Ashlee Theodore is a 3rd-year doctoral student in Public Policy and Administration at Jackson State University. She has worked for the local government for eight years in areas such as public works, environmental planning, and economic development. Previous degrees include a B.A. in Political Science and M.A. in Urban and Regional Planning.
1. Seek internship opportunities early! After all, it may be the very thing you need to obtain skills and experience in the career you desire or it may reveal that it may not be the career you envisioned. Chat with your professors, advisors and college career center for opportunities locally and abroad. Signup to internship databases for announcements regarding internship opportunities.
2. If you’re awarded Federal Work-Study, request to be placed where you can receive experience in your field. For example, if you’re an accounting major, asked to be placed in your university’s accounting office.
3. Some internships will be unpaid… This is one of many sacrifices you’ll have to make as an unskilled undergraduate. But, nothing beats experience. Sometimes schools are unable to teach you practical skills you’ll only learn on the job. For example, how to work with difficult people or how to operate that funky copy/scanner/printer/fax contraption. Side note: Do people still send faxes?
4. If you do receive an internship opportunity, don’t settle for the typical intern duties. While it is very likely you’ll be involved in day-to-day operations such as coffee runs, ask for extra responsibility. An internship can easily turn into a fulltime position once you’ve completed your degree.
5. Use student organizations to acquire skills in leadership, teambuilding, networking and of course, volunteerism. If you have an opportunity to be promoted, and your employer asks about leadership skills, you could always tell him about your experience as President of _________ Association.
6. Keep your GPA up! It may be the very thing that separates you from other new graduates gunning for the same position. You’re competing globally and competition is stiff!
7. Compose a resume! Do it right now, I’ll wait… Get in the habit of creating a good resume to market all of your accomplishments and get the attention of a recruiter. Post your resumes on job search websites and LinkedIn.
8. The first job you get may not be your dream job (neither your second or third). Fact is, you’ll need a job to pick up where your parents left off and to pay that student debt off. Another thing, your salary may be lower than expected but it will increase in time!
9. Know that your entry-level stage will last longer than you’re comfortable with. I know you’re excited to work, that you have all these ideas oozing out of your brain but there are several mechanisms that may affect you from moving up that corporate or bureaucratic ladder. For example, the economy, your company’s lack of opportunities for advancement, and last but not least, your lack of real world experience.
10. Use grad school and professional associations to advance your career. Both are loaded with internship and fellowship opportunities, networking, traveling, and access to advanced knowledge. You may meet your employer at that upcoming “boring” conference you’re trying to avoid.
Bonus: Don’t forget where you came from and what it was like for you as a student. Pass these tips along!