Zareen Wajid, Talent Acquisition Specialist
Connect with me via. LinkedIn

The employment market is tough, there’s no doubt about that. Put that together with I-don’t-know-what-I-can-do-with-my-degree, and you have got yourself some major job-search dilemmas. Personally, I think it’s great that you have decided to go to college, and expand your knowledge and wisdom. Unfortunately, typical college curriculums don’t allow for much real world navigation.

The good news is that you can create your own ship to navigate the waters of the real world. Despite this bad metaphor, I really mean it! Here is a short-but-sweet list of five must do’s every college student should pursue to prepare themselves for the world after graduation.

1. Get an internship. Just do it.
An internship goes a long way in realistically helping you figure out your job-search predicament. This is because an internship exposes you to your strengths and weaknesses, your work habits, your interests, and your job outlook. Of course, college is great for book knowledge, but internships teach you where and how that knowledge is applied.

Additionally, internships give you great real world experience. Trust me, when you start applying for jobs, internship experiences stand out on your resume. Internships make it easier to give relatable examples during interviews. This is because you can relate to the job description and company culture since you have been in that boat before.

In short, internships are good for you.

2. Get involved with the community. Volunteer.
Start building your network ASAP. Getting involved in community outreach programs, volunteering at events, and just working with professionals in general will expose you to people. Connect with these people. You never know who you may meet, and how your paths will cross again and again.

Additionally, community and/or volunteer work helps you build your character and integrity. Understanding how the world works and how you can contribute to the world will help you identify yourself. Aren’t you interested in knowing what type of a person you are? Won’t that help you figure out what you are good at?

In short, volunteering helps you build connections, and understand yourself and others. What could be better for your job search prospects? And remember, when the time is right, let your community know you are graduating and in need of a job.

3. Advance your technological and/or relevant skills.
It’s great that you have read so much text and passed so many exams. Unfortunately, job descriptions don’t typically list out a bunch of courses you must have taken/passed. They do list skills and abilities, however.

Read several job descriptions, and choose a few you like. Now, take a look at the hard skills you need to be able to do the job proficiently. A lot of times, the hard skills listed correlate with technological and computer skills, such as Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Excel, Spectrometry, Java, etc. Feel free to learn these relevant skills, as they will be a big factor in your job search plan.

Additionally, pay attention to the certifications, licensures, or advanced degree bullet points. Do a bit of research on these. Some certifications can be obtained while still in school or right upon graduation. Don’t delay obtaining those certifications/licensures; they will help you be a strong applicant.

In short, companies are more likely to give you a call-back if you have the enthusiasm and relevant skills to do the job (more so than the # of years of experience).

4. Cold call companies of interest. Dip your feet.
It surprises me that no one really cold calls companies anymore. You are graduating. You are not a 100% sure what to do. All job descriptions you see online ask for x amount of experience. And that’s pretty much it. You think you are stuck.

You are not stuck. You just need to be proactive.

Get together a list of companies. Find a number, and call it. Regardless of who picks up, ask about upcoming internship or entry-level opportunities for new graduates. Yes, you may get transferred 10 times. No, they may not have anything. Yes, they may have a program. The point is that you do not know what’s out there. Call and find out.

In short, cold call companies to create opportunities for yourself.

5. Talk to professors and career services. Connect.
This goes back to that whole expand your network. If you don’t know where to start, then start by talking with your professors first. Professors are already in the same or similar field of study as your major. They have the know-how and connections to help you. They know of companies that have internship programs or that hire new grads. They know the industry trends, job outlooks, networking events, and other professionals. Seek professors’ advise. You will not be disappointed.

Additionally, go ahead and meet with someone at the Career Services. They know what companies hire from your school. They know when the companies’ representatives will be visiting the campus or conducting interviews. They know when the next career fair is, and who will be there. They have a list of internship opportunities. Go ahead, and indulge.

In short, professors and career services have plethora of information and knowledge that can directly impact your job-search prospects.

These five must-do’s aren’t typically part of your course curriculum. They aren’t typically required for graduation. They are, however, significant steps towards being prepared for the real world. Good luck!