Here are a few pieces of advice for graduating seniors to help you get the most out of your final year before you turn that tassel at graduation.
As you look forward to your senior year, you’re probably thinking about how much fun it’s going to be. All of the events on campus, the fun with your friends, and 21st birthday celebrations will keep your social calendar booked. But don’t worry. No one should be telling you not to enjoy your senior year of college. In fact, embrace it for all its worth — and it’s worth a lot.
Yet, your final year in college is more than a farewell party to your youth; it’s time to prep for the next phase of your life. Life after college is rapidly approaching. Are you ready?
Here are a few pieces of advice for incoming seniors to help you get the most out of your final year.
Life after college: Career or more school?
Many students these days are opting to go right from their undergraduate schooling into a grad school program of some sort. The sooner you can figure out which direction you would like to follow, the better. Depending on your field of study, it can be a difficult choice. The sooner you can make it, the easier it will be for you to get all of your ducks in a row. If you’re heading to grad school, you need to focus on finding, and getting into, the right school.
If you are thinking about jumping into the world of careers, your senior year and life after college will look much different.
Prepare your resume
Do you have a resume yet? If so, it’s time to update it. If not, it’s time to build one. If you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of places that can help you do it. Include any jobs you’ve had as well as your education and other experiences that have made you a good candidate for the entry-level jobs you want. There are a lot of ways that your college experiences can boost your resume — don’t neglect them!
Visit your campus career center
Your campus is sure to have a career center, and if you haven’t taken the time to stop in, you should do so ASAP. The career center is your hub for information on careers, help with your resume, and even advice on what career path might be best for you. Call ahead to set up an appointment, and when you go, bring your resume.
Once at the center, talk to a career counselor and let them look over your resume to see if there are any red flags or obvious gaps that you need to address. There are certain classes that are remarkably useful for students in any major. Who couldn’t use some more knowledge of technology or business strategy? Make these last credits really work towards your end goal.
Examine your classes
By the time you get to your senior year, you should know what classes you need to take to finish up your major and/or minor. But what about any elective credits you need to use up? Sure, it might be fun to take something easy and frivolous, but is that the best use of your tuition money? Think carefully about the career field you want to be in and think outside of the box. Which elective courses could help make you look better on your resume? Think about classes that could give you an edge based on your career goals. Here are a few examples:
Business Management: You can’t go wrong with a class on business communication — or any kind of communication, really. The ability to communicate is one of the soft skills employers are always looking for.
Human Resources: In human resources, you will spend a lot of time working with computers. Why not advance your skills in programs like Excel or Powerpoint? You’ll be a step ahead of your peers.
The arts: If you’ve chosen a path in the arts, it would still be a great idea to sneak in a basic accounting or business class. You may end up running your own business someday as an artist and need that knowledge.
Sales: You’ve probably taken a lot of marketing classes, but what about writing? Most sales jobs require communication through emails and letters. Some even require you to write some ad copy. Get a jump on it now and brush up on those writing skills.
These are just a few examples. For any career path, there are electives that may seem unrelated to the field that could actually do you a lot of good. Not sure what to take? Ask your career center representative or your advisor.
Look at internships
Even if you think you’re in pretty good shape with your resume, an internship could be just what you need to get a leg up on the competition for life after college. Look at it this way: You’ve already put in a lot of hours in school and you are paying them for the privilege to do so. If you can get a good internship that will provide real-world, hands-on training in your field, it’s a bargain even if you don’t get paid.
Don’t believe me? Movie star Tom Hanks worked as an intern for the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. He learned so much on the job he actually quit school and jumped into the business. Look at where he is now.
Build a killer LinkedIn profile
Why wait? LinkedIn is a powerful networking site for professionals on the web, and hiring managers and recruiters use it every day to assess applicants. You don’t want to just have a presence on LinkedIn — you want a strong, professional presence. There’s no reason you have to wait until you are out of school.
Once you start your profile, don’t do it halfway. You need more than just a basic profile; you want a fantastic profile. Like your resume, you want your LinkedIn page to jump out at possible employers and get you noticed.
Once your profile is in place, start actively using the website. Follow people and groups who are relevant to your field of study, connect with people you know, and ask for recommendations from those who have worked with you. Soon you’ll have a whole new network of possibilities on just one website.
Think about job interviews
You may not actually be applying for any jobs until the spring, but it benefits you to start thinking about those job interviews. Is speaking a strength of yours? If so, great. You can focus on the types of questions you can expect to face.
If public speaking and interviewing is difficult for you, now is the time to try to find a class or help from your career center. There are even tech resources to help you out. A little bit of practice goes a long way.
Start thinking about your online presence
You’ve had a lot of fun over the last few years no doubt. Chances are your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles (to name just a few) are a digital record of a lot of those good times. Yet as you get ready to graduate and try to land your new career, it’s time to think about what types of things you have out there on the internet that might not look too flattering.
What do you think a hiring manager is going to think when they see pictures of you doing a keg stand or reads all of those angry tweets between you and your ex? If you don’t think that hiring managers and recruiters look at those sites — you’re wrong. While they won’t rely on them to the extent that they will LinkedIn, they do scan them for red flags. Now is your time to start removing some of those red flags and avoid any new ones because your online image is more important today than ever before.
Your senior year can still be fun and full of memories — don’t worry. But figuring out where you want to be after school and making a few shrewd moves to maximize your final year of school could pay big dividends once you graduate. What’s even better than your final graduation party? Accepting your first great job offer. Set a plan, follow through, and use your senior year to jumpstart the rest of your life.
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