Last week, I responded to a NYT piece about the employment prospects for new college grads– and how companies choosing to invest in their employees through training are the ones, ultimately, getting more bang for their workforce buck.
But just because there are great employers out there who want to hire great-but-green recent college graduates, doesn’t mean students themselves shouldn’t be working to develop themselves to be ready for the job market when they get there.
Here are six things do do while you are still in college, to help you hit the ground running:
1. Identify target employers
What companies do you think are cool and interesting? What is interesting about them? Set-up Google alerts (google.com/alerts) to follow their strategy, their partners and their work. Reach out to them when they recruit on campus. Seek friend-of-a-friend introductions to people who work there.
2. Build a network
Create a profile on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and start connecting to anyone: classmates, professors, your parents’ friends. Reach out to interesting alumni, most schools have online directories where you can search by industry, title and location. I attended a focus group in college for Seattle’s Best Coffee and the leader helped open internship doors for me, just because I asked about their summer internship program.
3. Take Classes
Even Liberal Arts colleges offer great classes in writing, economics, statistics, and communications that can be marketed to future employers; if your university has a Business School, consider taking some classes there to show off your smarts! Take courses you care about, but consider adding some “marketable” selections as well: who knows, you might love them!
4. Get an internship or a job at a company you might want to work for
Use the resources your school provides to find interesting opportunities. Most schools offer online internship listings & it is never too early to start reaching out and asking hiring managers what they look for in future interns. Is there a class you should take now if you are going to apply next semester?
5. Get another internship/job
If you are still interested in your first firm and had a good experience, try returning for another semester or summer. I got my first full-time offer after a paid summer internship. If your first position taught you that that kind of work is not a good fit, use what you’ve learned and try something new.
If you realized that your internship won’t turn into your dream job, write down what you liked about it, what you didn’t like about it and think about what other jobs include the skills you were leveraging. What made you unhappy: the job or that firm’s culture?
Remember, you are interning so that you can one day have your boss’ or boss’ boss’ job. Do you like what they do? You can pivot at any point in your career, and explain how you determined what things you liked about your past experience which will make the next one an even better fit. This is also a great time to debrief with your college’s office of career services: the counselors there can help you make sense of what worked, what didn’t, and what lessons that gives you about the jobs where you will thrive.