Seniors – Welcome Back to Campus!

Seniors: Are you ready?

Seniors: Are you ready?

Once again, as predictable as the earth’s rotation, the annual fall migration of students heading to/back to campus is now in full-swing! Like all seasonal happenings, it comes with tell-tale indications – Winter’s arrival told by that foreboding metallic taste in the air. Spring comes with relief from the long winter, blooms popping and the fragrant scents of ‘new-ness.’ Summer’s ‘official’ beginning being marked by the shrill buzz of the cicadas and the obligatory queue of beach traffic. Finally, fall announcing itself with cool winds, bursting colors, the evening clatter of katydids and… moving trucks!  For the nation’s campuses, fall also means newly erected directional signs, a litany of ads and postings for rooms/apartments to rent, lost parents asking for directions, and back-to-school sales on every channel, station, newspaper, with ads assaulting all one’s senses.

As this annual happening unfolds, for all college students, but seniors in particular, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. And with graduation now simply months away, I thought I’d compile a list of a few things that, as a senior, you might want to be thinking about as you’re beginning your final year of college!

You’ve most likely just come off the last summer where, going into it, you knew exactly what was to happen next; another year of school. But now, as a senior, uncertainty can be the rule as the summer of 2015 is waiting with a new and great ambiguity for the first time.

Addressing the unknown by being prepared, proactive and by embracing the 10 suggestions below might be of something to think about! If you do so, the clouds of uncertainty will have a good chance of clearing on the horizon for graduation day!

1) Career services – Your college/university has it! Use it! No worries as, contrary to what you may think, they are NOT there to ‘place’ you in a job or career you’re not wanting to be in! Their job, their role, what they do is get to know who you are and try to feed you as much career-oriented learning, understanding and opportunity as possible. Your Career office is a place to meet, greet and introduce yourself and they’ll run with you from there. You have to take the first step though! Good engagement takes time and being proactive. Your career office is there to help get from campus to the next step in your career!

2) Network – And then network, network and network some more! Usually when the term is used, beads of sweat start to emerge from the foreheads of those being told they need to do so. Let me first start off by saying that networking is an organic process of engagement that takes time, energy and proactivity to make work well. If you’re doing so simply to ‘collect’ names on LinkedIn or ‘likes’ on Facebook, that is not networking, that is accounting and not a lot of fun. Networking means simply talking to people. Speaking with people of like interests. Letting people know, that are in influential positions, where you’re at and what you’re looking for. It really is nothing more than building a circle of people that are wanting and willing to help and this is essentially how the world moves. You do it every day when moving about campus and chatting with friends! Remember, also, that networking is a two-way street and if people get the sense that you’re doing such simply as a means-to-an-end, then it’s lost its effectiveness.

3) linkedIn – See ‘Networking’ above! As part of one’s integration with the world, LinkedIn is becoming an important tool to brand and market yourself! It is a great avenue of ‘meeting’ people and what LinkedIn perhaps does best is allow you to do so by bridging the various ‘degrees of separation.’ Want to meet someone in the solar industry? You will! As you build your LinkedIn network, you’ll start to see, through your contacts, their contacts and so on as many concentric circles out start to develop.  As your network grows you’ll have access to people that can be influential in all industries.

4) Resume & Cover letter – Time to get them ‘ready.’ When I say ready, I don’t mean necessarily ready to send out as that implies having an actual place/person to send them to! What I mean here is that it is time, before they are needed, to be thinking about how you want to portray yourself and your experiences. In regards to your resume, how to tailor it to various, respective industries.  How to use its structure to best highlight your experience and accomplishments and like any good writing, how to best edit what will be on such, and just as important, what will remain off! If you think of the resume as a ‘cast of characters,’ to use a Hollywood metaphor, the cover letter should be the ‘screen play,’ meaning it has a story and that it is well connected to the audience you’re intending.  They need to work together and the cover letter needs to be specific, directed, and very much personalized while giving the reader something that engages them with you, the prospective applicant. There’s an old marketing term, “you’ve got to sell the sizzle not the steak!” Think about what you’re wanting to say but make it such so that the employer ‘wants’ to read such.

5) Meet with all prospective employers – This is an interesting area of conversation. When I say meet all prospective employers, I mean this in a sort of literal sense. For example, as the semester rolls on, your Career office will have numbers of employers coming in to meet with you, the student. Don’t define them by their industry or job being offered! Look at them as contacts in the field. You’re not interested in (as an example) banking!? Fine, but go meet with that recruiter as 1) they may say something you’ve not thought of and actually be of interest(?) for you and, 2) perhaps more importantly, they KNOW people and may have a key contact in an industry or field you’re wanting to enter.

6) Intern, volunteer, shadow – Guess what!? In may of 2015 you’re to get the diploma you’ve worked hard for! You should be both proud and feeling accomplished for that! But, and here’s the catch, yours comes with about 4.5 million others! I’ve been saying this to graduating students for years now; essentially, everyone’s got a college degree. The new “high school diploma” if you will. What can make you different in the process of the job search? Experience. Real, tangible, “I’ve done more than simply study/research the field” sorts of experience. Think of how this can not only help with your clarity in your search but also being able to speak the employer’s language when approaching them!

7) Informational Interviews – Are you ready to be put on the spot? Informational interviews are simply that, information. Essentially, asking someone in an industry/job that you’re interested in if they’d be willing to carve out a little time to talk with you about their work-life? Great opportunity to learn what it’s like on the inside AND you’re building a network (see above) in the process. These can be really great in terms of your personal stewardship and defining what you want to do and where you want to go with your first job or career.

8) Sidle on up to your professors – And ones that aren’t! They know people and like any other form of networking, getting to know people, letting them know where you’re at and what you’re looking for is building a great network of allies.

9) Be aware of your friends’ contacts – Same thing here. Know someone on-campus who’s father, mother, uncle, whatever, works in a field of interest? Speak with them! Get introduced and start to plant seeds of interest!

10) Clean up your on-line image – While related to ‘LinkedIn’ above, I’ve left this one for last as while as important as any of the previous 9 entries, this one can easily be left to a passive status and if not treated and managed properly, it can be a death-knell in your job search. If you look at the collective output of your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (and I could go on here) accounts, they are a biographical mosaic of you in an on-line forum. If you think employers will not be looking at these, think again, as they will and judgments, fair or not, will be made! That 1am rant on twitter about something you saw in the news? The Facebook post with the pic of you at the party? Whatever the case may be, these will be seen and conclusions will be made. Clean up your on-line persona and ask yourself when looking at any piece or component, “is this positive or at least neutral?” If neither, it needs to go!

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