How to Make the Most of Your Senior Year of College
As your senior year of college approaches, you are probably starting to feel anxious about what lies in store for you after graduation. Do not worry though; you are definitely not alone. First, make sure to find some time to enjoy your life as a senior student. You will never get these years back, so make the most of your final year of college. On the other hand, you also need to plan smartly as you think about what to do after college. Whether you next phase in life involves finding a job after college or going to graduate school, we have some useful tips for getting started.
Graduate School or Work?
While many students concentrate on finding a job after college, others are looking to go straight to graduate school. The choice you make in this regard depends on your career path. If you want to work in a highly specialized field such as law or medicine, grad school is your only option. Likewise, getting an MBA can open up opportunities in lucrative business fields. Some students are thinking about graduate school but what (and some cases are required to have) a few years of work experience under their belt. If graduate school is next in your plans, make sure to study for the appropriate entrance exam, get in touch with professors who will write you letters of recommendation, and get ready for a relatively length application process. As a rule, if you plan to enter graduate school the following academic year, you should start the process of applying in September of the year before. In other words, right when you are entering your senior year of college. But there are a couple of things to remember if graduate is your next step. First, keep in mind that graduate school is intended for people who are truly motivated and love school. If you are somebody who often had to fight to drag yourself out of bed to attend college lectures, graduate school might not be right for you. Second, do not attend graduate school merely because you want to delay entering the real world. Considering how much money it costs to get an advanced degree (for a two year program expect to be in debt exceeding $100,000), this is a very expensive way to delay the inevitable.
Finding a Job
If your life after college plan is to find a job rather than attending graduate school, here is some advice for graduating seniors. First, make sure to hone your resume writing skills. If you have a resume, take it to your college's career center and ask a career counselor to look it over, offer resume advice, and help you polish it up. If you do not have a resume, now is the time to create one. If you do not have any real work experience, seek out internships for college students (more on this later). Also, consider creating a LinkedIn profile or other job-related accounts so that prospective employers can find you when doing a social media search. In addition, pay a visit to your academic adviser BEFORE registering for fall semester classes. They will be able to help you identify which classes would be best to take based on your career goals. While you might be tempted to choose electives based on how easy or fun they are, you should really consider taking practical classes that are not necessarily related to your major, but can help you no matter what jobs you apply for. For instance, classes on public speaking, marketing, human resources, basic accounting, and writing courses can be beneficial for a whole variety of careers. After all, almost every job requires good writing and communication skills whether you want to work in, say, sales or as an events planner. Knowledge about PowerPoint and Excel are also important regardless of your profession.
If you are looking to find internships, your college almost certainly has the resources to help you with the internship search. In fact, they likely have internship fairs at different points during the year. Do not worry if it is a non-paid internship. Students regularly use their internship experiences to land jobs after college. The whole purpose of college internships is to help you gain practical, hands-on experience when you do not have much of a work history to boast. Plus, you would have a supervisor to add to your list of helpful references. Your resume for an internship should focus on any relevant courses you have taken in addition to any related work experience.
Create a LinkedIn Profile
Even if you do not have much of a college senior resume, using social media for a job search is the way to go in this day and age. When you add a resume to LinkedIn, you are essentially marketing yourself to hiring managers and recruiters from all over the world. But don't just create a bare bones account, really make the most of it. You want to have a strong presence that features your college graduate resume even before you have finished school. Do not settle for a basic profile; create one that really gets you noticed by prospective employers. If you want to know how to get your first job, it all starts with actively using LinkedIn and other social media. Follow important people who work in your relevant field of study. Join LinkedIn groups and do some networking. Professionals are always eager to help students who are looking to enter that field. You might even be able to find job fairs and conferences nearby specifically related to your career field.
Think about Applying and Prepare for Your Job Interviews
Get your name out there as soon as possible. There are a lot of students who start contacting prospective employers as early as late winter before they graduate, several months before they receive their diploma! Doing so demonstrates to companies that you are serious about getting a job and are well prepared in your planning. If you have never interviewed for a job before, make sure you prepare yourself well. Look on the internet to find tips related successful interviews. Also, prepare for the interview by doing some research about the company that you are applying for. This will show that you take an active interest in what the company does and are not merely applying randomly. Go to your career center and ask them for advice to help you improve your speaking abilities. Once again, as for resume help. In fact, you should create a resume that is specific to every position you apply for since the responsibilities will vary depending on the job.
Hopefully, you had a great time in college full of amazing memories. But hopefully you didn't do too thorough of a job of documenting your exploits. If you are like a lot of young people, your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts contain a digital record of a lot of what you did. Before applying for jobs, it would be a good idea to go back and make sure your accounts do not containing anything that might be potentially embarrassing. A hiring manager is not going to be impressed if they find Facebook pictures of you passed out on a sofa. If you have said something ignorant on Twitter, you should probably delete those comments. While they might focus on LinkedIn in order to determine your qualifications, they will no doubt be combing through other social media sites to see if your comments or behaviors would raise any concerns.
Your final year of college should be an exciting time! Make sure to enjoy life, but at the same time, you need to start thinking about the future. This starts by planning for the next stage once you get your bachelor's degree. It might seem like a stressful endeavor, but if you use the right support system - your career center, your academic adviser, internship supervisors, etc. - it does not have to be. Think about it: what would be even more exciting then your final graduation party? How about receiving a phone call that you have been hired! So make a plan, follow through, and you will be on your way to success!