Career Prep Timeline: From College Prep to Your Career
Landing a job or internship isn’t as simple as walking in the door. It takes years of preparation and careful planning to get your foot in the door. That means, it’s never too early to start taking steps freshman year to lay the groundwork for your professional future.
I put together a high level overview, a career planning timeline, of steps you can take starting the summer before freshman year of college to walk off campus and into your career. In later months, I will dive deeper into each step of the process but, this timeline is a great place to start.
Summer Before College – Relax & Reflect
There’s a lot to do before you even reach campus. Aside from general things like graduation and summer vacations, there are some important steps to take for your future career goals.
- Take the StrengthsFinder assessment to gain self knowledge and to better understand your innate strengths. Go ahead and buy the Student Top 5, it’s worth it.
- Research and review the courses and majors offered at your university.
- If your college has a summer orientation program, do your best to attend it.
- Find out how to register for classes and how to get an advisor, preferably in your major if you have chosen one.
Freshman year is a great time to conduct some career exploration so you can delve into a major/minor sooner and get more clarity on career options.
As a new college student:
- Be sure to attend your school’s campus club or career fair. It’s usually held during the first few weeks of the fall semester.
- Set up informational interviews (one every two weeks) with professionals who work in industries or at companies of interest.
- Write a resume draft and show it to at least 3 people, including one person in your campus career center.
- Set up a LinkedIn profile. Google how to write a strong About section. Make sure your profile picture shows you smiling with your eyes opened and select a banner image related to your major or future career.
- Start looking at internships online as part of your career exploration.
In sophomore year, you know a bit more about what to expect from college. This is the time to really build your networking skills and think about your career interests. There are so many actions you can take that will help you get an internship or job later.
A few first steps:
- Identify at least 3 career options
- Increase informational interviewing. Set a goal for one a week. And don’t forget to keep in touch with people in your network periodically.
- Start practicing interviewing skills and learn how to confidently answer typical interview questions.
- Join some student organizations and apply for positions in campus clubs and activities to develop leadership and work-related skills.
- If your school is using the online internship/job portal called Handshake then create an online profile.
- Find a mentor.
Junior and Senior Year
Junior and senior year will go by in a blur. This is the ideal time to clean up your social media accounts, hone your job search capabilities and get ready for life after college. By junior year, you should have a solid idea of your major/minor and your career goals.
By senior year you should be a highly skilled networker who is confident reaching out to professionals and hiring managers regularly. You should also be able to articulate who you are, skills you offer and why you are pursuing roles in a specific industry.
Make sure you:
- Re-read your StrengthsFinder results. Start to connect your strengths to careers you are considering.
- Buy some professional clothes for interviews and to wear during your internship or post-graduation job.
- Nurture your relationship with a mentor or get a 2nd or 3rd mentor. Nothing says you can have one mentor.
- Make a list of 20-30 target companies and use your resources (e.g. parents, LinkedIn, your school’s alumni association, your sorority’s/fraternity’s alumni association) to make connections at these companies.
- Attend on-campus career fairs even if you are not enamored by the list of companies attending.
- Make sure your cover letter isn’t boring potential employers.
- Network like crazy to land a summer internship. Applying online is fun but 85%+ of jobs are found via networking.
If you graduate without a position, know that finding a job is now your full-time job. If you did land a great position, then your career is not set in stone. After college there are plenty of steps to take to continue your career advancements.
A few things to work on are:
- Networking. Really invest in connecting with people in your industry genuinely.
- Position yourself as a thought leader on LinkedIn by posting relevant and helpful content
- Sharpen your professional skills. Consider taking an online course to improve skills necessary to succeed in your company or industry.
- Join 1 or 2 professional associations and take advantage of their networking events and educational opportunities.
While getting the job or internship you want may seem daunting, it is achievable with careful planning and execution. By taking the necessary steps as a student, you can set yourself up for success in your future career search. If you need assistance navigating your way through a job search, or don’t know where to start, contact us today. I would be more than happy to help you along your journey to finding gainful employment.