Life After College: 5 Ways to Prepare
In college there is an organized system in place to tell you what you need to do in order to graduate with a degree. The reward for following this system is pretty straightforward: Do what you’re told, and do it well, and you’ll probably get a higher GPA.
Life after college is a very different reality. No one is telling you what decisions to make, and there isn’t a clear reward system with an immediate payoff. Many college graduates find that entering the job market is much harder than they thought, and some end up underemployed.
If you’re currently a college student, it’s a good idea to get a head start on preparing for what awaits you after graduation. Here’s a look at five proactive steps you can take to make the transition to life after college easier.
1. Talk to professionals in the field
One very important step you can take as a college student that will greatly increase your chances of finding a job after graduation is talking to professionals in the field in which you hope to work. This can be beneficial on multiple levels. First, it will give you insight into what the field is really like and what positions are out there. Second, it will give you the chance to make connections in the field, which can lead to an insider’s knowledge of open positions that aren’t publicly advertised.
Take a moment to think of people you already know, and which of those people work (past or present) in a field related to what you’re studying or hope to go into. Write down their names, and then send each a brief email. Let them know you could use their expertise and would like to learn more about the field they work in. Ask to set up a time for a conversation. These conversations might result in additional contacts to talk to and over time your network will increase.
2. Research the positions that are available
Try to get a sense of what positions exist in your future field, and the requirements employers seek in potential candidates. Use job search engines like Indeed.com or Monster.com, and write down some of the qualifications that frequently pop up. This will give you an idea of how your current skills match what employers are looking for, and where you can fill in the gaps on your resume.
You’ll need this knowledge for the next point: finding opportunities to gain the skills you lack.
3. Gain the skills you lack
As a college student, there are ample opportunities for you to gain some of the skills you will eventually need in your field. First, there are courses available to help you gain specific skill sets. For example, if you find that many jobs in your field require advanced knowledge in Microsoft Office, a skill you need to gain confidence in, consider enrolling in a course that provides additional training.
There are also many internship and volunteer opportunities for college students. Be sure to check with the career center or your department advisor to find out about current opportunities. In the end, an internship will greatly help you in two ways: it will help build your skills and experience, and will also expand your network by linking you to professionals in the field.
4. Have someone look at your resume
The importance of having a sharp and well-polished resume is the difference between being considered for a job and having your resume tossed aside. Luckily, most colleges and universities have career resource centers that offer resume assistance and advice, and this is certainly a college perk you should take advantage of while you can.
Having multiple people look at your resume is important. New sets of eyes to evaluate your resume’s content and overall appearance will bring a new perspective to the impression it has on the reader. There are almost always ways you can slightly tweak things to convey your experience in a short amount of space. It’s important to have a polished resume ready for when you graduate.
5. Practice interviewing
Interviewing is a skill that many students don’t have much experience in, and it’s not something you’re going to want to wing when you finally get the opportunity to have one. Get ahead of the game while you can, and refine your interview skills. A quick Google search will provide you with a plethora of common interview questions which you can script out in advance. Nothing beats the value of practicing these responses in-person for a mock interview.
Many colleges and universities either hold mock interview events or have career resource centers that offer practice interviews. This experience will be low-pressure, in contrast to an actual interview, and you will get constructive feedback about what you did well and what you can improve.
If you can’t find an event to attend or don’t have access to a career resource center, consider reaching out to someone you know who has experience with interviewing and can help you practice.
Your life after college is already looking brighter
Many students don’t take these steps to prepare for life after college, so being aware of them already distinguishes you from other graduates entering the job market. The earlier you begin preparing, the better chance you’ll have of landing a job upon graduating. Even taking small steps in the months before graduation can make a huge difference!