The last year on a college campus can be the most memorable for students, but it can also be the most challenging in terms of juggling all of your academic and personal activities. Yet one activity that should be at the forefront is preparing for life after graduation and making the most of senior year.
Here are five steps to help ensure that you have positioned yourself well to make a successful transition from student to professional.
1. Intern, intern, intern: If you haven't already done so, you must take advantage of your last year and obtain an internship in your field of study. Nationally, the statistics are in your favor -- with 37 percent of interns receiving a job offer by the end of their internship. If you don't get a job offer, you will still leave the position with a greater understanding of your industry and valuable experience. In fact, recruiters list work experience as the number one reason why they will interview a college graduate.
2. Network, network, network: It is time to get serious about promoting yourself. If you do not already have business cards, print them -- including your name and contact information -- and carry them with you everywhere. View any event as an opportunity to network, whether it is a family function, wedding or school event. Make connections and follow up. Have your five-minute "elevator" speech (who you are and what you want to do) ready, and try to end the conversation with an opportunity to extend the conversation. (For example, "May I have your card to follow up with you? I would love to learn more about your company and how you have been successful.")
3. Join, join, join: Identify groups on campus that are aligned with your industry. Examples that you may find are the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, the Accounting Club or the Advertising Club. Look for opportunities to join a group to compete nationally, such as the National Student Advertising Competition or the collegiate level of DECA, which specializes in marketing, management and entrepreneurship. These clubs provide students with opportunities to compete nationally, network with industry professionals and work on real industry projects.
4. Engage, engage, engage: Become actively engaged in your college's community. Make an appointment with the career services office and look for opportunities to engage with the office. Can you host any of the companies coming on campus or help a company set up their booth during the big career fair? Make yourself available in different ways; this will give you access to employers on campus. Meet with your faculty and ask them for recommendations and advice. They have great connections to alumni and employers, so take the time to meet face to face early in your senior year and leave with a plan. Lastly, look for departments within the university that align with your major. If you are you a marketing major, meet with the creative design team at your university to ask about their career paths and if they have advice or contacts to help you.
5. Social media, social media, social media: Social channels can be great ways to help you stay connected to friends and family, but it is also an easy way for potential employers to Iearn about you -- for better or worse. Senior year is the time to clean up your social media presence and position yourself to join the professional world. Google yourself and review the results. Are there posts or photos that you would not want a potential boss to see? If so, clean up your Facebook page and make sure that all of your settings are private so only friends can view your page. Remove any photos that present you in an unprofessional way. Use social media to your advantage. For example, LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for professional networking and lets you post and update your resume for others to see. Start networking immediately and look for alums at companies that interest you, then reach out to see if you can set up a brief informational phone call or meeting.
Start taking these five steps now. With commencement just months away, you will position yourself well to find employment upon graduation -- isn't that the goal of most college seniors?