When you’re doing the math on higher education and student loans, the post-college jobs you can get are central to the career equation.
So as you work towards earning a degree, keep in mind how you plan to use it after graduation. You also need to know what those jobs pay.
Why? Because many students feel ill-prepared for the post-grad job market. In fact, only four in 10 seniors feel their college experience has prepared them for the workforce, according to McGraw-Hill Education. Are you an Arts and Humanities major (like I was)? You’re three times more likely to feel “not at all prepared” for a career.
The good news is that college is a great time to get career-ready, if you’re willing to do more than just your degree.
“There are a lot of things that college students can do to make themselves more marketable. Many of them are actually fun things to get involved with during their time in undergrad,” says Valerie Streif, a senior advisor with Mentat, a career mentoring resource.
Here’s what students should be doing to prepare for their first post-college jobs.
1. Visit Your Campus Career Center
Your university’s campus career center provides valuable (and free) resources to help you find your first job out of college. “The career center can help students learn the basics about job searching,” says Bianca Jackson, a career happiness expert and coach.
Most career centers will provide counseling to help you find careers that most interest you. They will also help you identify the qualifications you need to pursue them.
They also provide help with career skills like writing a resume. Creating a resume mock-up and getting feedback is vital when it’s time to your best foot forward. A career center can also coach you through mock interviews and help you practice your interviewing skills.
2. Apply Classroom Learning
“My number one piece of advice for college students would be to invest in themselves? Learning, reading, and writing more on subjects outside of the classroom,” says Jackson.
She suggests that college students get involved with student organizations, on-campus internships or practicums, or co-operatives to “round out their education [and] put the theories they’re learning to practical use.”
3. Get Leadership Experience
Joining on-campus organizations is also a way to get valuable leadership experience — something that 80 percent of employers look for in candidates, according to NACE’s Job Outlook 2016 survey.
“One of the best things to put on a resume is a leadership position, whether it be at a job or for an extracurricular club,” Streif says. You don’t have to be class president (though it doesn’t hurt). Even leading an ultimate frisbee team “shows dedication and willingness to lead,” Streif says.
4. Analyze and track your achievements
As you prepare for finding post-college jobs, start to compile achievements, growth, and wins, suggests Erica McCurdy, a career and life coach who works with college students.
“Create a document that keeps track of success stories and hurdles you have overcome. Also include opportunities you have taken advantage of in school and work. And note the challenges you have identified, then either met or used as a chance to change something about your college experience,” McCurdy says.
Be sure to track these things as you go. That way, you’ll have actual experience and achievements to point to in cover letters and interviews. It can also help you better highlight what makes you stand out.
“Make note of interesting stories you can turn into anecdotes. In particular, look for examples that describe your personality, work ethic, or ability to work as a team,” McCurdy suggests.
5. Build Your Network
Networking can be vital to students searching for post-college jobs, especially as they struggle to get noticed among other applicants.
On-campus connections can help a lot, of course. But “to really stand out, students need to talk directly to people who know the industry,” says Dr. Karina Dusenbury, a college and career coach and the founder of Maximize College.
For instance, Dr. Dusenbury suggests scouring the bios of professors, instructors, and other faculty members with non-academic industry experience.
“These instructors can give [students] the inside scoop on how to stand out and what employers expect,” she explains.
Students can also make valuable connections in their field of interest through their college’s alumni association. “Alumni can educate students about their field and recommend classes or extracurricular activities they found beneficial,” Dr. Dusenbury points out.
6. Complete an Internship
”Hands-on work experience is far more valuable than anything you could ever learn in the classroom. So it is becoming absolutely essential that students gain experience in the field they hope to enter,” Streif says.
For true real-world experience, an internship or relevant work experience can be irreplaceable. “Students should be working, interning, and attending as many field-specific events as possible while in school,” says Emily White, a talent agent and the author of the upcoming book Interning 101.
Internships take some work to apply for and get, which can further help you develop and test career skills. They also show you are a self-starter with a passion for your industry.
7. Get the Right Attitude as You Prepare for Post-College Jobs
One of the most important things you can learn from an internship or job search? That you don’t know everything. Humility, teachability, and a hunger to learn are central to the right attitude for getting a job after college.
“New college graduates should have an attitude focused on continued learning. They should also demonstrate a respect for mentors and seasoned professionals in the workplace.”
So says Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, a professional resume writer with Feather Communications. She adds: “Employers can teach technical skills and abilities,” Dr. Rothbauer-Wanish points out. “In fact, they often look to ‘mold’ college students into their own habits, culture, and practices of the organization. However, people skills, strong communication abilities, and active listening are are critical. After all, these are the skills required at almost any job position.”
Are you ready to do become marketable while still in college? Are you ready to do more?
For this post, we’d like to thank our friends at Levo.