quality job offer could benefit you in the long run, so long as it is somewhat related to the occupation you really want. Everyone –even top executives—had to start somewhere.
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Landing a job after graduation (even if it’s not your dream job) is an achievement to be celebrated. Getting there will require that you pull out some of your best tricks, though, including creativity, perseverance, and good old-fashioned hard work. Fortunately, these are some of the very tools you used to get your college degree, so you already have some experience under your belt. With any luck, your track record of success combined with the tips above will help you become gainfully employed and on the path toward a lifetime of career success!