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12 ways to prepare for your job search before graduating


So you’re about to graduate. Congratulations!

It’s an exciting time as you line up to receive your cap and gown, scramble to get extra commencement tickets for all your family members and prepare for life after college.

That last part can be particularly daunting, though, as you look for jobs that will help you begin walking down the career path of your dreams.

A degree is not a golden ticket to the career world, however, and it’s going to take some work on your part to land a job post-graduation.

“It’s important for students to realize that having a degree is not enough,” says Yisell Cirion, acting associate director of Career Services. “It’s a step in the right direction and could open new doors for you, but it’s not what will get you the job. Being focused on what you do outside of the classroom is just as important as what you do inside the classroom.”

Here are some things you can do before you graduate to get a head start on your job search:

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1. SELF-REFLECTION AND EVALUATION

Take some time to truly think about whom you are and where you stand. What are your passions, dreams and aspirations? What are you looking for in a career and what focus do you want your career to have going down the line?

It’s also time to determine what your top skills are and what challenges you might face post-graduation. If public speaking is a skill that you need to work on, for example, making an appointment with the Communication Arts Studio can help you improve your preparation, style and delivery. The first step is being honest about your strengths and shortcomings.

2. WRITE YOUR RESUME AND HAVE IT CRITIQUED BY A PRO

A well-constructed resume is one of the main tools needed in any job search. Employers sometimes look at dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes in their search for capable candidates for various positions.

Have somebody from Career Services and a professional already working in the field you want to get into look over your resume and provide you with feedback to create a strong resume.

3. MEET WITH KEY PEOPLE

Set up appointments with key people who can provide guidance and help with your job search. Meet with an advisor at Career Services and they can help you get started, helping you figure out how to apply for jobs and what employers are looking for in your field.

Meet with an academic advisor to make sure all your academic affairs are in order and discuss graduate school possibilities. Speak with your professors, current and former supervisors, and others who may be able to give you wise advice and potentially connections that can lead to possible jobs.

4. ATTEND WORKSHOPS

Career Services hosts a wide variety of workshops that help students brush up on interview skills, networking and resume writing. They are events tailored to help students learn about the various stages of the job search process, how to stand out to employers and ask questions.

5. LOOK FOR COMPANIES IN YOUR FIELD

Look for companies in your field –both large and small – locally and in places you may be interested in relocating to, and find out about different opportunities that may exist there.

Once you do, and if they have an opening that may interest you, send them your finalized resume and a personalized cover letter that is specifically tailored for each position and each company for which you are applying.

6. PERFORM MOCK JOB INTERVIEWS

Whether it’s a phone, Skype or in-person interview, it’s important to know what to expect and practice beforehand. Career Services offers a Practice Interview Program that allows students and alumni the chance to practice interviews with actual recruiters and employers, who will then offer a critique and review of their interviewing skills.

7. INVEST IN PROFESSIONAL ATTIRE

Like it or not, appearance is important. In fact, a 2010 national poll showed that appearance ranked second in qualities associated with professionalism (only communication skills ranked higher).

So investing in attire that is appropriate for the field you want to get into is vital. That doesn’t mean you have to break your bank account balance in order to do so. Look for places that offer sales, cut down on certain expenses and save some extra cash over time.

8. BE ORGANIZED IN YOUR JOB SEARCH

You will probably be sending resumes to so many companies and organizations and applying for so many positions that you’re head might start spinning. That’s why it is crucial to stay organized during the process.

Create an excel sheet or document with different categories (date applied, field, sub-field, company, etc.) and make sure to save the job descriptions and qualifications of the jobs you apply for.

“Being organized will give you a sense of control and ownership of what you are doing,” Cirion says. “It also helps you measure your progress and holds you accountable.”

9. REVIEW YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

Now more than ever, social media is playing a larger role in the job search progress. This can either be a positive or a negative – depending on how you have conducted yourself online.

Having a LinkedIn profile that is updated and well constructed can be a valuable resource for you. So make sure all your information is up-to-date and accurate. It’s also important to be mindful of what you post on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets.

“How you put yourself out there on social media is part of your portfolio and employers can access that. Be careful and mindful of that. Every post has a consequence, positive and negative,” Cirion says.

10. DEVELOP A SUPPORT SYSTEM

The job search process can vary in length and it can be easy to get frustrated; so find people in your life – close friends, family members and mentors – who can keep you motivated during the difficult moments of the process. One of the most important aspects of the job search process is to stay motivated, focused and hopeful.

11. REACH OUT TO PROFESSIONALS IN YOUR FIELD

One of the best ways to find out what it takes to make it in the field you want to get into is to ask someone who is where you hope to be someday. Reach out to a professional in your field and request to have an “informational interview” with them.

12.  BE FLEXIBLE AND ADAPTABLE

It’s easy to get caught up and have a one-track mind when it comes to your job search. You want that position at that company with that kind of salary.

The truth is you might need to think outside the box and be open to opportunities that might be out of your comfort zone or areas of interest. If you’re looking to get into marketing, for example, there may be opportunities to work in places you might not expect – like a hospital or in the sports industry.

Being flexible and adaptable during your job search can open up doors that you never expected might be open to you.