By Lauren Schipper, Career Coach
Occasionally we look back at times in our lives and say to ourselves, “Wow, I wish I had known to do that!” Often though, we enter new chapters of our lives without knowing these lessons. This is something that young adults are confronting more frequently when they begin college and are faced with the questions: “What are you going to college for, and what is your plan after graduation?” While it is difficult to land your dream job right after college, there are key things you can do during those four years that will give you a better chance of finding a job that will jump start your career.
- Get to know a professor or advisor. Academic advisors and professors have office hours for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use them. Even if you aren’t struggling in your classes, you can use this time to your advantage. A day will come when you need a letter of recommendation, either for your first job or for graduate school. Developing a professional relationship with a professor or advisor who can truly evaluate your work ethic and intelligence will give you an advantage over other applicants.
- Apply for internships. Remember that an internship is meant for more than college credits; it’s a chance to get entry-level experience. If you are undecided about what specific career path you want to take, apply for an internship — or even two — during college that encompasses job duties or assignments that interest you. This will give you the opportunity to have a generalized idea of what a full time job in that respective field would be like.
- Choose electives wisely. When the time comes for choosing electives, avoid choosing the “easy A” elective. Select electives based on which ones are most relevant to your future career plans and those that will provide you with education your general courses do not. For example, if you’re a business major and you have an interest in working internationally, choose an elective that focuses on international business.
- Get some work and/or volunteer experience. Many of your first after-college employers will understand that it is difficult to work during college. However, they will want to see what you have to offer beyond your grade point average. If you can’t find the time to work during college, take advantage of volunteering. Volunteer work is typically flexible around your schedule and is a great way to obtain entry-level experience, in addition to references that you can use after graduation.
- Learn how to write a professional resume and a cover letter. Any potential employer will want to see your resume. Although it may be short, you can present your education, skills and experience to date in a professional way. A good cover letter can really make you stand out from other applicants for a job or an internship. Take advantage of resources on campus such as the Career Center, or make an appointment with a Resume Writer or Career Coach at JCS, to get some guidance on preparing effective resumes and cover letters.
Many young adults will find it difficult at the beginning of college to see past the freedom, the new friendships and the opportunity to explore new adventures. However, keep in mind that you’re in college for a reason: to further your education and prepare yourself for a fulfilling career. Although it takes work, you can always be ahead of the competition by taking advantage of the opportunities during college that will lead you to where you want to go.
By Lauren Schipper, Career Coach, Career Services, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
JCS offers a full range of career services. For more information about JCS Career services click here or call 410-466-9200.