When (and How) College Seniors Should Start a Job Search - Undergrad Success
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When (and How) College Seniors Should Start a Job Search

When (and How) College Seniors Should Start a Job Search
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Contributed by LiveCareer

Are you a college senior who never took a gap year? If so, you’ve lived in a structured, educational environment since you were in kindergarten. And now that graduation is around the corner, you’re about to leave the safety of that trusted climate and dive headfirst into the beginning of your career.

But guess what: the adult world isn’t so terrible if you start preparing for it now.

LiveCareer recently chatted with Undergraduate Academic Advisor Clara Ng-Quinn of University of California, Berkeley to gain insight into how a college senior can successfully tackle a job search. Ng-Quinn revealed helpful advice for students in every major.

When Should You Start Looking?

Ng-Quinn recommends solidifying your resume the summer before your senior year. If the summer has come and gone, don’t fret. According to a 2016 report by LinkedIn, the largest number of students apply and get hired between April and June of their senior year.

If you’re in your senior year and you haven’t crafted a resume yet, don’t panic. You still have time. Create a resume, and then share it with a trusted professor or an accomplished professional. Ask for feedback. Listen to their advice. If this is your first resume, consider putting a resume builder to use, or start with a resume template that’s suited to your needs.

Where to Look for a Job 

The best place to look for a post-college job is on a job board that specifically focuses on entry-level positions. Consider CollegeGrad, CollegeRecruiter, and WayUp. Take it a step further. Look for niche job boards that focus on particular industries, such as SalesGravy and Idealist, which focus on sales and non-profits, respectively.

LinkedIn is also helpful, but it’s smart to start with job boards that address your specific needs. Hit up LinkedIn after you’ve made progress on the other avenues.

What If You’re Taking a Gap Year?

If you’re taking a year between undergraduate and post-graduate education, then Ng-Quinn suggests that you make moves to strengthen your candidacy for the program you want.

“Take a job in a field related to your intended graduate program,” she advises. “For example, if you plan on applying to law school, get a job as a paralegal, or at a nonprofit that provides legal services. If there are class prerequisites that you were not able to take as an undergraduate, take them at a community college.”

Your Major Doesn’t Always Dictate Your Future

“College seniors often assume that their careers have to be directly aligned to their major. This can be limiting and lead to narrow opportunities,” Ng-Quinn explains.

This belief may stem from parents. A 2014 Pew Research study on college graduates found that 36 percent of millennials believe that their job and major are “very closely related.” However, a whopping 59 percent of Gen Xers and 48 percent of Baby Boomers hold jobs that are very closely related to their majors.

Ng-Quinn suggests that college seniors look for jobs based on their treasure trove of talents. “There are many jobs that do not require a specific major, just specific skills,” she added.

Now, this doesn’t mean that your major is pointless. Instead, consider the skills that you gained while working towards your major and see what you can use to apply to a particular job.

What if I Never Had an Internship?

If you’re part of the 24.4 percent of American college students who are responsible for covering all school costs, then taking an unpaid internship is probably not the best option for you. Actually, given that only 11 percent of students claim that they do not pay for any portion of their schooling, unpaid internships might not be a financial possibility for many undergraduates.

To begin planting job search roots, Ng-Quinn advises that you start by networking to get your foot in the door.

“Develop good relationships with your professors or staff who have been mentors through your college years. They can serve as references when you are interviewing.”

But don’t stop there. Aim to go above and beyond other students who have internship experience. Ng-Quinn stresses that students who never held internships can still make a great impression if they present themselves and their talents well.

“Be impressively and aggressively prepared. If you do not have first hand experience working in an internship in your field, substitute that with thorough knowledge of the job description and the company. Demonstrate through your application materials that even if you do not have experience from an internship, you can learn on the job quickly,” Ng-Quinn explains.

But I Don’t Know What I Want to Do!

Step one: Don’t panic. This is normal.

Step two: Consider taking a career aptitude test. Ng-Quinn reminds us that career counseling centers often offer free career aptitude tests for students. Take advantage of this if you’re stumped on which career direction to go in.

Ng-Quinn also suggests informational interviews, which is an interview where you ask a professional about their job. This is ideal for seniors who have an idea of what they want to do, but don’t know exactly what the job entails.

Feeling shy? Don’t. “It can be intimidating to approach professionals, but more often than not, working people are usually happy to help,” Ng-Quinn observes.

Your First Job Won’t Be Your Last Job

You didn’t marry your kindergarten crush, so why do you think you’ll marry the first job that comes your way? “You don’t have to pressure yourself into finding the perfect first job,” Ng-Quinn assures college seniors. “Your first job isn’t going to be your last job.”

So, what should you seek?

“In my experience as an advisor,” Ng-Quinn explains, “students want three things in their first job: a great job position, a high salary, and a desirable location. Getting just two out of three during your first job can be good enough.”

There are Some Great Skills to Include that You Might Not Consider

You probably already know that you’re supposed to customize your resume to the job you want. The most effective way to do this is to read the job post carefully and address the company’s needs in your resume.

Because you don’t have much experience yet, you may look for other ways to make your resume stand out. And doing so is much easier than you think.

Ng-Quinn explains: “College students who are very involved in extracurriculars often have many marketable skills that you wouldn’t expect. Anything that shows leadership and initiative can go on your resume.” Whether you helped organize events, tutored, or made crafts, your extracurricular activities speak volumes about you.

Examine the job description carefully. Get a firm understanding of what they’re looking for in a candidate. Consider how your interests correlate to the company’s needs. What’s Next?

The transition to the adult world can be tough, but advance preparation will simplify your efforts.

Remember to prep a solid resume, and start applying for jobs using specialized job boards. Consider jobs that fit your skill set and don’t assume that you’re stuck with that position forever. Accept the fact that you’ll make mistakes, but remember to show yourself compassion. Now get out there and show employers that you’re the best graduate for the job!

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Since 2005, LiveCareer's team of career coaches, certified resume writers and savvy technologists have been developing career tools that have helped over 10 million users build stronger resumes, write persuasive cover letters and develop better interview skills. Land the job you want faster using our free Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder. Also check out our Resume Samples, which include a selection of No Experience Resume Samples that are perfect for college students.

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