The end of the semester is fast approaching for many college seniors. Even though you may be caught up in campus life, the professional world is just around the bend. Here are a few tips on how to get into a “real world” mentality to make the transition a tad bit easier.
Think about what you want to do. You have been studying a particular field for around four years, but that doesn’t mean you will—or will want to—automatically enter it. If you know that you want to pursue something else upon graduation, there is nothing wrong with not going into the field you studied. In fact, you’ll do better off knowing this from the get-go so you can build your career in another field. Regardless of what you want to do, learn about your options. Examine what you want your ideal day to be like. What kinds of jobs are available in your industry and in the region you want to work in?
It may sound silly but most new grads are on autopilot and, understandably, enter the working world taking whatever job they can get. But you want to build a career now that you have your degree; not just get a job. Put some thought into the direction you want to take.
Get crackin’ on a resume. I know it may seem daunting to work on something that doesn’t have a deadline—unlike turning in a final paper—but this document is equally as important. While you are on campus and have the resources, talk to the pros at your Career Services office and get tips for writing a resume, and feedback from people who know all about them.
Compiling a resume is often overwhelming for soon-to-be grads because they feel like there’s nothing to fill up an entire page, but if you really assess your skill set and look at the latest resume-writing trends, you can come up with a powerful resume that will get you the job.
Start looking for a job—yesterday. Again, you may be swamped with class work or you may be trying to relish your time as an undergrad, but nowadays, jobs are hard to come by. Add the fact that you’ll soon have to pay off loans and bills—and probably want to get your own pad at some point—and you will realize that you don’t want to be behind the eight ball. It is frustrating when your peers have great jobs lined up while they are still students. While that does not happen to everyone, many students are preparing to enter the professional world months before they graduate. Be proactive in your job search and start putting feelers out. You never know how long it will take to get a job and it’s smarter in the long run to get something fulfilling and profitable so you don’t have to take any old gig to get by. (Chances are, you went to college so you would not have to just “get by” anyway.)
Even thinking about what you want to do and where you want to live—and arranging for those things—is smart planning. Talk to your parents about the possibility of moving home or see if you can get a roommate if you want to be out on your own or plan to move far from home.
When summer starts and your classmates are at work and you are home on mom’s sofa, it may feel good for a while but it won’t be long before you will want to get out into the working world. Start your search now so you can make a timely transition.
Practice interviewing. If you aced your public speaking class and excel at debates, that doesn’t mean you will be a natural at an interview. Most of the time, the weight of landing your first job and the pressure of impending expenses can turn you into a frazzled mess when it comes time to sit down for a one-on-one. That kind of anxiety can take away every strategy you have mastered in the past. Start developing answers to common interview questions and practice a mock interview with a friend or a professional in the Career Services office. You can submit a stellar resume but the interview is what makes or breaks it. First impressions are huge in the real world.
Coming in to an office wide-eyed and bushy-tailed is common for recent grads, but you can get more comfortable with a professional environment by rehearsing answers and dressing up. Pay attention to things like how much you fidget—you may smell like an entry-level candidate to the interviewer but you don’t want to look like one, too!
Enjoy your last days in college. Even though it is beneficial to think about and prepare for the future, there is nothing like living in the now. Spend extra time with friends, sleep in, stay out late, hit up a crazy party, or enjoy campus activities. Even if you cannot wait to graduate, you will probably long to be a college student again at some point in the future—make the most of it now.
Balance, balance, balance. This is an overwhelming time for everyone so try to prioritize what matters. Yes, putting together the resume and starting your job search is important, but you may just want to get the foundation started before you start job hunting. Then you can use that time to complete coursework and make time for fun. There’s also nothing wrong with visiting a counselor to help developing coping strategies. If you’re feeling stressed, take a step back and make time to enjoy things—no one said you have to do everything before your graduation date, but starting to get things in order will help you in the future, too.
Kristen Fischer is the author of Ramen Noodles, Rent and Resumes: An After-College Guide to Life. For more tips on preparing for life after college and coping with 20-something issues, visit www.ramenrentresumes.com.