You’re graduating from college soon, and you need a job. Not just any job, but one that will jumpstart your brilliant career. Where to start?
Successful college graduates know the importance of these three strategies:
Strategy: Use Campus Resources
Every college campus has a career services office to help students (and even alumni) get a jumpstart on their careers. Counselors can help you choose a career (or even a major, if you are still shopping around) with self-assessment tools to help you examine your values, personality, interests and abilities. You’ll find resume and cover letter writing, job interview prep, networking opportunities and gain access to recruiters who are hiring for full-time jobs and internships.
With so much help available in person and online—since most career services offices offer both—it’s shocking that some students still skip this step. According to a 2018 report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 43 percent of college seniors never visited their campus career services office.
Why visit? First, you are already paying for the services offered—through tuition and fees. Second, career services offices are staffed with professionals who are connected to employers every day, and those connections could serve you well in your job hunt. Finally, most offices are equipped with loads of resources that can help you beyond “finding a job” and can actually help you find a career that is fulfilling, perhaps in ways you never thought of when you declared a college major.
“When you get to college, you might find that what you thought you wanted to do changes pretty quickly when you start taking classes. Your campus career center has many tools and resources to help you,” said Tim Luzader, director of the Purdue University Center for Career Opportunities.
Career services offices also offer field trips and employer site visits, offering students a chance to tour businesses, talk with employers and learn about potential job opportunities.
Strategy: Work Your Internship
Not so long ago, employers looked at a student’s major when deciding between two, equally qualified candidates. But a 2019 NACE survey found that the most influential factors are whether the candidate completed an internship with the hiring organization and whether the candidate has internship experience within the hiring organization’s industry.
Additionally, general work experience and no work experience are found to be more of a deciding factor than a candidate’s high GPA (3.0 or above), involvement in extracurricular activities, school attended, and volunteer work.
While you may have already had an internship—or even more than one—make sure you are putting that experience to work, not just checking a to-do item off your graduation list. Use your internship to focus your job search.
“Throughout my first year and a half at Butler, pursuing an advanced degree in medicine was still at the top of my desired career choice,” Schmicker said. “It wasn’t until I started taking advanced level classes that I started to make the switch to a lab-based chemistry job. I fell in love with analytical chemistry and working with instrumentation through some selective courses at Butler.”
While at Butler, Schmicker had an internship at a pharmaceutical company in Indianapolis, which opened his eyes to the world of drug development. Thanks to his work experience and choice of major, Schmicker got a job right after graduating (a semester early) as a scientist 1 with Indianapolis-based
In his entry-level position, Schmicker followed specific methods developed by senior scientists, doing extraction chemistry for pharmaceutical drugs in development or on the market. He was recently promoted to a Scientist II position, which allows him to work in the instrumentation lab. “I am constantly learning more about the pharmaceutical industry and the instruments that I help maintain on a daily basis,” Schmicker said. “There is never a day that I am doing exactly the same work as the day before.
“AIT Bioscience is still a relatively new company and a smaller company as well. This provides many opportunities to learn from those with many years of experience but also teach those colleagues that come after you,” he said. “The amazing work that companies around the globe are doing to better the lives of people is great to see. I personally have seen the effects of the innovative medicines that have come on the market in the last 10 years and being part of that growth is rewarding.”
Strategy: Network Like Crazy
Everyone tells you to network, but how do you start?
Make a list of people you know from various parts of your life, including your hometown, major area of study and work experiences.
“Start with your family. Who in your extended family does work that you find interesting? Ask for 15 minutes of their time to chat about their jobs, how they ended up doing the work they do, what they like about it, and what is a typical day like?
“It’s easy to approach someone that you know well, so once you’ve practiced on those people, ask your family members who else you might talk to about their jobs. We call these informational interviews, and they are a good way to start building out your network,” Purdue’s Luzader said.
Use your campus contacts—your campus career services office is the best place to start—to begin meeting professionals in your area of interest. Other networking opportunities: employees at your internship, student chapters of professional organizations, and student organizations, since your college peers may have ideas and contacts, too.
And don’t forget LinkedIn and other social media. Clean up your profile and begin connecting with professionals.