Earlier this year, I had 5 college senior clients seeking their first post-grad job.
While each of them ultimately got good jobs, their timetables varied. In January there will be a new crop of college seniors anxious about their prospects, wanting to know how best to proceed. Here are some lessons from the class just in front of them.
Most hiring of new grads doesn’t kick into full gear until April.
If you’re focused on banking or management consulting, all hiring takes place in the fall of senior year. Pretty much every other industry pushes hiring to the spring, and many companies won’t make offers until students have actually graduated. While this may be true, it does not mean that you should start your job search in April.
It’s smart to get started in January.
Many colleges give students most or all of the month of January off. Any the majority of those students do…well, not much. Doing some analysis and soul-searching during this period to identify possible career paths will put you ahead of your peers and prevent you from panicking come spring.
A successful job search starts with a well-considered goal and includes a comprehensive marketing plan. You want to control your search and present your most professional self. This means avoiding what most people do — go online and apply to jobs that look good and hope for a bite.
Instead, use your search time to identify target jobs and companies, and reach out to the listed recruiter or, better yet, a hiring manager in the department of interest. LinkedIn is ideal for this.
Speaking of LinkedIn…
I hope you have a LinkedIn profile and have been maintaining it well. If not, do this post-haste. Anyone you contact will check out your LinkedIn, maybe even before your resume. Now’s the time to be sure you’re connected to anyone from your internships, your on-campus jobs, your professors and your peers. You never know who will be in a position to help in your search and the more LinkedIn connections you have, the more robust your search results.
Take advantage of your status as a college student.
Your best contacts will likely be alumni from your school, plus clubs and other affiliations. Many schools rely heavily on a strong alumni network intent on giving back to the college that launched them. In addition to contributing heavily to the endowment, alumni frequently make themselves available to new grads in need of advice, mentorship and connections to specific companies. Your sorority or fraternity, even outside your own school, can be another great connection point offering presumed goodwill. And if you went to a high school known for a close-knit student body and engaged alumni, you will also find good contacts there.
Consider a paid internship in your field of choice.
Internships aren’t just for current students; many companies use them as a test run, to see how new grads fare before hiring them full-time. It’s also easier to get an internship than a job, especially if you don’t have much relevant work experience on your resume. And it’s a great way to kick the tires on a new career path.
A post-grad internship should be paid if it’s with a for-profit company, but keep in mind that non-profit organizations are not obligated to pay interns and you will no longer be eligible for school credit. Plus, those who start their careers doing unpaid gigs sometimes have trouble converting them to paying work, so recognize these caveats when considering trading your time for experience. There has been a great deal written about the fairness of paid vs. unpaid internships and the fact that they favor those receiving outside financial assistance. For more detail on the legalities, see here.
We are in a strong job market with very active hiring. Don’t sit back and wait until you’re about to graduate to survey the market and make important decisions about your future.
Let me know if I can be helpful to you. I’ve worked with hundreds of millennials and Gen Z’s helping them identify their path and launch a fulfilling career. To have an exploratory conversation, contact me here.