As spring inches closer, college seniors need to start getting serious about their after-college plans. Truth be told, to really get a leg up, collegians should begin their post-college preparation during their junior year. For those students planning to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation, having a structured find-a-job plan will help them stay on track and meet their career goals.
What do college students need to consider when creating their plan? To help, we spoke with Dr. Stephen Jones, who has counseled thousands of students with their careers as the associate dean of Villanova University’s college of engineering. Here’s his advice:
CareerBuilder: How soon should college students start looking for jobs?
Dr. Stephen Jones: A college senior should start their search during the summer before the school year. They should continue their search at the very beginning of the school year. Many colleges have a career fair during the fall to help students [with] submitting their résumés to companies.
CB: Where should they start?
SJ: They should start by making sure that they have a solid résumé before they finish their junior year. When they begin their search, they can take advantage of contacts that they have made over the time that they have attended college. They should go to their career center right away to find out the schedule of company visits. The number of companies interviewing will grow throughout the first semester. There are also many websites where a student can submit their résumés. It is important to follow up with the career website [to which they submitted résumés].
CB: What kind of research should they do?
SJ: Their research should involve personal contacts, library searches and career websites. If you are clear on the industry that interests you, try to find opportunities to schedule informational interviews. Call professionals whom you have met, and ask them specific questions about their profession. The Internet is a great place to research companies. Go to the company’s website and search for their mission and what they are saying about the growth of their industry. Also check newspapers Libraries are still a great place to do research. Some libraries have career librarians. A student should set aside time each week to do their research.
CB: Who should they talk to for advice?
SJ: They [should] seek advice from professionals who are in their industry. They can connect with them when they come to visit campus. Make contact with people where they have done internships. They can be very helpful. Their professors can also be great sources of information. Some professors receive grants from companies, and they have many contacts who can offer good advice. Also, students who belong to an association in their profession — [that] can be a source of good contacts.
CB: How do they balance job searching and studying?
SJ: The important item that every student should have is a daily planner. It will help them to effectively manage their time. This time-management system will give them a way to put down their class time, study time and job-search time in a book that they can follow.
CB: If students were to create a checklist of things they could do to help in their job search, what are some items to put on that list?
- Go to the library to do your career research.
- Create a résumé and a cover letter.
- Ask every person you meet for three people you should contact.
- Search the Internet and submit résumés to job databases.
- Go to career fairs.
- Look in the newspaper employment section every Sunday.
- Look for other areas where your skills can be used (hospital, bank, etc.)
- Join an association in your profession or student leadership organization.
- Attend a corporate meeting and network.
- Conduct an informational interview. Schedule a meeting to discuss the kinds of jobs that occur in a specific company.
- Send out thank-you letters to everyone who interviews you.
- Follow up on business cards you obtain from everyone.
Sure, most college seniors would rather be hanging out with friends enjoying their last year as a student, but by dedicating some of their time to thinking about their future, they’ll be setting themselves up for post-college success.
Check out one of our #AskCB videos that my colleague Justin did on this very topic: