Whether you are a freshman or a senior, thinking about life after college has been known to induce a certain kind of panic. If you are just entering college, you may think you have years before you need to start worrying about your future career, and if you are a senior you are probably dodging questions about what you are going to after you graduate. But fear not! From getting involved in leadership roles to preparing for job interviews, there is more to making sure that you are ready to take on the real world then buying your first suit or sending out countless jobs applications. Find out what steps you can take during each phase of your time in undergrad, to make sure that you are ready to face post-college career prospects with confidence, and get some advice from one of the professionals.
One of the biggest resources students have is their campus career services center. Nancy Hutchinson, Director of The Center for Career and Professional Development at Cabrini College, offered advice for students at each stage of their undergraduate career.
“It is absolutely essential for [students] and their families to start getting to know the career services office, before they even arrive in their first year, because they have to start thinking about majors and careers and their success plan,” said Hutchinson.
Regardless of if you are seeking internships or on the hunt for a post-grad job, there are essential skills that every college student needs to have in their bag of tricks. Hutchinson says that students “should have excellent verbal and written communication skills, and excellent analytical skills.”
That means that all of those ten-page papers and presentations should pay off in the end. Taking advantage of any opportunities to write and speak well will make you stand out to potential employers. Keeping these skills in mind, here’s the breakdown of what to do to make sure you are prepped for the future, wherever it takes you.
The first year of college is all about self-discovery. This includes assessing your skills, values, and starting to define your academic and career goals. Begin to get involved with various clubs and organizations on campus that fit your goals.
“Talk to somebody who knows you really well, ask them what your strengths are,” said Hutchinson.
Realize Your Possibilities
Sophomore year is all about networking and expanding; this means seriously thinking about possible career options and seeking out opportunities. Hutchinson stresses the importance of assuming leadership roles and going after experiential learning opportunities, whether it be internships, externships, or study abroad.
Focus on Your Performance
Junior year is all about setting yourself apart and getting involved in things that line up with the trajectory you would like to follow to get your dream job. Think about joining professional organizations. Apply for summer jobs and internships that are related to your field, because going the extra mile to get engaged in your desired industry “shows commitment to your field,” said Hutchinson.
Bring it All Together
Senior year is the year when all of the internships, extracurricular activities, and networking is put to the test. The ultimate goal is to either successfully get into graduate school or secure a post-grad job. How do you do this? It is all about “doing your homework.” This means researching companies you could see yourself working for, and making good use of resources like LinkedIn to search for jobs and to connect with professional contacts. Hutchinson stated that “Eighty percent of people get their jobs from who you know.” So senior year is all about being seen and heard, in a good way. Introduce yourself, talk about your interests, and hone your networking and interview skills.