By Rabeea Tahir
While many of us look forward to college graduation as a relief from lengthy hours of studying, dreadful exam weeks and seemingly unending all-nighters, graduating from college – in today’s job market – could pose challenges bigger than you may have imagined. It is not a secret that unemployment among recent grads remains higher than it was before the economic downturn in 2008. However, there are things you can do to raise your chances of finding employment soon after your graduate from college.
Following are some things to be cognizant of throughout your college career:
1. Start gaining work experience earlier in your college career
Scrambling for a job or an internship in the last few semesters of college can be stressful, to say the least. To make matters worse, many firms are now looking for ‘experienced interns.’ What that essentially means is in order for you to land a decent internship, employers expects you to have some work experience. Now you must be wondering, isn’t the whole point behind internships to get work experience in the first place? Yes, or at least that is how it used to be. But, with an increasingly competitive job market and with companies sometimes having hundreds of applicants for a single internship position, companies are now becoming very selective when choosing interns. Undoubtedly, resumes with greater and more relevant past work experience outshine the rest.
In addition, with tightening budgets in response to a bad economy, companies are now attempting to hire interns that could ‘replace’ an employee. What this means is that you might be doing just as much work as a paid employee, without getting paid for it. Why? Because companies know how desperately college students now need internships before they graduate from college so they offer unpaid internship in exchange for college credit (which is now a requirement for most college degree programs).
When you go out there looking for a REAL job after graduation, all that internship/ work experience is essential, without which employers won’t even be motivated to bother spending few minutes on your resume.
2. Don’t forget to network
A wise professor once told me, one of the most important reasons you go to a prestigious university is for the sake of networking. Consider everybody you meet in the college or a work environment as someone that could ‘potentially’ help you find a job. This applies to your college professors, bosses and co-workers at your internships/ jobs, and even your fellow students.
Do not under-estimate your relationship with your professors. University professors are mostly individuals who have priorly spent a great deal of time working in the industry respective to their field of teaching, before becoming a professor. Find out who those teachers are and make the effort to gain as much knowledge of the industry/ field from them as you can. Moreover, having worked in the industry, some of these professors have a very strong network and they may have connections that could help you land a job. Ask your professors if they can introduce you to their networks over email because that makes ALL the difference. Companies where your resume might not even make it through the initial HR or computerized filter, having a professor put in a word for you could help that very resume land on the desk of the senior management. Recommendations are crucial for employers because one, a former colleague or a reliable friend of theirs’ is vouching for your capabilities and two, it’ll make their jobs a lot easier if they could avoid having to sift through piles of resumes and cover letters stacked on their desks.
On a similar note, never burn bridges. That co-worker you held a grudge against, the boss that you ranted to at the end of your internship, the teacher whose test you cheated on or were caught lying to about an assignment – yeah, all those things could potentially harm your future prospects simply because of a loss of a networking opportunity or even a valuable recommendation.
3. Grow a thicker skin and learn to be OK with rejection
When you first graduate, you are likely to face rejection from all different corners. In fact, some companies will not even bother sending you an acknowledgment of having received your application, let alone a rejection. Get used to the silent treatment and consider a rejection a courtesy on the company’s part.
Rejection is a part of life but, for some reason, you don’t get exposed to a whole lot of it while you’re in college. The number one rule is to not get demotivated by it. Learn to shrug it off as something that probably isn’t for you at this point in time. The key is to just keep going and as cliché as this may sound, be patient and don’t lose hope. Keep trying and make sure you’re utilizing every single relevant network that you may have established in college or elsewhere.
On another note, growing a thicker skin is likely to benefit you as you usher into your work life. Work life is tough and you are on your own. You have to learn to deal with daily pressures, deadlines, all different kinds of co-workers (some of them may even get under your skin), occasionally angry bosses (you get the picture). If you don’t learn to be OK with all this without bursting into tears or worse, losing your temper, you are in for a challenge called the REAL LIFE which is quite different from your caring and sheltering family or even friends who don’t always says things straight to your face to avoid hurting your feelings. Work life, my friend, is different. The sooner you learn to deal with it, the better.
4. Get ‘un-used’ to summer and winter holidays
On a lighter note, prepare yourself to mentally accept that three months of summer holidays, 2-3 week-long winter break, and things like spring break are no longer going to be available to you after you graduate. In work life, you’d should consider yourself lucky to get the standard two weeks off. And keep in mind, you might want to save few days for emergencies or sick days.