According to the survey that Jeffrey J. Selingo had conducted for his book There is Life after College, two-thirds of college graduates struggle to launch their careers. Only 35% of college graduates land a job right after college and are on the path to a successful career. These are the so-called sprinters and they all have a few things in common. Intrigued?
First of all, a whopping 97 percent of them were employed in their field of study. Also, the vast majority of sprinters had at least one internship during their undergrad years. More than a half were sure of their major the moment they began their studies. As you can see, having a clear goal early on pays off.
Another surprising detail: 43% of these lucky devils had less than $10,000 in student loan debt. Yes, as it turns out, starting your degree at a low-cost community college might be a better choice than shelling out for a prestigious one. At least you won’t have to take the first job offer half-heartedly just to pay your bills.
Does this mean that if you already have a hefty student loan and aren’t sure about your major you can start panicking? Well, there are more productive things you can do. Read on to find out more about the ways to secure your future career. Keep in mind though, that you must start acting soon, while you are still in college.
Take an Internship
Internships earned a bad rap after many Millennials struggled to break the vicious circle of unpaid on-the-job traineeships during the Great Recession. Back in 2012, young adults might have had a total of five years of hands-on experience and still no paid position. However, it does not mean that internships are evil per se.
Experienced-based learning provides you with a deeper insight into your field. Internships and apprenticeships allow you to practice skills that you hear about in the classroom, thus enhancing your academic successes. More importantly, you will acquire the set of soft skills needed in a workplace – critical thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to communicate and work in teams.
Concrete practical skills (both soft and technical) replace diplomas in the requirements sections of job ads. Degrees and grades were a proof of candidate’s job readiness for decades, but today many factors interfere with this signal (such as the spread of online services that help a student to achieve better academic results).
Do not take off time from college
While taking a gap year before college might be a good idea, slowing down when you already started college is a bit different. If you are too hesitant, you might end up with lots of college credits, but no degree and no plan for the future in your late twenties.
A pre-college gap year gives you an opportunity to explore what truly interests you. However, if you are already in pursuit of a degree, it is better to be more persistent and soldier on. A degree opens more doors and makes you more resilient to macroeconomic challenges. A survey from CareerBuilder found that one-third of employers are bumping up education requirements for new hires. It means they demand a bachelor degree for the position that early was accessible with a high-school diploma and a master degree for the jobs where a bachelor used to suffice.
Anyway, it’s never too late to switch careers later or combine jobs, if you’ll find your current field not fulfilling enough. Switching jobs or getting additional training is still much easier than landing the very first job and obtaining your first college degree.
Chase the experience
Once you are in the college, you should make the best of the time you have on campus. Dive into the toughest majors, undertake undergraduate research, find challenging courses, and grab the opportunity to take part in a variety of student activities. All this will arm you for the complexity of the work life after the college. Today employers expect even computer science graduates to come to entry-level positions with more than sheer technology expertise. The more aspects of business and communication you know the better.
Also, do not hesitate to apply for student exchange programs. Studying abroad and learning foreign language broadens your horizon and teaches you something that no college can – life itself. You will find that there are more ways than your own, and there are more truths than one. It also puts your readiness for the independent life to an ultimate test.
If your college of choice is in your hometown and you live with your parents instead of campus, I strongly recommend at least a short-term exchange program.
Do your own networking
For some reason, students do not take the opportunity to benefit from a career office every school has. They either neglect to ask the offices for help or aren’t satisfied with how they function and what they offer. It’s a shame. Your school career office can connect you with the alumni in your desired field of work. These people can fill you in on the realities of the job interviews, writing résumés and cover letters, and actually working in the industry.
You should go to industry events and finally set up your LinkedIn profile. Yes, now, while you still in college. Promote yourself, build connections, and collect recommendations for little gigs and seasonal jobs you do. A habit of updating your LinkedIn profile is in itself a useful skill worth developing.
Apply, apply, apply
Getting a job is as time-consuming as actually having a full-time job. Be prepared to send application after application. Some specialists believe you should apply for 30 to 40 jobs at once. Of course, you should concentrate the most on 1 to 5 companies that you are really motivated to work in. However, do not wait around for too long – consider alternatives.
Also, do not restrict your application to the official site of your potential employer. Use LinkedIn, Facebook and personal connections to get in touch. If you know someone, who works where you want to work, reach out and ask for details. Do not give up. The sheer persistence might be the crucial trait that will make you stand out among dozens of other students.