Even in the best of economic times, there are compelling reasons for college seniors to begin their job search as early as possible.
In fact, ideally, college students should take steps to lay the foundation for an effective search as early as the second semester of their freshman year. If you aren't in the minority who got such an early start, don't dismay since most of the proper steps can still be taken.
Even if you're a senior who hasn't done much yet, don't panic, semester break is an excellent time to work on job hunting. It's never too late to get a job search started.
Here are 12 of the best ways to get a head start on finding postgraduate employment:
1. Figure Out What You Want to Do
Most college students are uncertain about their career aspirations. Employers are wary of unfocused candidates and fearful that they will invest resources in training only to find that the recent hire has discovered that they would prefer another field. The process of deciding on a career can be quite time-consuming and often involves extensive research.
Meeting with career counselors prior to senior year for assessment will be a critical step for most college students.
Effective career decision-making will involve career research through online resources, counseling sessions, informational interviews, and experimentation through volunteer and work experiences.
Ideally, these activities will begin early in a student's college career.
2. Utilize Your Career Services Office
Most college career offices are open during the summer and will be less busy at that time. If you can find time for a call or meeting prior to your senior year, you'll have a head start. If not, make an appointment as soon as you can. Here's how your career office can help you search for a job, internship, or other post-grad planning.
3. Get Help From Faculty and Staff
College faculty often play an influential role in the hiring process by introducing current students to former students and other professional contacts. Ideally, students will deliberately nurture relationships with faculty over the four years of college so that faculty referrals will be a natural outgrowth of a close personal bond.
4. Refine Your Resume and Cover Letters
Incorporate senior year honors and experiences to keep your documents up to date. Make sure your communications have been reviewed by career staff and other trusted contacts.
5. Create a Robust LinkedIn Profile
Employers and networking partners will expect you to have a profile on LinkedIn and will review it for cues about your qualifications. Incorporate recommendations, endorsements of your skills, samples of your work, and descriptions of your experiences that emphasize your accomplishments and value added.
Join LinkedIn groups for your college and interest areas and reach out to professionals for information and advice.
6. Start Building Your Career Network
Career experts universally agree that networking is one of the most effective strategies for college students to secure employment. It is highly recommended that students reach out to family friends, college alumni, and local professionals for informational interviews well in advance of their senior year.
These meetings will enable them to gain clarity about their goals, practice responding to questions about their background, impress contacts with the viability of their credentials, and form personal relationships with employees who can influence hiring decisions. It will be difficult to arrange and participate in the optimal number of these consultations while on campus, and it often takes time for these connections to yield interviews.
7. Tap Into Campus Recruiting Programs
Campus recruiting for many fields—including finance, accounting, banking, consulting, engineering, computer technology, and various management training programs—begins early in the senior year.
It will be challenging for students to compose resumes and cover letters, practice interviewing, and learn effective job-search techniques while they attend class, complete assignments, and participate in sporting and club activities. I recommend that students begin work on these tasks the summer before their senior year or during their junior year.
8. Take Advantage of Off-Campus Job Searching
Most college students will not find jobs through campus recruiting since these programs tend to serve the needs of the most competitive students in disciplines that are in high demand. The typical graduate will need to target jobs and employers in locations of their choice and travel to those sites for interviews. Targeting these employers and preparing materials with the help of college career offices in advance of senior year is likely to prove quite beneficial.
9. Consider an Internship as a Path to a Job
More and more employers are utilizing their internship programs as a mechanism for evaluating talent through firsthand exposure. Even those employers who do not recruit heavily from their own internship programs look for candidates with related experience since internships will confirm student interest in the field, provide the opportunity for skill development, and yield concrete evidence of the candidate's ability to excel in a work setting.
If you haven’t taken on any internships prior to senior year, consider doing an internship during your senior year or the summer following your graduation. Current involvement in an internship will provide you with additional talking points as you make your case with employers during or after your senior year.
10. Find Time to Job Shadow
Job shadowing experiences whereby students observe the work of professionals in fields of interest, sample work environments, and vicariously try on various work roles are an excellent way to make contacts, impress employers, and explore a broad range of occupations if begun early on. Colleges often target underclass students for these programs and use them as a device to spur involvement with the office.
11. Maintain Close Contact with Past Employers and References
Make sure that those who can vouch for your skills and character are well informed about your latest interests and accomplishments. Stop by in person whenever possible to refresh relationships.
Share your resume and LinkedIn profile so these contacts can see how you are representing yourself. Ask for referrals to other professionals in areas of interest. Your past employers, coaches, and faculty can provide your most powerful introductions based on firsthand knowledge of your assets.
12. Establish a Positive Social Media Presence
Make sure that the image that you convey through online resources like Facebook and Instagram doesn’t cast doubts about your professionalism. Eliminate any content that represents excessive indulgence in drugs or alcohol on your part.