In a recent post, Why Your Career Planning Should Start Right Now, I suggested that college students need to start career planning right from day one, freshman year.
In response, I received a tweet from a senior who graduated a few days ago, “What do you do when you are exactly the student described in that post except you are now in the real world?” Basically, what do you do if it’s too late to join student groups, do summer internships, attend career fairs, and take part in college job shadowing programs?
I replied, but given that it’s hard to give solid advice in 140 characters, I thought I’d expand on the responses that I gave to this new grad…
Every Starting Line is Different
When I first entered the career services field in 2009, the website that I inherited was horrendous, but I loved the opening line on the home page, which was something like, it’s never too early, or too late, to start the process of career planning.
You start where you start.
If you are three days out of college or three years out, don’t kick yourself for not being in the place where you want to be in your career timeline. And, to the career advisers out there, recognize the state of mind these young professionals are in. We don’t want to shame them for not following the career planning playbook. “Often times when a senior comes in May, they have already beaten themselves up for not coming in sooner so they don’t need to hear it from me,” points out Patricia Corrigan, a career counselor at Boston College. “There are usually tears, and then we get down to business of making an action plan.”
Young professionals can still follow the advice in my career planning blog post on YouTern, with some modifications. The big buckets are still build your portfolio of experience and build your network.
Take on special assignments. You might feel like you’re in a dead-end or a mindless job that they could train a monkey to do. However, think about special projects you might suggest to the boss. When I was just out of college and I had been working during senior year as a desk clerk at a hotel, the manager gave me a project to try to collect on old invoices that were still outstanding. By doing that, I developed some new skills, and I had something more interesting to say on my resume than “check guests in and process payments.”
Volunteer. Even though school is done and campus clubs are no longer an option, you can volunteer for any number of non-profits in your area. You might be able to help an organization raise money, create a budget, build a website, write marketing materials… or do whatever it is that you do best! Volunteer because it’s the right thing to do, and in addition, you’ll build skills and experience… and your network.
Building a Network
Find alumni. You might have missed the alumni networking socials on campus, but it’s never too late to reach out to other alums from your school. Some career centers have searchable databases of alumni, and everyone has access to alumni on LinkedIn. Look for “Find Alumni” under the “Connections” pull-down menu. Once you find the alumni from your college, you can narrow down the group of alumni to a manageable list just by clicking within any of the 6 columns of information.
Meet people face-to-face. Research who the leaders are within your professional community; get in contact and ask for informational / exploratory meetings. Even as a graduate, you should still be able to attend career events at your college. Watch for career fairs and opportunities to meet with alumni.
Be visible. There are numerous quotes from famous people along the lines of “part of success is showing up.” Obviously, you can’t just be there physically hoping that good things happen, but the point is, you do need to put yourself out there. You’ll never achieve success if you stay home all day. I’ve written so many pieces about networking, including my blog last week Job Searching by Wandering Around. Take a look at my other blog posts linked below.
Connect with people on campus. Your old professors have contacts. Stop into the alumni office and ask how to best connect with other alumni. And most importantly, take advantage of the services from your career center. They can help you put together a plan. They know the organizations that hire graduates just like you, and they have the contacts. Ask them about best practices on resumes, networking, and social media. Ask them to help you prepare for interviews. And, they might subscribe to online tools and resources that you can use.
And if all else fails, be like the student who tweeted me this morning, basically saying, what do I do now? Tweet me @RichCareer or comment on this blog. If I can help you, I will.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Rich Career!
About the Author: Rich Grant has a background in writing and editing, business planning, and higher education. Rich is the current president of the Maine College Career Consortium and the former director of career services at a small four-year college in Maine. He is wrapping up a 10-month interim position as a career adviser and internship coordinator at a private college and is seeking his next role in business or higher education. Find Rich on LinkedIn and Twitter, and become a regular visitor to his blog where he imparts his words of wisdom once or twice a week. Follow Rich on Twitter!