The choices we make while in college are vital to our success post college. It is never too early to start crafting your career. I always tell my war story about how it took me 4 years to land a job in my field post college. You can read the article here: Why..I have my own way of measuring success.
I believe there were many factors that played into my lack of “industry experience” post college. A major one being me not carefully planning out my career during my college years. When I graduated from college with two degrees in technology my only outside of the classroom experience after four years was; 20 hours of community service, and a senior project that I could have better capitalized on, but didn’t.
My senior project was writing 5 programs for the State of Rhode Island’s LIHEAP Program (Low Income Home Energy Assistance program). I worked through my senior advisor and never went to meet with anyone else on the project.
I put all my outside of school time into working at another job. When I graduated from college I had 4 years of customer service and finance experience I gained working different places. Don’t get me wrong I did gain a lot of eclectic experience while in college, just not a lot in my field.
Here are my top 5 tips
Before applying to any college find out about their job placement assistance post college
You should never apply to a school without knowing what kind of job placement assistance they offer post college. It is important to know that no matter who helps you with your job search you will have to put in the most effort. However, it is also important to know that your school can be a resource as well.
You can do this by not only asking the school questions, but checking out their job placement statistics and also seeing what current students and graduates are saying. If the school advises that they offer job placement assistance, they should have references available for you to view.
Find a Federal Work study job within your field
Initially the Work study program was called the “College Work Study Program”. Now it is called the “Federal Work Study Program”. This program helps students earn money to assist with their tuition and college needs. Not every student may be eligible so you will have to check your school’s guidelines.
If you are a student that is eligible, if at all possible you should ensure that you pick a program that fits into your desired field post college. If you don’t have the option to pick a program that matches your desired field, you should try to pick the one that is the closest to your interest.
Take advantage of Internships
Internships are key at any stage during your college years. Don’t just wait for senior year to do an internship. You should be looking for internships in your field starting in your freshman year. The biggest mistake that a lot of college students make is waiting until junior and senior year to apply and look for internships.
Something very important to understand about doing an internship prior to your senior year, is that you will ultimately have the advantage of knowing if your school’s curriculum is actually preparing you for a career in your field. You will also be able to get hands on experience to see if you’ve picked a major that you would like to stick with.
Find a summer job within your field
Not everyone will be lucky enough to get an actual internship, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting a summer job in your field. We all know that the “go to” jobs for most college students during the summer are retail and fast food. While you can learn some really great skills at both places it’s also important to try and find something that is in your desired field.
You could find local businesses in your area and contact them to see if they have intern type jobs or volunteer work that you could do a few hours during the summer. This is not to say that you should not make money during your summer vacation or apply for retail or fast food jobs. The point is to ensure that you are building skills in your field when and wherever you can.
Attend school career fairs throughout college
Many colleges offer career fairs at least once or twice a year. You should not wait until your junior or senior year to attend one. I would say the first time you should attend a career fair is your freshman year. Even if you are just going to collect business cards.
Attending college career fairs early on will help you develop great networking skills and you will also be able to see the caliber of businesses your school is partnered or associated with.
When it comes to your finances you always want to ensure that you are getting the most return on your investment. So you’ll have to do different things to ensure that you are skilled enough post college to land a job in your field. Or possibly start your own company! Dream big. All things are possible.