By Bob Orndorff. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
You control your career destiny! Just going to class and picking up your diploma after four years doesn’t cut it. You need to become active on and off campus.
Becoming marketable to employers or graduate schools is a four-year job. Here are the top 10 things you can do during college to make yourself marketable at job-search time. In fact, if you do all 10 of these, you’ll be unstoppable:
- Keep your grades up—Employers and graduate schools want candidates with good grades. That will probably never change. Doing well academically not only proves that you have a good knowledge base, but indicates a strong work ethic—a trait that employers value.
- Identify your interests, skills, values, and personal characteristics—The first step to clarifying your career goals is to go through a process of self-assessment. Visit your career center and take advantage of the self-assessment instruments it has to offer.
- Actively explore career options—You owe it to yourself to find a career that enriches your life, not one that brings you down. Actively exploring careers means talking with professionals in occupations of interest and observing professionals on the job. Your career center probably has alumni and other volunteers who are willing to talk to you about their careers. Also, attend any career expos, career fairs, and career speaker panels that are offered.
- Become active in extracurricular activities and clubs—Active involvement in activities and clubs on campus is highly valued by employers and graduate schools. Joining a club is fine, but becoming active within that club is what matters most. Become a leader, hold an office, or coordinate an event. You will develop your skills in leadership and teamwork—skills that recruiters covet!
- Get involved in community service—It’s important that you begin to understand and appreciate the importance of giving back to your community, and that you live in a larger community than your college or hometown. Typically, students look at community service as a chore. After they’ve served, however, it’s usually one of the most rewarding experiences they’ve had! Recruiters love to see that you’ve volunteered to help in your community.
- Develop your computer skills—Take advantage of the computer courses and workshops your college offers. You can also learn a lot by just experimenting with different software packages on your own. Finally, you should learn how to develop your own web page or web-based portfolio. There are many web-design software tools that make it real easy to develop your own web page! Contact your college’s information technology office to see how to get started.
- Develop your writing skills—Over and over, company and graduate school recruiters complain about the lack of writing skills among college graduates. Don’t avoid classes that are writing intensive. Work at developing your writing skills. If there is a writing center on campus, have them take a look at your papers from time to time. Remember, the first impression you give to recruiters is typically your cover letter or personal statement.
- Complete at least one internship in your chosen career field—More and more, internships are the springboards to employment and getting into graduate programs. Many recruiters say that when they need to fill entry-level jobs, they will only hire previous interns. In addition to making yourself more marketable, internships also are a great way to explore careers and determine whether or not certain careers are for you. When you work for a company as an intern for three to four months, you get a really good feel for whether the field (and company) is one in which you want to work day in and day out!
- Gain an appreciation of diversity through study abroad, foreign languages, and courses—We are now, more than ever, working within a global work force. For you to be successful at work and in your life, you must stretch yourself, and learn about people and cultures different than yours. Take advantage of the wonderful study-abroad opportunities and the courses relating to diversity. This is your time to travel! Most people find it harder to take time to travel as they begin their careers and start families.
- Use your career center all four years—Your college career center can help you throughout your entire college career. Here is just a sampling of what your career center can help you do:
- Choose your major and career direction,
- Explore career options,
- Obtain an internship,
- Write a resume and cover letter,
- Develop your interviewing skills,
- Identify your skills, interests, and values,
- Develop a job-search or graduate school plan,
- Connect you with prospective employers (career fairs, on-campus recruiting, and more), and
- Connect you with alumni mentors.
Remember, you control your career destiny. Don’t wait until your senior year to start realizing your goals. Your career train is on the move. Jump on board now so you can reach your destination!
Where will you be in four years? Will you be ready to join the work force?
Maybe you have your future planned: You know what you want to be after graduation and you have an idea of how to get there. Or, maybe you aren’t even sure what you want to major in—never mind know what kind of career you want to have after college.
No matter if you’re decided or unsure—if you’re planning to graduate in four years and find your place in the work force, take steps now to reach your goals. It’s never too early (or too late) to start. But—the earlier you start, the easier it will be to prepare!
First, develop the habit of stopping by the career services office on a regular basis. Check in a few times during your freshman year, more often during your sophomore year, frequently during your junior year, and weekly during your senior year.
Here’s a timeline to guide your progress:
- Make an appointment to talk with a career services counselor.
- Check your career center’s website for a calendar of dates and times of career development and job-search workshops and seminars, career and job fairs, and company information sessions.
- Update your resume and have it critiqued and proofread.
- Join professional associations and become an active member to build a network of colleagues in your field. Find a student version of your professional association and take leadership roles.
- Subscribe to and read professional journals in your chosen field.
Asking questions, exploring your options (up to 30 hours)
- Schedule an appointment at the career services center to familiarize yourself with the services and resources available.
- Take interest and career inventory tests at the career services office.
- Start a career information file or notebook that will include records of your career development and job-search activities for the next four years.
- Identify at least four skills employers want and plan how you will acquire these skills before graduation. Visit your career center for information on the skills.
- Scan the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is filled with information on hundreds of occupations. Check out career-search books in the career center library.
- Familiarize yourself with your university’s career center home page—a good source of tips and articles to help with your job search.
- Take a resume writing class and explore other career planning workshops. Write your first resume.
- Attend on-campus career and job fairs to gather information on potential careers and employers.
- Explore your interests, abilities, and skills through required academics.
- Talk to faculty, alumni, advisers, and career counselors about possible majors and careers.
- Join university organizations that will offer you leadership roles in the future.
- Collect information on cooperative education programs, internships, and summer jobs available through the career services office.
- Consider volunteer positions to help build your resume.
Researching options/testing paths (up to 60 hours)
- Schedule an appointment with a career services counselor to bring yourself up-to-date on what’s needed in your career file.
- Update your resume (with your summer activities) and have it critiqued in the career services office.
- Begin a cooperative education program or consider internship, summer, and school-break job opportunities that relate to your interests.
- Read at least one book on career planning recommended by career services staff.
- Explore at least three career options available to you through your major.
- Take a cover-letter writing workshop.
- Review your progress in learning four (or more) skills employers look for in new hires.
- Research various occupations in the Occupational Outlook Handbook and materials in the career center library.
- Attend on-campus career and job fairs and employer information sessions relating to your interests.
- Identify organizations and associations in your interest areas for shadowing opportunities and informational interviews.
- Join at least one professional or honorary organization related to your major to make contact with people in the professional world.
- Work toward one leadership position in a university club or activity.
- Begin to collect recommendations from previous and current employers.
- Put together an interview outfit.
Making decisions/plotting directions (up to 100 hours)
- Schedule an appointment with a career services counselor to have your updated resume critiqued.
- Narrow your career interests.
- Review your participation in a co-op program or explore internship opportunities with a career services professional.
- Participate in interviewing, cover-letter writing, and other job-search workshops.
- Practice your skills at mock interviews.
- Review your progress in learning four (or more) skills employers look for in new hires.
- Attend on-campus career and job fairs and employer information sessions that relate to your interests.
- Take leadership positions in clubs and organizations.
- Consider graduate school and get information on graduate entrance examinations.
- Ask former employers and professors to serve as references or to write recommendations to future employers.
- Complete at least five informational interviews in careers you want to explore.
- Shadow several professionals in your field.
- Research potential employers in the career library and talk to recent graduates in your major about the job market and potential employers.
- Start your professional wardrobe.
Searching, interviewing, accepting, success!
- Update your resume and visit the career services office to have it critiqued.
- Get your copy of the career center’s calendar and register for on-campus interviews. Also schedule off-campus interviews.
- Develop an employer prospect list with contact names and addresses from organizations you are interested in pursuing.
- Gather information on realistic salary expectations. Your career services office will be able to help.
- Attend local association meetings to meet potential employers.
- Draft a cover letter that can be adapted for a variety of employers and have it critiqued.
- Participate in interviewing workshops and practice interviews.
- Read two or more professional or trade publications from your major and career field on a regular basis.
- If you are planning to go to graduate school, take graduate school entrance exams and complete applications.
- Follow up on all applications and keep a record of the status of each.
- Go on second interviews. Evaluate job offers and accept one.
- Report all job offers and your acceptance to the career services office.
Are you thinking about applying to graduate school? If you need to take the GRE this year, then you need to know that the GRE is changing this summer. Starting August 1, 2011, the GRE Revised General Test is replacing the current GRE General Test.
The new version of the GRE will feature a new scoring scale as well as different types of questions in the Verbal and Quantitative sections, placing more focus on reading comprehension and applying concepts to real-life scenarios. There will also be changes to the design of the test, to make it more user-friendly by allowing you to change answers and skip questions within a section.
One of the most important things you need to know about this change is how it impacts when you should take the GRE, and which version you will need to take. If you want your GRE score reported before November, then you will need to take the current version of the test sometime before August. Starting August 1st, only the GRE Revised General Test will be available, and GRE scores from tests taken in August and September will not be reported until mid-November.
For more information about the changes to the GRE, how to register, and how it will impact you as a test-taker: http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/know