When I meet students who are beginning college for the first time, they always ask, “When should I visit Career Services?” The short answer is, freshman year. By coming to Career Services long before you need us, we can help guide you in the direction you will need depending on your career choice. Although, we do offer yearly timelines on our website which outline what students should accomplish each year. It’s never too soon for a student to begin a conversation with their career services office.
While it doesn’t make sense to begin looking for a job and applying to companies as a freshman, it does make sense to begin gathering information on what careers require and what employers expect from college graduates. By researching, asking questions, compiling relevant work accomplishments and getting good grades, you can help build a robust résumé and get ahead of the game. With that, here are five things that can help students get started long before they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.
1. Research your career field: Become familiar with the types of skills employers expect someone coming out of college to have. Depending on the industry, would you need to be proficient with certain computer applications, or what licenses would you be required to possess in the state where you reside? Also, you may need to understand what issues surround your industry and who the competitors are. It’s best to become aware of issues people may be worried about, or hiring trends that can have an impact on the career you choose. You can find that out, and more, by keeping up with trade publications, journals, newspapers and other periodicals for your field.
2. Network with people in your industry or join associations: One of the best ways to begin learning about your chosen industry is to talk with people who are currently working in it; another is to join related associations. Trade associations are a great resource, and the fee for students to join is minimal. Regardless of when you graduate, you can start now to learn more about your field and the opportunities it could offer. This lets you build the important personal relationships that will help you launch your career and maintain it. It never hurts to begin talking now to your professors, your parents, relatives, and your connections on LinkedIn, and everyone else you run into day-to-day. Start by telling people you are gathering ideas and advice related to your potential career and you’ll be surprised at how much people want to share stories and help you.
3. Become aware of helpful search engines and job listings: At Post University, the Career Services Office has compiled a list of over 1,800 web links to help students research, and look for jobs. In the Degrees by Major section of the Career Services’ website, each major – undergraduate and graduate – is represented and displays a variety of helpful links that students can use, at any stage in their college career. By searching job postings and becoming familiarized with what is going on in any industry, a student can get a leg up on the competition when it comes time to interview for internships and jobs. By doing so, students can keep their eyes on current job listings –not so much with the idea of applying for them, but to learn from them. What skills do the employers seem to be looking for the most? What experiences do the employers seem most interested in? Also, where are the most positions becoming available?
4. Participate in internships or volunteer work: Not only does this give a student valuable skills and accomplishments to help build a robust résumé, it can help them decide if their path is one they really want to pursue. Also, many majors will require students to complete at least one internship before graduation. By knowing this, a student can take the necessary classes to help prepare them for future endeavors. Finally, if a student does decide that the major they chose is not the one for them, by knowing this ahead of time it will give them the opportunity to change majors while still having time to fulfill the requirements needed to graduate on time.
5. Begin compiling a résumé now: Create an account in Optimal Résumé and begin putting accomplishments on paper. There are a variety of formats in each major that we have created for Post University students. To get a good idea of what an effective resume could look like, we also encourage students to view other résumé formats related to their majors. I say to students, “If you think now that you don’t have anything to put on paper, you may be surprised.” This program can provide ideas to help you get started.
The timing may not always be right in regard to finding and interviewing for a position, but it’s never too early to begin career development. The personal relationships a student can build, and the potential knowledge they can gain will only help prepare them for the future. As graduation approaches, students have their minds on other things. However, I encourage them not to wait until the last minute. By graduation, there are already many graduates across the country who are ahead of the game and more prepared. With this competition, students need to be on mark and ready for the race.
Therefore, it is never too early to begin a conversation with the Career Services office. We are here to guide, provide ideas, and help students put their best foot forward once they find that perfect opportunity. Good luck and we look forward to meeting you.
Debra Manente, M.Ed., CPRW, is the Associate Director of Career Services at Post University. Manente guides campus and online students to help them reach their career goals and secure employment. Manente holds a Master of Education from Cambridge College and a Bachelor’s in Communication from Central Connecticut State University.