When you’re doing the math on higher education and student loans, the jobs you can get after college are central to the equation. As you work towards earning a degree, it’s important to keep in mind how you plan to use it — and what those jobs pay.
But many students feel ill-prepared for the post-grad job market.
Only four in 10 seniors feel their college experience has prepared them for the workforce, according to McGraw-Hill Education’s 2016 Workforce Readiness Survey. If you’re an Arts and Humanities major (like I was), you’re three times more likely to say you feel “not at all prepared” for a career.
The good news is that college is a great time to get career-ready, if you’re willing to do more.
“There are a lot of things that college students can do to make themselves more marketable, and many of them are actually fun things to get involved with during their time in undergrad,” says Valerie Streif, a senior advisor with Mentat, a career mentoring resource.
Here’s what students should be doing to prepare for their first jobs after college.
1. Visit your campus career center
Your university’s campus career center provides valuable (and free) resources to help you find your first job out of college. “The career center can help students learn the basics about job searching,” says Bianca Jackson, a career happiness expert and coach.
Most career centers will provide counseling to help you find careers you’re interested in and the qualifications you’d need to pursue them.
They also provide help with career skills like writing a resume. Creating a resume mock-up and getting feedback from a career center is vital to helping you put your best foot forward in applications for jobs after college.
A career center can also coach you through mock interviews and help you practice your interviewing skills.
2. Apply in-classroom learning
“My number one piece of advice for college students would be to invest in themselves by learning, reading, and writing more on subjects outside of the classroom,” says Jackson.
She suggests that college students get involved with student organizations, on-campus internships or practicums, or co-operatives to “round out their education [and] put the theories they’re learning to practical use.”
There could also be other ways to get more involved directly with your area of study. “Especially in big research universities, there are countless opportunities to get experience under the supervision of faculty, and oftentimes it is also paid,” Streif points out.
3. Get leadership experience
Joining on-campus organizations is also a way to get valuable leadership experience — something that 80 percent of employers look for in candidates, according to NACE’s Job Outlook 2016 survey.
“One of the best things to put on a resume is a leadership position, whether it be at a job or for an extracurricular club,” Streif says. You don’t have to be class president (though it doesn’t hurt). Even leading an ultimate frisbee team “shows dedication and willingness to lead,” Streif says.
Plus, “it can also provide solid material to discuss in an interview, making you stand out against other candidates who were just members of random clubs and didn’t put in the work to hold a leadership position,” she adds.
4. Analyze and track your achievements
As you prepare for finding a job after college, start to compile achievements, growth, and wins, suggests Erica McCurdy, a career and life coach who works with college students.
“Create a document that keeps track of success stories, hurdles you have overcome, opportunities you have taken advantage of, and challenges you have identified and either met or used as a chance to change something about your college experience,” McCurdy says.
If you track these things as you go, you’ll have actual experience and achievements to point to in cover letters and interviews. It can also help you better highlight what makes you stand out.
“Make note of interesting stories you can turn into anecdotes that describe your personality, work ethic, or ability to work as a team,” McCurdy suggests.
5. Build your network
Networking can be vital to students searching for their first jobs after college, especially as they struggle to get noticed among other applicants.
On-campus connections can help a lot, but “to really stand out, students need to talk directly to people who know the industry,” says Dr. Karina Dusenbury, a college and career coach and the founder of Maximize College.
For instance, Dr. Dusenbury suggests scouring the bios of professors, instructors, and other faculty members with non-academic industry experience.
“These instructors can give [students] the inside scoop on how to stand out and what employers expect,” she explains.
Students can also make valuable connections in their field of interest through their college’s alumni association. “Alumni can educate students about their field and recommend classes or extracurricular activities they found beneficial,” Dr. Dusenbury points out.
6. Complete an internship
”Hands-on work experience is far more valuable than anything you could ever learn in the classroom, so it is becoming absolutely essential that students at least have some experience working in the field they are hoping to get into after graduation,” Streif says.
For true real-world experience, an internship or relevant work experience can be irreplaceable. “Students should be working, interning, and attending as many field-specific events as possible while in school,” says Emily White, a talent agent and the author of the upcoming book Interning 101.
Internships take some work to apply for and get, which can further help you develop and test career skills. They also show you are a self-starter with a passion for your industry.
As a bonus, “internships will help you to sift through what the ‘real world’ is like and isn’t like before you are fully committed to a job or location,” White adds.
7. Get the right attitude as you prepare for jobs after college
One of the most important things you can learn from an internship or job search is that you don’t know everything. Humility, teachability, and a hunger to learn are central to the right attitude for getting a job after college.
“New college graduates should have an attitude focused on continued learning and a respect for mentors and seasoned professionals in the workplace,” says Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, a professional resume writer with Feather Communications.
“Employers can teach technical skills and abilities,” Dr. Rothbauer-Wanish points out. “In fact, they often look to ‘mold’ college students into their own habits, culture, and practices of the organization. However, people skills, strong communication abilities, and learning how to listen to others are all skills that are inherent to some people — these are the skills required at almost any job position.”
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.49% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
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3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.48% effective April 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.49% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 6.65%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.41%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.11%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.98% – 9.72%6||Undergrad & Graduate|