Getting a job after graduating from college or university can be hard. Finding a career that you love can be even harder. The 21st century workplace is quickly evolving, and employers are no longer seeking applicants who simply have the best grades. While a degree is important in job searches, there are many qualities employers look for in potential employees beyond education. Many recent graduates struggle to understand how to get a job after college.
Leanne Ross is the founder and CEO of IVY LADDER, a company that helps bridge the gap between college graduation and employment. According to Ross, while a university education provides students with a depth of academic knowledge, it often does not provide students with the skills and experience needed to successfully land a great job. For example, when Ross worked in upper management at a Fortune 500 company, she interviewed countless recent college graduates whom she felt lacked the professionalism that was necessary to thrive in the workplace. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll of U.S. business leaders, only 11% thought students were well prepared in college to transition to workforce successfully.
So, what should university students be doing to prepare themselves to be able to obtain a job after graduation? Here are some of Ross’ best tips for students who want to gain professional experience and enter the workplace.
Utilize the university’s career services center
Most universities have career services centers, which are often free to use. These centers offer great resources for students looking for jobs, such as résumé critiques, LinkedIn workshops, and mock interviews. According to a recent Gallup poll, only about 52% of students ever utilize the career services resources at their schools.
Unfortunately, many schools do not promote their career services to their students, so many students are unaware that they exist. It is important for students to be proactive and research what resources are offered at their schools. Some universities even offer special career centers catered specifically to international students.
Gain work experience as early as possible
It is a good idea for students to try to obtain part-time jobs or internshipsduring high school or university. In doing so, students gain valuable skills such as accountability, teamwork, customer service, attention to detail, and professionalism. Part-time jobs and internships also provide experience that looks great on résumés, which employers heavily scrutinize when evaluating job applicants.
Even if students are unsure career they want to pursue, they should still seek out internships early on. “Don’t be afraid to take the wrong part-time job or internship,” says Ross, “because you will learn what you didn’t like and you will not waste your time when it is time to find a full-time job.”
Students shouldn’t be afraid to ask others for help if they don’t know what jobs to pursue. Informational interviews are a great way for students to talk with someone who is experienced in a field they are interested in, and they can provide students with a wealth of new information about what it is like to work in a particular profession.
Another helpful tip is to ask people close to you what you are good at. Ross recommends asking friends, family members, and teachers about what they think your top three strengths are. You can then use this information to seek out career fields in which you would excel based on your strengths.
Take initiative and get involved
While classes teach students valuable knowledge, it is important for students in the job hunt to apply this knowledge. One way to do this is to take project-based courses. If these course aren’t offered, Ross recommends that students reach out to professors to ask if there are any side projects they can work on to augment the curriculum.
Another way for students to apply their knowledge and gain experience is to volunteer and join clubs. These often offer unique leadership experiences and help to build skills that can be helpful in finding jobs.
Understand what employers are looking for
Getting a job can be especially hard if you are an international student. Oftentimes, international students lack the English language skills and understanding of American workplace culture that employers are looking for. For this reason, it is especially important for international students to research what to wear to a job interview, how to behave in a job interview, and how to leverage their diverse backgrounds as assets to companies where they are applying.