WASHINGTON, May 11, 2017 – Many students spend their K-12 years believing that success is only a matter of obtaining a college degree. It’s as if upon their graduation, their possession of a college diploma will cause countless employers to flock to them the way pigeons flock to a piece of bread in a city park.
Once upon a time, the pursuit of higher education was indeed a reliable way to secure a good job after graduation. Today, however, higher education is so widespread that college degrees do not distinguish job candidates the way they used to, though they remain valuable credentials for the most part.
But finding a job in 2017 involves more than simply earning a college diploma. It requires today’s college graduate job candidates to make full use of the strengths and resources available to latch onto the best career opportunities. As with most things in life, there are no guarantees for success. But there are several key skills that can help make the transition between university studies and career placement smoother and more successful.
Everyone is familiar with the old saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” For many, the truth of this mantra becomes a reality during the transitional time between college and career.
Today more than ever, there is no substitute for network connections, both big and small, that can help you to find good leads and great jobs. This is the first of many times in life when mastering the art of networking is of crucial importance in building a successful career path.
There is no universal secret to networking. First and foremost, networking is a process. It’s more than just adding influential people to your LinkedIn profile. It’s about developing lasting personal and business relationships, steadily and over time. For starters, get to know your college classmates. These early connections can pay off down the road.
If you attend a workshop, lecture or exposition given by a prestigious person in your current or intended industry, be sure to hang around afterward and introduce yourself to the speaker or speakers. If you are interested in staying in touch with them for networking purposes, consider sending them an email after the presentation, making sure to thank them for their remarks. Perhaps surprisingly, even today, seemingly old-fashioned courtesies still work and are still appreciated.
Anyone who has searched for an entry-level job can tell you that many if not most employers prefer applicants with 3-5 years of experience. This can be a frustrating challenge for college students who are just looking for an opportunity to gain that 3-5 years of experience. One way to get around this Catch-22 obstacle is to build a strong resumé by seeking for meaningful internship experiences during your undergraduate years prior to the transition from college to career.
Internships allow students to take their learning beyond the classroom, providing them with experience that is often far more attractive to employers than what students would find on campus. Beefing up your resumé through internships can be as simple as finding part-time jobs that are industry-relevant or spending summer breaks in internship programs.
In many cases, employers hire from their intern pools. This process is attractive to such employers because it essentially allows them to test-drive interns before they bring them on as permanent employees. Even if full time employment may not be an option post-internship, many internship providers are happy to provide their interns with recommendations for other jobs at other companies or organizations.
Eye for Opportunity
In addition to the obvious value of networking and internship experiences, having a keen eye for opportunity can be a helpful asset in the post-college job hunt.
First of all, understanding the lay of the land in your industry of choice can help you learn where and how to look for a desirable position. If you gather a general knowledge of the types of industries you want to work in and the companies you’d prefer to work for, including the nature of their recruiting processes, this knowledge can provide a valuable sense of direction in your search.
Additionally, an awareness of which industries are showing the most promise for a bright future can help you to take the necessary steps to launch your career in the right place.
In some cases, this awareness may lead you to seek out additional training or education. Trade programs such as medical transcriptionist schools or other technical certifications can be useful bridges to bring you from college graduation to promising niche positions.
Another valuable way to identify opportunities is to keep a realistic inventory of your specific skills and strengths. Understanding your strengths will help you to identify opportunities in companies where your expertise or aptitude would be particularly valuable.
Honest self-assessment can also help you understand where you would fit in a given company and what kind of contribution you may be able to make. In addition, being able to clearly articulate these advantages in a job interview can demonstrate to a prospective employer that that you will bring value to the company.