The job market seems forbidding to college students and it takes guts, determination and strategic thinking to graduate with a great job. Students can begin career planning during freshman year. It’s not about declaring a major. It’s creating a plan to improve your child’s chance of finding a career suited to his or her education and degree, talents and interests.
Year-by-Year Career Planning Guide for College Students
During the first year, students need to learn about possible career paths to make the transition from college to career easier.
Get involved. Freshman are bombarded with information about clubs and organizations. Organizations that provide opportunities to develop skills and when the time is appropriate, lead activities to achieve goals are the organization to join.
Don’t think majors. Think skills and job functions. Economists and business leaders do not know what jobs will be available in the future. The world of work is changing so rapidly. However, they can reasonably predict which skills employers will value and the essential functions needed in the workplace. Take courses to attain and develop these competencies.
Sophomores need to take control and focus their academic and extracurricular activities.
Few vs. many things. Students, especially the success-minded ones, take on too many commitments. They think the more things they fill their resumes with the better. The problem with this strategy is, if you try to do everything, you’ll be good at nothing. Employers look for job candidates who demonstrate command of a skill and show leadership.
Master the informational interview. One of the best ways to learn more about a potential career path is to talk to people who are actually living the career.
[More on how to navigate a college job fair here.]
Junior year is prep for your student to learn how to talk about himself or herself as a whole person.
Craft a personal story. This is the story of a real person who knows what they do and why they do it.
• Sign up with LinkedIn and create a profile page that tells you story.
• Create and practice “tell me about yourself.”
• Write a keyword, action verb, accomplished-based and personality-rich resumé and make sure it’s applicant tracking software compliant. Yes, they need a cover letter.
Get experience. It’s time to give up the camp counselor job and get an internship. Internships are an essential part of the college experience. Today’s graduates without work experience will stand little chance of securing a job after graduation.
By senior year, your student has the experience to land that first professional job.
Develop a job-search plan. Nothing happens by chance. Your child needs to understand what is it takes to find a job in today’s job market and develop a targeted plan with goals, daily/weekly tasks and deadlines.
Start early. Landing a job in today’s market can take quite time. Between completing coursework and planning for graduation, there’s little time to search for a job unless it is built into a schedule.
Finding a career and getting a job in that field is a process that can’t be left to senior year. Taking time to think about career planning will net the desired results.
Jane Horowitz is a career-launch coach and founder of More Than A Resumé. Jane has championed college students in their job searches from colleges and universities across the country, and with majors from engineering to fine arts, from computer design to banking. Jane has made a measurable and lasting difference in college students’ lives.