Soon to be College Graduates: Time to Prepare!

Yes, you’ve known it’s ‘out’ there and here it is – May 2014 is right around the corner!

College Graduation is Right Around the Corner

College Graduation is Right Around the Corner!

If you are one of the few million college and university seniors preparing for graduation this coming May, here are some suggestions to take to heart in making your graduation day transition more seamlessly into a job waiting for you on the back-end.

Perhaps you may have heard that the economy is going through a bit of a rough spot as of late?  In fact, unless you’ve been living in a cave, there’s no way that the economic numbers, anecdotes of doom and gloom, and the related dour stories around such couldn’t be coming across your field of view in some way.

With this, what I’ve noticed is a trend of negativity, but especially, understandably among the newer job-seekers, and it’s creating a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy out there – “there’s nothing for me.”  “There are no jobs out there.”  “Any job I can get is a minimum wage, do you want ketchup with that?” sort of role.  Now while true that the economy is a bit in the doldrums and many positions are indeed service oriented jobs, this negativity, counter-intuitively, is exactly the attitude that’s actually going to help YOU out as a serious job seeker!

Let me explain. There are so many budding, potential candidates out there already, not even mentioning the soon to be released class of 2014 and with that, a finite amount of positions available. This negative and downward self-fulfilling prophecy is exactly what you want, around you, as comparatively, if you present the opposite, it’s going to help you stand out as a refreshingly unique candidate!

If you can be one of the few that goes into the process with a positive attitude, thoughts of forward movement and simply out-pacing those around you in terms of preparation for the job search, understanding of the needs & nuances of the job market, and making the two a good match, you can position yourself as a stand-out candidate in today’s times! Remember, the job search is a competition like none other so those that don’t embrace it as fully as you, will be a step behind!

So! For all you new, soon to be graduates ready to cut their teeth in the working world, here are some thoughts and suggestions to be considering as you head further into the spring semester of your final year of college – soon will be spring break and then suddenly, the next thing you’ll know, you’re walking the stage for your diploma!

Graduation Preparation – Steps to Begin Right Now!

Start taking stock in where you’re at in the moment – This is the time to really start looking at yourself and thinking about what you’re wanting to do.  You’ve got less than three months left.  Be honest and think about what you really like and enjoy. Be very careful here in that I’ve met with many, many students over the years that would define themselves by their degree or major.  This is fine but the door is not closed to such and it’s a very limiting mind-set.  Every major and degree is only a concentration and with that, much learned and many of the transferable skills that accrue allow a nice ‘cross-pollination’ of jobs, positions, careers and industries.  Be careful not to limit yourself in possibilities.

Examine your academic, work, volunteer and extra-curricular activities – start to think about all of these as a mosaic and what each can provide for you in terms of your job-seeking candidacy. There are no ‘unimportant’ roles from one’s past.  It’s just a matter of examining each and being able to express what you had learned from such and what skills you had developed.

Meet with faculty and supervisors – This is the time, if you’ve not already, to really align with your professors and supervisors. There are a number of reasons to do so.  Mainly, they could be conduits to positions and people of interest for you.  It’s your ‘job’ to get to know them better, in and outside of the classroom, so that they know YOU better.  That way if anything comes across their desk, you want to be the first one they think about if so?  Also, when it comes time for a letter of recommendation, how can they possibly compose anything beyond the generic, if at all, if you’re just one of many there asking for such.  Think of a typical faculty member that’s teaching a 3-2 course load.  They have a litany of students in front of them and if you throw in a seminar, it could be well into the hundreds, so you need to stand out in this crowd.  Have discussions, use office hours, tell them your aspirations and interests.  Get them to ‘know’ you.

Visit your college or university career center – This is the place on campus where they are tangibly trying to make a connection for you between your academic life and the working world. Meet with an adviser or counselor.  Start developing your resume and a framework for your cover letters in this process.  Try doing a mock interview and go to the variety of topical meetings & discussions.  Also, get involved with campus recruiting.  Granted in the celestial sense, each college or university’s campus recruiting is one little solar system in the galaxy, relatively, but this can be a huge beginning to your meeting people in fields of interest, getting some feedback on your materials and practicing the interviewing processes.

Set up informational interviews – These next two to three months are a great time, especially over spring break, to find people that are doing something of interest to you, contacting them and asking if they’d be willing to meet with you to have a discussion or ‘informational interview.’  In the process, by default, you’re networking, learning about specific organizations and industries, meeting players in in their field.  You’re planting yourself in their minds and getting fantastic feedback on your own approach and presentation skills.

Contact almuni/ae that are in fields of interest to talk with – This is something that’s availed to you as a member of your college or university; access to those that have ‘been where you’re going!’  Take advantage of this.  Get out there and meet people that have graduated from your institution already and have made their mark.  You’ll get fantastic advice and feedback, not to mention that your network will be growing exponentially with every phone call & meeting.

Start or push along your social media presentation to the world – Get out there in the social media public eye, but do so carefully.  Employers will be looking for you on-line.  They’ll be checking to see what your social media character portrayal is and if it is a good representation of you and, potentially, your inclusion with the organization in question.  This is definitely the time to also do some maintenance on such!  Start ‘cleansing’ the posts and photographs of the party antics or controversial content that is out there with your name attached.  Give your social media wall a good scrubbing!

Personal Branding – Speaking of social media, now is the time, if you’ve not done so, to get your LinkedIn account up and running and as ‘professional’ as can be.  It is a virtual wall of you, your achievements, skills, interests, and a chance to present your history and ambitions to a prospective audience. Remember that this will be looked at, frequently, so keep it professional, up to date and no ‘puffery’ allowed.  Be honest, sell yourself but be honest with your entries and offerings.  This ‘branding’ of you is important to start now and not while in the throws of your job search.  The more you can do before graduation day, allows for more to be done in an effective search.

Credit, credit & credit – If you’ve not thought about such, or have no interest, now’s the time to discover a strong interest in it! Credit health is critical for you as an individual and it has ramifications around so many things today: want to buy a car?  Get a cell phone?  Buy a house or rent an apartment?  Plan on renting a car?  What’s more common today is that employers may or will be doing a credit check on you if they are interested in you as a candidate.  Remember, real or not, your credit ‘worthiness’ is a reflection on YOUR potential employment to many.  Organizations like Credit Karma (I have no affiliation but am a user) allow you to sign up for free, never a fee, and you can have all your credit information at your fingertips and keep it monitored constantly. You can see your financial history and actions and there is much information and advice there to use as a guide in getting the numbers up!

Think about what you really are interested in doing – Every employer and contact is going to be asking what you’re interested in doing (important) and why (even MORE important)?  The latter being even the more difficult part to answer but speaks to your intentions and motivations.  You need to be thinking about this – in depth, so that you can talk and converse legitimately and confidently with prospective employers or people in your network.

Volunteer somewhere – Get involved! This is a great way to get some experience, make some new contacts, develop some strong referrals that are outside of your academic circles and, simply, learn how organizations can run.  Also, when asked about it in an interview, think how powerfully it sounds when you say, “yes, I worked/volunteered there, for free!”  Says much to one’s commitment.

You can ‘front load’ your graduation day and job search very quickly by embracing the above suggestions and getting those building blocks in place for a very successful transition from the academic ranks to the world beyond.  A world that’s waiting for you and actually needs you!  It is your ‘job’ to, simply, stand out in a sea of others after you get your diploma!  By the way, in advance, Congratulations!


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