June 8, 2021
While it’s never too late to start your job search, there are clear benefits to beginning as early as you can in college. No matter what stage you’re at, you should prioritize launching your career and taking concrete steps to facilitate your job launch. Whether you are about to begin your Freshman year of college, or have finished your undergrad experience, there are concrete, appropriate steps you can take to set yourself up for job-launch success – here is what you need to prioritize at each stage of your journey.
Your college Freshman and/or Sophomore years are vital for exploring different career options and areas of interest, and positioning yourself to take advantage of future opportunities. Underclassmen should strive to strike a balance between investigating different areas of interest, and understanding how they can make decisions that will benefit their future selves.
Chart a course: Understand what paths you can take that will, over the course of your college career, allow you to develop into an employable graduate. Think about what majors or minors are of interest to you, and what fields they typically feed into. If you are considering a non-traditional major, consider how you can complement this during your college years to maintain your career interests.
Identify options: Seek ways to become involved at school, such as campus groups, club sports teams, or Greek organizations. There are likely hundreds of options on campus and in the community. Understand who is leading the groups that interest you – connect with these leaders to understand what they do both during the school year and over their summers. Become actively engaged – but do not compromise your academic performance.
Start Skill Building: You are going to need to develop hard and soft skills if you hope to obtain competitive internships during future summers – learn what skills you’ll need by researching internship listings, and understand how you can build these skills either through college courses or independent learning.
For many college students, their Junior and Senior years give them their first experience with the work world. Either through part-time jobs or summer internships, this is when you can make your professional debut. Spend this time looking for opportunities, and making them count.
Get Work Experience: Campus jobs and positions working in the local community will allow you to develop and apply skills, demonstrate your work effort, and prove yourself to experienced professionals who can serve as references for future jobs and programs you plan to pursue.
Be Creative: The pandemic is still impacting the economy, and internships may be hard to come by. If you cannot find a formal summer internship, think outside the box to find opportunities that will still provide valuable experience. Try tackling an in-depth personal project, or look for other opportunities that will allow you to work on a real-world problem. For example, if you cannot find a Data Science internship, maybe you can take a course that provides complex case studies and group projects. These kinds of experiences will provide valuable talking points when you are interviewing with future employers.
Consider Combining Experiences: Your summer can provide you with a unique opportunity to pursue multiple, different kinds of experiences – and you should not feel you have to limit yourself to one specific pursuit. Perhaps you can combine academic classes with a part-time volunteer experience, such as helping a non-profit organize their database. If you have an internship, consider taking a complementary skill-building course that you can put to use on the job. Taking a multi-faceted approach will not only help you become more well-rounded, but will also demonstrate your commitment to building your career.
To successfully position yourself after wrapping up a college or master’s program, consider a three-pronged approach to managing your job search that will allow you to maximally develop yourself as a candidate and seize upon opportunities that arise.
Go “ All In” on your Job Search: Until you get hired, you should treat your search as a full-time job. Create a job-search plan to provide structure to your search. Develop a strong marketing playbook (resume, LinkedIn, cover letter, digital footprint) and make sure your application materials are current, tailored, and dynamic. Undergo intensive interview training, learn to research industries and companies, and craft focused networking strategies – and apply these strategies daily – in order to make the most of your time and accelerate your search.
Build More Skills: While skill building will be an ongoing part of your career, it is vital to have a baseline of hard and soft skills in order to land your first job. Take an inventory of your skill set and understand where your skill gaps are. Make a plan that includes both mastering your existing skills, and adding new skills to your tool box.
Be a Doer Don’t just sit and wait for opportunities to arise. Find volunteer work or a short-term paid role, whether virtual or in-person, that will get you out in the work-world and gaining experience. You’ll demonstrate commitment, add structure to your day, and engage with colleagues (and begin building your network); all while fighting the downtime and periods of inactivity that can contribute to the mental challenges of job searching.
It is vital to be proactive wherever you are in your career journey, and make sure you are setting yourself up for a successful job launch. No matter what stage of your college or professional career you are at, by taking these appropriate steps, you’ll be able to make yourself a more qualified candidate when it’s time to look for your first job.