Senior year rolls around quickly. Before you know it, it’s time to decide what the next step is after college. There’s no right or wrong option here, I had some friends go straight into grad school programs or medical school, others participate in national service programs, and others immediately enter the workforce. While I knew I wanted to pursue graduate school in the future, I knew senior year that I didn’t want to go straight into it. Think about these 4 main options and decide which is right for you.
Enter the workforce:
This is the most obvious option—you’ve gone to college in order to better your career prospects and the time has come to finally get that well-deserved job. You may want to start a career in your industry or gain a few years of work experience to get a better feel for which graduate program you’d like to pursue. If a job is what you seek after graduation, start preparing your job searching activities early during your senior year. Start networking, create your professional resume, prepare for job/career fairs and begin searching for positions several months before graduation.
Pursue post-graduate education:
If the career you desire requires additional degrees or certifications after college, you may consider applying for post-graduate education. Going straight into a program upon graduation can be a good option for students who are sure about their career goals and want to finish all required schooling quickly to be ready for a career. Of course you should consider your financial situation and determine if you have the study skills and motivation to pursue further education right away.
Full-time fellowship or internship programs:
Some companies and organizations offer full-time internship programs for recent graduates. Being an intern can be a way to gain valuable experience and skills in the workforce and can also be a chance to get into a company that you want to work for in the future. Many of the programs will provide a stipend for living expenses but may pay less than a standard job does.
Gap year or full-time service programs. Some students choose to take a few months to travel after graduation, teach English abroad or participate in national or private service programs working in community services while receiving housing and a stipend for living expenses. There are lots of different kinds of programs, some are affiliated with the U.S. government and students can receive educational award money that can be used towards student loans or further education.
Internships can be extremely valuable in gaining experience and getting your foot in the door in a particular industry or company. Whether you engage in an internship while still in school or directly after graduating, internships can help kick-start your career!
Why are internships so important? You might ask.
It’s hard to get the experience you need to make yourself marketable for full-time positions while you’re still in school and haven’t had the opportunity to work in the field. While many internships don’t pay (although you can find some that do), the experience you’ll gain is usually worth it in the long-run. I’ve had several friends who landed important internships during the summer while in school and were able to secure a job with the same company immediately after graduation. For some companies and fields, internships are crucial and companies may take on significant numbers of interns to evaluate their performance and decided whether or not they will hire on candidates once they graduate.
Companies typically prefer to hire internally, and this often includes volunteers and interns. It’s much easier to consider someone for an open position who has already demonstrated their work quality and knows the organization’s structure and culture. Interning with a company or organization you’re interested in working for can help you to get your foot in the door and dramatically increase your opportunities for future positions with them.
Even if you don’t land a position at the company you intern with, your internship resume can still provide the exposure to the industry that employers like to see when hiring on candidates. It helps employers to train new hires if an employee has at least had some exposure to the types of activities, terms and work that is done in the field. Internships can serve as the stepping stone into full-time positions.
While interning can help you get experience to land a job, it can also help you to determine whether you actually WANT to work in the field. Interning at a company can give you insight to see if you actually like the type of work they do and decide whether you can see yourself pursuing a career in the industry. When you see the daily tasks and responsibilities employees have, it can help to clarify the types of positions that interest you, as well as to see what size of company best suites you. These can all be valuable things to learn before you apply for full-time positions so that you have some idea of what you’re getting into.
Bottom line: find an internship! It will look great on your resume and open doors for you.
Internships can be the gateway to finding your true calling or landing that dream job. But unfortunately internships can also feel like a useless waste of time if you don’t establish goals ahead of time and be proactive in getting the most out of your internship. Sometimes you have to push to get the type of exposure and experience you want out of your internship.
Set out clear goals you want to accomplish during your internship:
Some internships provide actual job descriptions with a list of duties and responsibilities for the intern; however many internships aren’t that structured and you’ll end up getting more out of your internship if you set clear goals you want to accomplish throughout your time. Make personal goals for yourself such as gaining exposure to certain aspects of the company or department, deciding which area you’d like to specialize in, learning research skills, building relationships with staff, attending meetings, etc. Try to set out goals before you start the internship and go back and evaluate them a few weeks after you start to make sure you stay on track to accomplish them. Make sure to keep track of the projects you’ve worked on and skills developed to translate them into accomplishments on your resume.
Keep an open mind:
Internships are about broadening your horizons and gaining exposure to a particular career. An internship may help you solidify your career goals, or help you to realize a job isn’t for you. Be sure to keep an open mind during your internship to learn new things and discover the aspects of the job you like and dislike. You may learn that the dream job you’ve always wanted looks a lot different in reality, or learn about a job title in the field you didn’t realize existed before.
Meet with your designated supervisor:
It’s important to set up a time to meet regularly with your supervisor. You don’t want to take up too much of their time, as they’re probably busy people, however you want to be able to share things you’re working on, give progress reports and be able to ask any questions you have or clarification you need. Your supervisor can be a good resource for you in the future if you build a good relationship with them during your time.
Perfect the small tasks:
It’s true that sometimes intern tasks can seem like dummy work. If you’re going to advance to assisting with bigger projects during your time though, you need to perfect these little tasks first to prove your reliability and competence. Once you demonstrate success doing small things efficiently, you can open up the possibility for handling larger projects.
Network and build relationships:
Internships are often a student’s first opportunity to network with professionals in their career field. Take your internships seriously and try to meet employees, ask questions and build relationships. Aside from making your internship more enjoyable, the relationships you build during your internship can be helpful career resources in the future.
So you’re a recent college graduate seeking your first full time job. As such, are you willing to accept any salary that a company offers you? You’re probably excited just to be offered a job and don’t want to rock the boat, right? I bet you’re thinking to yourself that you’re in no position to negotiate a salary. Well, you’re wrong.
Most people are too afraid to negotiate their salaries and while you may feel that it won’t affect you right now (you’re just happy to have a job offer, especially in the current state of the economy), not negotiating your salary can impact your salaries in future years. Having worked alongside hundreds of graduate job seekers the most common response I get as to why a new graduate did not negotiate their salary is because they were afraid the employer might take their job offer away. I can tell you that this cannot be further from the truth. The hiring process is a long and time consuming process (also a costly process – think about how many hours go into the selection process), and a company is not going to take back their job offer because you want to negotiate your job salary. In fact, employers actually expect to negotiate salaries and as such often offer lower salaries than what they can pay for the role.
My advice is simple. Don’t wait until you have been in the job for 1 to 2 years before you ask for a pay rise. Negotiate your job offer. You have nothing to lose!
Researching is the key to negotiating:
We all want to be paid as much money as possible. This goes without saying. However, the key to negotiating is to present a valid case as to why you deserve a higher salary. Before you begin your negotiation you need to know your market value. What is the market rate for your type of position? Using online salary tools is a great way to find out what other graduates in similar roles and similar geographic areas are getting paid. This is important as comparing your salary as someone who may live in a large city to a person living in a remote area will be different. In addition to using salary tools, use your own networks, speak with people within the industry, contact your career services office at your university and search forums and blogs.
When the time comes to begin the negotiations, be confident and be prepared to justify your worth. Back up your negotiation with examples. Most importantly, just be yourself. Remember that the interview process is not just about the hiring manager finding out if you’re a good fit for their organization, but it is also about finding out if the company is a good fit for you.
Negotiating can be an uncomfortable and frightening experience, but once it’s over and you have secured a higher salary you will be smiling all the way to the bank!
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