Don’t Wait Until Graduation: 4 Career Jumpstart Tips for Seniors
As the summer draws to a close, you can’t help but wish that your summer break was a little longer. You’ll have so much to do once the school year kicks in, but as a rising senior, you also have to focus on the imminent reality of entering the working world.
Don’t fret. It may seem early to start thinking about life post-graduation but now is the perfect time to start planning for your career. The job search can be exhausting, so the earlier you start looking for work, the more likely it is that you’ll end up with a job you enjoy. Here are four tips to help you get on the right career trajectory both before and after you graduate:
- Start thinking about the jobs you want.
While college is a fun experience, it’s also a time where you can explore your passions and interests. By now, you should have a general idea of what you want to do, or at least what you don’t want to do. The bad news is that having a general idea is not enough—now’s the time to start narrowing your focus. Think about what you’d like to do once you graduate, and about the feasibility of your ideas about work. If your goal is achievable, and the duties and salary of the role you have in mind are satisfactory, proceed by setting goals to get there. Princeton graduate Lydia Dallett from Business Insider suggests that graduating seniors “Figure out what your goals are—be it a job offer, grad school, or a summer internship—and then make a week-by-week plan for achieving that goal.” This plan can include: making appointments at your career center, reaching out to industry professionals, and updating your LinkedIn profile.
- Network, network, and network some more.
A strong professional network is the key to getting you the job you want. This is because an internal recommendation is perceived as more trustworthy and efficient than searching for hires from online applications. Forbes writer Susan Adams advises students to network at industry-specific groups at school. She writes, “These groups can connect you to established professionals in your area of interest. This is a great way to make mentoring connections and to form relationships that are likely to be helpful in the future.”Another simple way to grow your network is to reach out to family, friends, and professional connections on LinkedIn. You can ask for introductions to relevant professionals, and personal and professional recommendations. You can also get inspiration for your resume and cover letter by looking at the profiles of other professionals who either have the job you want, or who work for companies you admire.
- Customize your resume to be job application-specific.
Sure, you may be sending out scores of job applications to secure a position, but that doesn’t mean that you should send out the same resume for every role. Beyond focusing your resume on different courses and experiences for each role, make sure you customize each resume and cover letter to the language of the job ad as well. How would you do this? Simply by look at the job posting; specifically, under the “Duties and Responsibilities” and/or the “Required Skills” sections. From these parts, you can lift the wording used in the job ad to describe your skills and experience. Doing so will show recruiters and hiring managers—at a glance—that you fulfill the job requirements. Use the same technique with your cover letter as well for twice the impact!
- Stay focused and attentive after you graduate.
Just because you’re done with your academic studies doesn’t mean that you should start slacking off. Never settle. Once you get a job offer, negotiate your salary. While many students may be afraid that they’ll make a bad first impression, arming yourself with evidence and research about your field and its salary ranges is a very good idea. Far from positioning you as “difficult,” preparing for and initiating a negotiation can garner more respect from your employer. It shows you’ve done homework.When you’re on the job, take the stance of a student by maintaining a learning mindset. Volunteer for projects, say Yes to meetings, and soak up as much information as you can. If you make mistakes, that’s okay. Apologize and try to remedy them, but most importantly, learn from them and focus on doing better next time. Stay humble, and always put your best foot forward.
If you keep these things in mind, you’ll have much less trouble in your job search. It’s never too early to start planning for your post-college life, and the more time you spend on preparing your career, the better off you’ll be in the end. If you take incremental steps throughout your senior year, you’ll find yourself on solid ground once you walk off stage with your diploma.
Reporting by Liwen Xu