For college seniors, January is a great time to create a plan to prepare yourself for post-graduate life. Sure, you have another semester ahead of you to tackle, which means classes, exams, papers, not to mention finalizing graduation details, but planning ahead can alleviate a lot of the pressure you’ll face when your college life ends and it is time to get a job! Aim to devote at least a few hours a week to plotting your future so that when graduation concludes, you hit the ground running. (Even if you are entering graduate school this fall, it’s never too soon to start mapping out your career path.)
What you can do now to ensure a smoother transition to the world of work:
Create a LinkedIn Profile
Create a LinkedIn profile! Do not wait. It’s a great way to organize your career and academic background. Step one is to create a LinkedIn summary that clarifies your present role (college student studying ____), notes experience you currently possess (internships, part-time jobs), as well as the industry/function/career path you with to pursue. Why is this important? When recruiters are out there scanning LinkedIn for entry-level hires, they are going to use key words to search for candidates that seek specific roles/industries.
Once your profile is accurate and complete including a professional photograph of yourself, all of your prior work history, relevant college courses, extracurricular, and you have joined some career-related groups, it’s time to make connections.
Networking: Start Your Outreach Campaign Now!
Commit to connect to at least 20 new people a week via LinkedIn; they can be former or existing colleagues, friends, mentors, and professionals that you have met along the way. Be sure to connect with your family members, too. Most students get hired by loose ties – that is, friends of friends or connections of family members or colleagues. Growing your network is a great opportunity to start making connections in a preferred industry or job function. Be sure to also network in person. Seek industry-relevant events in your area, attend college job fairs, and explore relevant seminars or trainings that may enable you to make connections.
Create a Resume (& Keep It Updated)
Use your LinkedIn Profile as a guide to create your resume. There are tons of great templates online. Opt for one that is not generated automatically; rather, choose one that enables you to download it as a Word document to adapt/update as necessary. For college students, one page is ideal. Too much to share in one page? Remember that can use your LinkedIn profile to add in details that don’t fit on your resume. Think of your resume and your LinkedIn profile as a unit—most hiring folks review both. Aim to cut out fluff and only include substance. While hobbies and interests are great ice breakers, save them to discuss during interviews; it’s fine to add in clubs or teams, and be sure to note any leadership roles. For more details on resume creation, visit my article on resume basics.
Even if you do some job shadowing for a week or on weekends, it is beneficial! (Shadowing is exactly what it sounds like – getting to follow a professional around as they do their job.) Any experience you can gather and gain on a potential role/career is a great investment of your time and energy. Internships provide a snap shot into various careers, and enable you to learn more about the culture of specific organizations or teams. Plus, it’s usually the only way you get to see what the day-to-day life in a role/department/company is all about. Furthermore, internships are useful in conducting gap analyses; they enable you to compare what you know versus what you still need to learn to master a various function or role. LinkedIn offers tons of internship listings for students, and checking in with your school’s career office is helpful, too. Employers tend to provide career offices with their internship opportunities.
Cultivate Your Personal Professional Brand
You are your own unique brand. You do things certain ways, see the world through your own eyes, possess your own creative energies, your own career aspirations, and pursue goals in your own way. These attributes comprise to your brand. A great way to cultivate your brand is by writing articles and blogs. Writing enables you to share your views, thoughts, and ideas. You can share your writing on your own blog, contribute to other’s blogs or forums, and also publish articles on LinkedIn. LinkedIn offers a great outlet for college students to share what they know, who they are, and what they seek. Remember, though, that what you put out there follows you wherever you go! When writing articles, regardless of the topic, avoid cutesy and gimmicky and aim for substance and clarity.
Clean Up Social Media (& Create a Strong and Professional Social Media Presence)
Say goodbye to pictures and comments that don’t reflect your best self, and say hello to the new and improved brand of you. If a picture, comment, or post on social media makes you feel even the least bit embarrassed, it’s likely inappropriate for your next boss to see. Always remember that whatever you put on social media becomes part of your permanent file on the internet. Use discernment when posting pictures and comments. All that you put out there may come back to haunt you.
LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook: make sure it is in top shape for future employers to take a look at, because it’s likely everyone you interview with will review your social media presence in some capacity.
Get Focused and Get Moving!
Meditation is a great way to reflect, explore your feelings and thoughts, and help you to cultivate your optimism and best self. Graduation, moving, and job searches may create stress. Meditation is a way to channel your energies, and take some deep breathes to help you to remain centered, focused, and calm. There are tons of websites and apps that can walk you through daily meditation routines. Habits you form now will help you as your career evolves.
Journaling is another outlet that enables you to rid yourself of mental chatter so that you can get to the more important things in your daily life. Something sitting on you? Write it down and release it! Also, committing to check in with yourself daily enables you to think more clearly, brainstorm, and possibly come up with innovative ideas.
Finally, commit to daily sweat! Run, bike, ballet, yoga, CrossFit. Get a heart-pumping cardio exercise routine into your life immediately. It will help you to keep your focus when you get into stressful situations—think interviews, first weeks on the job—plus, it will serve as an outlet for you when the going gets tough. Because it will! That is part of adaptation and transition to all new adventures. We doubt, we stress, we lose our way. Exercise has the power to bring us back to our high-energy selves on a daily basis, alleviate depression and anxiety, and elevate our confidence and spirits. Figure out which time of day works best for you, experiment with various workouts to find what you enjoy, and then just do it!