Patricia Osei-Oppong is a writer and poet. In this article, Patricia talks about how a bit of smart preparation will help any college student get ahead in their first job search.
About to graduate? You're most likely feeling the amazing relief that usually hits right about now. You’ve spent years with your head down, on the straight, with that all important finishing line in sight. Now, you can almost taste victory. Almost there!
Your last year of college is filled with final projects, dissertations, and exams. These will most likely take up the majority of your time. But it is also at this crucial point, usually in the last few months before you graduate, that you should begin to think about your future and post-college career. What you do now will determine how well your job search progresses later.
With a little preparation and some know-how, you’ll be able to navigate your way through the job search minefield.
Research, research, research
Whether you want to hit the ground running towards your preferred career goals with an internship, or are seeking a permanent position, it’s important to find out as much information as possible about the role you’re seeking and the companies you'd enjoy working for. This means, finding out about both standard and essential job requirements, typical tasks for an entry-level employee in your field, and what is expected of top-notch candidates. Research industries, fields, and training required to get on the ladder. You've spent the last 3 or 4 years in your college career developing first-class research and evaluation skills. Use those skills to prepare for the job search ahead. Doing so now will save you time and energy when you start looking for a job in earnest.
Network like a beast
Networking is the strongest, most prolific tool in your job search arsenal. Use it. Ask if you can set up an interview with a department head, or request an informal sit-down with a member of the team. Let them know you’re a soon-to-be graduate trying to find out as much about the company. Reach out to company execs via social media such as LinkedIn or Twitter, attend job fairs or open career days, and show up at meet and greets the company may have for graduating students. Use any of these tactics to request an informal chat with one of the insiders. The basic aim here is to get yourself noticed and get your foot in the door. Taking the initiative to go directly to those in the know may be nerve-racking but it shows guts, and determination.
If it’s been a while since you’ve even laid eyes on your resume, perhaps it’s time you bring it in for a check up. Job search sites have some excellent articles and tips and tricks to help you get started on your way to resume perfection, and can advise you on how to put your best foot forward. This will help you tailor your resume to your strengths and the job market while putting your experiences in the best light. A great resume will not only highlight what you’ve done, but demonstrate what you can do. Work on your resume early in your last year of college so that you're ready to start sending it out immediately.
Probably an obvious one, but you'd be surprised how many students in their final months of college are a little too relaxed about actually seeking out and attending interviews. Confidence is encouraged, but over confidence will see you left behind. Turning down interviews because you don’t “feel like” attending or you feel you have your pick of jobs is risky. Even if you're not interested in the position, at this stage, any interview experience is invaluable. So if you land an interview, don’t blow it off. Think positive and consider what you'll learn. It's not a waste of your time, but an opportunity to flex your interviewing muscles. And you never know, the interview may go amazingly well, and could lead to your dream job!
A final note: relax! It's your world, your time, your life. Yes, things will move fast; it wasn't that long ago when you were a bright-eyed freshman. You may start to feel as though you're losing control in this final semester of college; so much info, so much to do, so many people to meet, so little time...
Get back in the driver's seat, and start taking charge of your life again.
Preparing for life after college is no easy task, so don’t forget to focus back on yourself. Take up a new hobby, or start a new exercise regime to kickstart those feel good endorphins that will keep you energized while you navigate the new roads of your life. Or simply reconnect with the important relationships in your life for support (and laughs!). In other words, focus on your own happiness. Take care of yourself. Doing this will leave you more relaxed, and getting ahead will feel easy and natural.
Remember, there will be many wonderful twists and turns in your life after college. And there should be. It shows you're living. This is just one of them. Enjoy it. You'll learn a lot.