Obtaining a college degree certainly opens up a world of opportunities, and accumulating an impressive grade point average adds icing to the cake. But don't stop there. The COVID-19 pandemic threw the employment market for a loop, and smart job seekers know they'll need every advantage possible when competing for choice positions.
Start thinking beyond the classroom now to reap the benefits later. Consider these five strategies for brightening your career path:
- Develop School-based Connections
- Join the Student Chapter of a Professional Association
- Hold an Internship
- Use Social Media Wisely
Don't spend your college years as a fly on the wall! Interact with classmates. Not only can peers suffering through calculus alongside you be a great source of support in the here and now, like you they will one day go out on the job market. Your fellow nursing grad may be able to assist with a foot in the door where she landed a position or pass along a tip about a place she heard is hiring.
Likewise, make yourself known to teachers and other staff. An instructor with whom you form a bond can serve as a valuable reference on employment applications, and counselors can assist with things such as resume development and mock interviews.
Invitations to industry events, access to members-only job boards, and career advice from mentors already established in your field are just some of the reasons to consider belonging to your profession's main association before seeking your first job in the discipline. Students often receive low- or no- cost membership. Check your school's list of extracurricular clubs for information, or look up the pertinent organization (the Society for Human Resource Management, the American Marketing Association, the American Dental Hygienists' Association, etc.) on the Internet for enrollment specifics.
Give your future employment applications a one-two punch with a stellar transcript and real-world experience. Internships provide a first-hand glimpse at the day-to-day activities in your chosen field and offer chances to demonstrate your abilities in actual settings. Companies often hire impressive interns for permanent positions following graduation. At the very least, connections there can serve as professional references.
Helping others not only feels good, it could be good for your career. Volunteering for a cause you're passionate about presents opportunities to hone skills that employers find attractive, such as leadership and teamwork. Working alongside others provides a natural setting in which to get to know them – an easy way to expand your network without attending awkward meet-and greets!
Is there an organization you'd love to work for following graduation? Start following it now. You'll develop a feel for the company's goals and culture as well as get an idea as to its hiring process. Consider also following industry associations and leaders to stay abreast of new developments.
If you lack experience using LinkedIn, start exploring. While other platforms also can be useful to career development, LinkedIn is typically considered the top spot for developing professional connections.
And don't wait until graduation to think about your online presence. Now more than ever, employers use the Internet to discover information about candidates applying for jobs. Learn the ins and outs of privacy settings. Even better, develop the habit of not posting things you wouldn't want a future hiring manager to see!