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Get a Jump Start on Your Career - Before You Graduate

Feb 18, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

For many students, college is a time for exploring. Many students enter college without a strong idea of where they want to go next—and use that time to try different majors and activities. This article isn’t for them.

If you’re the type of student who knows exactly what you want—before even enrolling in college—you have a head start. You can pick the best college for your major—and tailor your college experience toward what will get you ahead in the job market when you graduate. Here are just a few tips for getting ahead in your career before you graduate.

Pick the right college

Look very carefully at your college’s majors when you pick a school. Bear in mind the type of major people who enter your industry usually have. Which degree will get you there fastest? Talk to admissions counselors and, if possible, people who already work in your industry—who might be responsible for hiring in the career field you want to get into.

Look at graduate employment rates

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Getting a job after college is usually not easy—especially in a recession.



How many people who graduated from your college are currently working in the field you want to go into? Is the program at your college well regarded in the industry? These are questions you can ask admissions counselors as well as industry professionals who are willing to help you. Get a sense of graduate success rates in your field—and you can give yourself a reasonable assessment of how much your degree and college-related experience might help you in the job market once you graduate from college.

Pick the right internship

The right internship can do a lot for your career. Whenever you have time and opportunity for internships, choose one that could push your career forward—either by teaching you valuable skills, giving you a valuable resume credit, or giving you connections that could lead to a new job when you graduate. The best kind of college internship is one that leads to a new job in a field you want to work in.

Seek out opportunities in your career field

Whenever you can, think about what you can do to move your career forward with volunteer, summer job, and internship opportunities that demonstrate transferable skills. If you can’t land the competitive internship that gives you valuable contacts and a great resume line, look for the next best thing—a job or internship that helps you develop skills that will also be valuable in your desired line of work.

Get in touch with alumni

Your senior year isn’t too early to start thinking about connecting with alumni who work in the same industry you do. If your school is willing to put you in touch with alumni mentors—and many colleges have a program like this—call or email a few and offer to take them to lunch. Ask about opportunities in your field for new grads, as well as possible steps you can take now to make your resume stronger. You never know—this connection could possibly lead to an entry-level job once you graduate.

Choose senior projects that focus on your career

Don’t waste your time when you choose a senior project. Instead, pick a topic that employers will take an interest in. Start a new business or try to market a new product as a senior-year experiment. Start a nonprofit or write a novel. The options are endless—and if you’re not sure which path to take, talk to your academic advisor about creative project ideas that will also help you develop valuable work-related expertise.

Choose the right extracurriculars

Which extracurricular activities relate best to your chosen field? And within those activities and groups, what group role should you take? Leadership roles often look good—or starting your own group. Even within groups and clubs that have nothing to do with work-related topics, you could choose a role that might get you ahead in the job search. For instance, you could choose to be treasurer if you’re into accounting and finance—or take responsibility for group recruiting if you’re interested in HR.

Getting a job after college is usually not easy—especially in a recession. Make your chances as strong as possible—by taking action before graduation. Choose the right school, after-school job, and extracurricular activities—and you can increase your chances of getting ahead.



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