Starting the Job Search in College

It’s not uncommon for college students to believe that the grueling job hunt begins once they have their diplomas in hand. After all, how can you apply for a job before you’ve earned your credentials? But the truth is that in a tough economy, it is never too early to begin searching for post-graduate work and planning for your future. In fact, the perfect time to start is before your first college class.

Networking

Not too long ago, when I thought of the work “networking,” my mind immediately conjured images of men and women in stuffy black suits at some boring convention, glad-handing and discussing quarterly projections. But thanks to social media, everyone who knows everyone you know is now in your network. Your suitemate’s dad’s best friend owns a business you want to work for, or the mailman’s sister has a job opening at her PR firm. You never know who knows who and, ergo, who you could be introduced to, so always keep your ears and eyes open for a potential business contact. And again, thanks to social media and networking services like LinkedIn and Twitter, “networking” doesn’t mean wearing a suit and passing out your business card. It can be making a connection or replying on to a tweet, having a polite conversation on line at Starbucks or chatting in the laundry room.

Setting up a strong network of people you know will be key in getting your name heard and recognized once you are ready to apply for jobs. The bonus part is that some of these contacts you’ll create may think you’re ready before you do and present you with an unexpected opportunity. Be sure to always put your best impression forward and leave everyone you come in contact with with a positive memory of you.

Internships

Of the unexpected opportunities presented to you by any one of those friends of friends could be an internship. Internships are paramount in preparing your resume and your skills for real-world work experience. They are valuable to students because they are worth college credit, look excellent on resumes, and can lead to part- or full-time employment within the company. The downside, for students, is the upside for employers: they often pay little (travel stipends, perhaps) or nothing at all.

Even still, interning at least once throughout college, more if you can, will help you build networking contacts and industry experience that will be of great help in the future. Employers like to see applicants with some relevant work history, including as interns, because they already have the hang of some of the job details. Contacts you create as an intern may come in handy in the future as professional references or friends in the field with knowledge of job openings in either their company or another.

Sending Resumes

Eventually, the graduation date will just be a short while away and the urgency of finding post-graduate employment will start to make itself apparent. At the beginning of your final semester in college is when you should be doing serious research into the job market of your industry and compiling a list of companies and positions that might suit you and your degree. Take advantage of the career counseling services and resume-writing assistance on your college campus to have your polished resume ready to go for any job openings you find. In this economy, it will be difficult and you may end up sending out dozens of resumes. But that’s fine – you won’t be the only one. The key is persistence and dedication, and the more interviews you go on, the more skilled you will be at them. Don’t fret if you aren’t hired before graduation, as most grads these days aren’t. But your job search begins the day you walk into your first college class; be sure to never give up on the search.

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