Note: This is the third post of a four-part series to help college students ensure their marketability in the industry upon graduation. Part two focused on what steps students need to take in their sophomore year.
Now that you are a college junior, graduation almost seems to be within reach. You’re starting to realize that college won’t last forever. And, it’s time to make your future become a reality.
By now you should have secured at least one internship, you have been studying hard and may even be earning part-time/volunteer work experience. But where do you go from here? With only two years left in school, it’s time to get focused. Here are a few ideas:
- Research future career opportunities
It’s important to have a good understanding about your future. Take a minute to reflect on your major. Talk to a Career Services advisor and learn about the career opportunities within your major. What really interests you about future jobs in this career field? Are there specific entry-level jobs that interest you? Which ones will help launch your career? Start looking at job descriptions that will inspire you to want to go to work everyday, versus those that will be “just a job.”
- Next, look for a position with a company that holds some of the same values that you have. What is the company’s mission statement and how do they operate around their core values? Think about the values and goals that motivate you to do well in school. Those same values and goals will likely motivate you about future positions within a company. They also will help you to be proud of your work and your employer.
- Once you have an idea about which companies you might want to work for, learn more about the specific job opportunities they offer. For example, if you’re an information technology major, check out the company’s web site for information about student and job opportunities in IT. At Sodexo, we have an entire microsite dedicated to the IT profession and provide information about your potential role at Sodexo, growth opportunities, “a day in the life” profiles and access to information about the existing team and current projects.
- Okay, so what skills do you have now to do the job that you are seeking? You may have gained some skills that will serve you well. However, there also may be skills that you need. Do what is needed to gain those skills now.
- Lastly, begin to think about the environment and corporate culture that will work best for you. Commit yourself to being open to new towns and cities; relocation just may be the ticket to launching your career.
Top 5 things to get done NOW
- Have you thought about talking with a professor about his or her industry contacts or professional work? Your professors may be an untapped resource offering great insights into the local business community and beyond.
- Speaking of, how many business cards have you gathered so far? Do you keep in contact with any of those people? Send e-mails to the influential people that you have met over the past year. If you did an internship last year, send a quick note to the hosting manager to say hello, inquire about projects you worked on and update him or her on your progress and future ambitions. And, don’t forget to check out corporate web sites for networking opportunities, like Sodexo’s Network With US page. Keep the communication lines open, you never know what opportunities this could bring to you.
Attend career fairs. Learn about job openings, ask questions of the company representatives. Start conversations now that could lead to a great contact for internships, part-time work or even post-graduation jobs.
Prepare your resume and cover letter. Have an advisor or Career Services representative review your resume and cover letter to ensure that they look good and convey all of the necessary information. Be sure to demonstrate that you have experience outside of the classroom via internships and volunteer positions. List group projects and detail the goals you achieved, and highlight any leadership positions you’ve held – on or off campus. Let your passion speak. (Read my posts about resumes here and here.)
Participate in mock interviews. Practice answering questions about your skills, abilities and career goals. Learn how to phrase your answers in meaningful ways. Discover your list of examples that showcase your experience; you want to keep these fresh in your mind for real interviews.
Interview, interview, interview. Even if you’re not applying for a specific job, some companies will welcome you for an informational interview. We do this all the time at Sodexo. This is a great opportunity to learn more about companies you may want to work for, and to help you practice your interviewing skills. Prepare for every interview and always bring questions you want to ask the interviewer.
Perhaps one of the most important things to do now, is to meet with your advisor and review your academic requirements. Make sure that you are enrolled in the required classes to help you complete your degree. You don’t want to delay graduation because you thought you were supposed to take one class, when you really needed an alternative.
As long as your academics are on track, the sky is the limit for where your career can go. Get out there and network. Research lots of companies; find out if they have any student opportunities. A little extra work now could yield a powerful harvest for your future career.
Derren is the Manager, Diversity Recruiting for Sodexo which is a leader in integrated food service and facilities management. He is responsible for managing the Sodexo Future Leaders Internship Program as well as executing diversity sourcing initiatives for both campus and targeted experienced hires. With over 14+ years of experience with Sodexo, Derren has had great success as a General Manager in the company’s Health Care Services division as well as in several positions within their Talent Acquisition Group. He’s an active corporate partner with the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH). Derren is an AIRS Certified Diversity Recruiter (CDR) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR).