Many college students begin thinking about post-graduation life during their final year of college, but to fully prepare for the “real world” it’s best to start early. Some people come to college knowing exactly what they’d like to do, while others (like me) face the uncertainty of not knowing. College is a fantastic time to explore your options – trying things out to see what fits – but this exploration doesn’t have to be detrimental to your senior year job hunt; in fact, it can even jump start your post-grad career! Here are some ways to stay on track for a successful career while exploring what college has to offer.
Internships are a great way to figure out if a job or industry appeals to you before committing to it full time – and they aren’t just for juniors and seniors! Exploring internships early in your college career can help narrow down what you’d like to do after graduation, and shows employers that you’re interested in them. Internships can also be great ways to learn skills that aren’t taught in the classroom, like navigating a professional environment or learning how to ask for help from a tough supervisor.
Nailing the Interview
Interviews are your best opportunity to show employers that you’re interested, qualified, and can succeed on the job. They can be tough, but regardless of industry, if you prepare effectively you’re sure to succeed. One good way to prepare is to think about your why. Why do you want to work at the place where you’re interviewing? It’s important to be able to articulate your ‘odyssey’ – the story that explains your background, why you’re interested in the position, and how your skills match your employer’s needs.
You may think LinkedIn is just Facebook for old people, but the professional social network can be a useful tool to find jobs you may be interested in, and to see what people in those jobs did to impress their future employers. LinkedIn demystifies the steps along the way to your dream job and highlights your qualifications – internships, volunteer experience, or campus leadership – to future employers.
If you’re curious about a certain professor’s subject area, don’t be afraid to go to their office hours – you’d be surprised how few undergrads take the initiative to learn more outside of the classroom. Likewise, if you see that someone on LinkedIn is working in a field you’re interested in, it can’t hurt to shoot them a message asking to learn more. These connections can be useful ways to learn more about different career paths, and can occasionally lead to jobs themselves – when choosing between equally qualified applicants, recruiters are more likely to hire someone they know personally and already trust.
Last but not least, the best way to show future employers that you’re qualified is to excel while on campus. Right now, your ‘job’ is to be a student. There aren’t many times after college where your primary responsibility is simply to learn. Take advantage of this! Learn from your professors and learn from your friends. You may have a stellar LinkedIn profile and know lots of people in an industry, but don’t forget about the basics. In the whirlwind of college, make sure that school comes first.
Gabriel Lerner is the President of the NSCS National Leadership Council and a student at The University of Michigan. The NLC can be found on Twitter at @NSCS_NLC and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/the.nscs.nlc.