8 Ways to Prepare NOW for Life after College
It is now time to get your ducks in a row, undergrads.
Whether you are a senior wondering what you should be doing now to prepare for post-grad life, or you still have a few years left but would like to avoid a few panic attacks later in your college career, good on you for staying ahead of the curve!
There are simple actions you can take right now that will be invaluable to you later, when preparing for graduation and applying to jobs.
We have put together eight, totally doable steps that you can work on today to make your future easier!
- Reexamine your course selection, and don’t forget about grades!
- Improve your online presence.
- Get a part-time job.
- Get an internship in an industry of interest.
- Update or build your resume.
- Network the heck out of your network.
- Take advantage of your university’s career development office.
- Be forward-thinking about your future!
Let's break these steps down a little further.
1. Reexamine your course selection, and don’t forget about grades!
For seniors, we know it becomes increasingly difficult to stay focused on classes and grades as your undergraduate education comes to an end.
However, it is best to keep your options open post-grad. You never know if, nine months down the road after graduation, a lightbulb will go off and you will start seriously considering pursuing your Master’s.
You don’t want to eliminate this possibility by letting your grades slip your last year, which may prevent you from being a serious candidate for admission and scholarship. Stay strong and do it intentionally- this is for your future!
It is also common for employers to ask for a transcript and GPA when hiring for an entry-level position, so you want to be proud of it, not dread this request.
For first through third year students, select classes intentionally. Well-selected coursework can provide you experience in specific programs, technology, and training that employers will be pleased to see on your transcript and resume.
What does that mean? We know that particular Gardening 101 course looks cool (and easy-A material Huh? What? You said that, not us.), but think about what knowledge and training you want to graduate with under your belt.
For example, if you are majoring in the humanities, sneak in an accounting or marketing course. If you are a marketing major, take a writing course. If a business or HR major, you can’t go wrong with a course that trains you in Excel or similar computer programs.
2. Improve your online presence.
Social media is not just a phase to grow out of when you leave college.
Professional individuals and organizations rely heavily on online presence and social networking, so a positive online presence on your part is crucial when you come to the job-applying phase
Here are a few ways to improve your online presence:
- Create a LinkedIn profile. It is free and easy to create a profile, and at the same time, an incredible resource for you. This is the premier way to expand your network, connect to your university’s alumni, be discovered by job recruiters and prospective employers, and find a plethora of career development information and advice.
95% of job recruiters use LinkedIn regularly to search for and contact candidates (Source: U.S. News).
- Clean up your personal social media accounts, because most employers do a google or social media search when interviewing specific candidates. Ask yourself how a potential employer would feel about that questionably-professional (albeit undeniably epic) keg stand photo.
We suggest some of you warm up those delete and untag buttons. Just looking out for you :)
To give you an idea of the significance of social media: 47% of employers view photos of alcohol consumption negatively, 60% view oversharing on social media negatively, and 71% view typos negatively. (Source: Jobvite)
- Create a portfolio or website. It is generally free, and hey, it’s kinda fun. Share your projects, photography, research, or written work, and link the content in your portfolio to its original published source. Show off the work you are proud of! If you consider yourself kinda artsy, flaunt your talent with your website's design!
- Do your best to begin building a personal brand that could catch the eye of recruiters, such as by starting a blog, being active on Quora, or being active in a professional capacity on Twitter.
3. Get a part-time job.
There is a vast array of employment opportunities that do not require a degree, but still provide valuable training, and the benefits could be huge. Expand your network, earn a steady, if modest, income, build your skill set and employability, and have a flexible work schedule around your class schedule.
Ideas include finding work as a childcare provider, call center representative, personal assistant, dog walker, or tutor. Consider working in retail, food service, customer service, administration, or social media promotion. See our blog on this very topic and more ideas!
It also is never too early to start looking at entry-level jobs. Keep on eye for opportunities on BlueHire, because 69% of hires are found through job boards like us! (Source: Jobvite)
4. Get an internship in an industry of interest.
About 43% of internships are unpaid (Source: NACE 2030 Internship & Co-op Survey Report).
Unpaid? Groans and sighs are guaranteed at first, but an internship is a traditional and successful way to further career aspirations while you are still in college, build your network and resume, and develop current, employable skills and knowledge.
It also is an excellent way to gather experience in a field of interest and find out whether it is actually a good fit in the long run. Sometimes there is no way to discover if something is the right thing for you unless you just try it out, so internships are excellent, short-term opportunities to explore career interests.
You can put your college-learned skills and knowledge into practice in a professional environment, build confidence in yourself and your skills, and as a potential bonus, get course credit. Internships often turn into full-time offers; 68% of interns were offered full-time positions in 2020 (Source: NACE 2030 Internship & Co-op Survey Report).
Internships are structured as learning experiences, so there are fewer requirements and less pressure involved. Most companies are more forgiving when it comes to mistakes and unlearned skills; they are willing to train and assist you.
After all, this is an exchange. You do work for them, and you benefit professionally.
5. Update or build your resume.
Dust off that abandoned and sad resume, and brush her up! You may be approaching the time when your resume will be sent off to prospective employers, along with a sprinkle of hopes and dreams, and you should start preparing for this sooner than later. Put your best foot forward with a sparkling resume.
A resume will be necessary for most employment opportunities, part-time or full-time, and any fellowships, scholarships, or internships that you apply for.
For more resume-building tactics, read our blog on how to curate an excellent and impressive resume.
On that same note, also prepare a basic cover letter. Your cover letter is another essential ingredient to a job application and will need to be adapted and tailored specifically for every application.
6. Network the heck out of your network.
Connections, contacts, and recommendations play major roles in gainful employment, so develop those relationships!
With whom, you may ask?
Professors, career counselors, past and current bosses, alumni, volunteer supervisors, to name a few. People who can vouch for your skill set and character, or in other words, your hireability!
Attempt to gather approximately 3-5 contacts that you are certain would give you a strong recommendation, and that you feel confident would represent you well to potential employers.
For those of you who plan to continue your education, professor’s recommendations can be essential. Get to know a favorite professor, or two, and view them as a mentor.
It is worth investing the energy into professional relationships, not just for a letter of recommendation, but also for mentorship. Mentors were once also in your shoes, have knowledge and connections, and may be willing to go out of their way to assist you.
Austin Belcak, founder of Cultivated Culture, said the following:
“You don’t need to be this insanely outgoing person to build an incredibly strong network. You just need to understand how relationships are built, you need to practice until you feel comfortable, and then focus on a few people who really matter to you.”
For more networking tips and ground rules, read here.
7. Take advantage of your university’s career center.
It is inexplicable why every college grad doesn’t utilize the resources of their college’s career center.
Here is why you should stop ducking them, and get to be very familiar with them instead.
Career development centers are aware of where their alumni are finding jobs and have already built strong relationships with organizations and companies, to pave the way for soon-to-be graduates like yourself.
Again this is their JOB. They can provide assistance on many levels, whether it is sending you specific leads to consider, having broad discussions with you about your post-grad aspirations, or helping you identify career paths you have an interest in.
You don’t have to do everything yourself. Post-grad life is a daunting prospect for many, and you may feel unprepared or nervous, so that is why it is important to remember that your career counselors have access to so much information that it is coming out of their ears.
Go to their job fairs and follow the department’s social media, especially LinkedIn. Career counselors will give you mock interviews, have bottomless career advice, help revise or build your resume/cover letter, introduce you to ideas and opportunities you may never have found otherwise, and help you find internships/opportunities during your college years, not just for after!
8. Be forward-thinking about your future!
It is incredibly easy and tempting to put off thinking about the future when you are in college. It is just frankly difficult to escape from the number of distractions that pop up daily.
BUT… those distractions are fleeting, and before you know it, you have a degree in hand and an incoming anxiety-fueled migraine.
The following are personal tasks to begin taking care of today.
- Get your financial affairs in order. Figure out your student loan total and have a repayment plan for after that 9 month grace period. Create a budget and research how to build your credit score.
- Spend time thinking what is important to you. Time to soul-search! The hard news: College will end abruptly and life will be different. The best thing to do is to be prepared personally.
Ask yourself some questions, and write down your thoughts and plans.
Where do you want to live after graduation?
What are your long term goals and aspirations?
What are small steps I can take to start that journey today, if I do indeed know what I am pursuing?
- If you are still unsure what career path you are going to take, why not try taking one or two quick and free career tests? These types of tests can provide insight into career paths you may be well-suited for.
- Develop good habits and time management/organizations skills. Put time and energy into worthwhile things, and start small if you have to.
Don’t be caught unprepared when you graduate!
Educate yourself on career development with our blog (link) and what to expect when you find yourself at college graduation.