Once upon a time, college freshmen arrived on campus excited to meet their roommates, cheer on their football teams, and attend a frat party or two.
Not anymore. Today’s freshmen are heading straight for the career center.
According to at AP story “Colleges: Freshmen looking for career advice now” by Kathy Matheson, campus career centers are becoming more popular with college freshmen than tailgating and late-night pizza delivery. Whether it’s due to the slow economic recovery or their already jam-packed schedules, this generation of college students (aka the Millennials) are ready to jump-start their post-college careers now.
And they are on the right track. Getting a college degree is expensive and time-consuming. The more college freshmen can learn about possible career paths, and which ones are right for them, the easier their transition will be into the working world.
No matter what stage you are at in your college career, here are some tips you can take to prepare yourself for the future.
Talk to a Professional
One of the best ways to learn more about a potential career path is to talk to someone who’s actually living your dream. Talk to your friends, your parents, and friends of your parents to see who knows someone in your field. Then ask if you can take them to coffee or lunch, and pick their brain. (If a face-to-face meeting doesn’t work, email is a good option.)
The more questions you can ask him or her about what your career will entail, the better. Find out about education requirements, typical work hours, and advancement opportunities. Ask them what’s most challenging about their jobs, and what’s most rewarding. From their answers, you should have a better sense of whether or not this career is right for you.
An added bonus: meeting with a career professional can help you network for a job down the road. (Just don’t forget to write them a thank you note or email afterwards, and to stay in touch throughout your college years!)
Work, Intern or Volunteer
You’re going to learn some great things in the classroom-there’s no doubt about it. Writing skills, critical thinking skills, and research skills are all part of a college degree that will be invaluable in the future. But what you can learn by working, interning, or volunteering, particularly in your chosen field, will be equally important after graduation.
For starters, you’ll learn the computer programs, business processes, and office etiquette rules that you’ll need when you enter the workforce. Knowing how to use the entire Microsoft Office Suite, how to deal with a gossiping co-worker, and how to administer and run a meeting on FUZE are skills you won’t learn in lecture, but that will come in handy throughout your career. Little details like how to answer a phone and administer a meeting may not seem like a big deal, but they’ll make an impact on future employers.
Working, interning, and volunteering can also be a great way to build your resume and begin building a professional network. Many college graduates land jobs directly with their college employers or through their recommendations, so this is a great way to get a jump on your competition.
And don’t underestimate the impact a college job can have on your future career. Getting exposure in your field, even if it’s as a temp or assistant, can give you insight into that career and what it entails. It may reaffirm that it’s the right choice, or you may realize it’s not what you thought, which will save you a lot of time and money you might invest pursuing that path.
Consider a Double Major (or Minor)
Are you on the fence about what you want to do? Are you thinking about becoming a doctor, but you also really want to learn Spanish? Why not major in biology and Spanish, or consider a foreign language minor?
Double majoring or minoring can be beneficial to your future career for several reasons. First, it gives you versatility, and shows potential employees that you have a wide variety of skills they can put to use at their companies. Two, it can be a perfect fit for a careers that don’t have a clear-cut degree path. (For example, if you want to own your own PR firm someday, you might benefit from a journalism or communications degree with a business minor. Or vice versa). And three, it can give you the flexibility to change your mind about your career and what you want to do in the future.
Visit Your Career Center
Most schools have a career center dedicated to one purpose: helping you find a job. In addition to providing counseling and insight about what career is right for you, they’ll help you with the nitty gritty of the job search: how to prepare a resume, how to write a cover letter, where to conduct your job search, and much more. Plus career centers often get a heads up on job opportunities, so being dialed in to their email groups and websites can give you a jump on potential job openings. Some career centers even host job and career fields throughout the school year, giving you the chance to meet directly with future employers.
Check in With Your Advisor
In addition to the career center, your advisor can be a valuable resource in your career search. It’s a college advisors jobs to know the ins and outs of every class option available, as well as what you need to graduate with a particular major.
So if you’ve got a question about which classes will best prepare you to become a rocket scientist, ask them. If you’re thinking you might want to become and architect and want to know the difference between the B.Arch and a Master’s of Architecture, ask them. If you’re a business major and want to know if you’ve completed enough prereqs and business classes to graduate, ask them. That’s what they’re there for.
Do Your Research
The field you choose to pursue, whether it’s medicine or law or teaching, should be something you love. (The more you love it, the better you’ll be at it, and the more satisfaction you’ll get.) But it doesn’t hurt to do some research first, and find out which careers in that field offer the best compensation, potential for growth, and job outlook. If you’re interested in medicine, for example, but aren’t sure about going to medical school, it may help to know that registered nurses and physicians assistants are seeing unprecedented job growth in their respective fields.
Noel Rozny writes the bi-weekly career blog mypathfinder for the myFootpath website. myFootpath is a resource to help you in your search for a college, degree program, career, graduate school, and non-traditional experiences. Visit www.myfootpath.com to start your college or degree program search.