September 15, 2014 by Bill Johnson
For college seniors, returning to school in September is the beginning of the last hurrah: One last football season in the student section, one last round of fraternity and sorority rush and one last chance to host the epic house party that will be remembered for years to come.
Unfortunately, an impressive keg stand record doesn’t count as a hard skill, and adjusting the margins on your resume to make it look beefier won’t fool potential employers as easily as it did your Lit 201 professor. In today’s competitive job market, now is the time to start thinking about post-grad plans, particularly if your resume is lacking.
While senior year is absolutely a time to milk the most out of the remaining days of college (and concentrate on, you know, class), it’s also the time to start considering your long-term path. If the question, “So what are your plans next year?” makes you hyperventilate, we’ve outlined a few expert tips on how to set yourself up for success.
Maintain contacts from summer internships
Now that school is back in session, try to avoid falling into the trap of “out of sight, out of mind.” Stay in touch with the connections you forged during summer internships so that you can use those resources as future references.
Nicole Williams, official career expert for LinkedIn, says that the best course of action is to develop relationships with your superiors over the course of the internship, requesting one-on-one meetings to discuss skills you’d like to develop. “You’ll not only gain invaluable insight, but will also demonstrate your eagerness to learn more about the industry,” she says.
By now, you’ve likely already left your summer internship, but it’s not too late to retroactively reach out to those connections. Asking for a recommendation on LinkedIn is one way to stay top-of-mind — though, with these types of requests, it’s important to understand that you’re asking a favor; you’ll want to come across as confidant, but also sincere and grateful. “Be persistent without being pushy,” says Williams. “Connect, but understand the boundaries — especially those of busy professionals.”
For seniors who haven’t yet dipped their toes into the working world, it’s worth applying to internships during the school year. “Internships are important for several reasons: You get to work on real projects with real deadlines, build a network, increase your odds of employment after graduation and, if nothing else, add to your resume,” says Sanjeev Agrawal, founder of collegefeed.
While the term “professional networking” can be daunting, the opportunities to make valuable connections extend far beyond stuffy industry events. Simply developing rapport with fellow students — particularly those with influential connections or leadership positions — can pay off long down the road. “Nothing is more important than human relationships,” says Agrawal. “Break-out opportunities often arise when people take chances on people.”
Make an effort to get to know your classmates and members of various campus organizations — being recognizable on campus can leave an impression on all the right people. “Throughout your entire college experience, you should be building your professional profile and network; not just when you are ready to look for a job,” says Williams. “The majority of jobs are found through the relationships you develop and cultivate. You never know who may be able to offer you a serendipitous job opportunity.”
When it comes to networking, practice makes perfect — and it’s often easier to establish a professional relationship with influential contacts while you’re still in school. Alex Mooradian, CEO of Readyforce, says that students shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to business leaders or alumni at companies and in industries in which they’re interested. “Few students actually do this,” he says. “Most people will be willing to meet or talk with you while you are in school, but may be less welcoming once you are in the workforce. Start those relationships now.” “Most people will be willing to meet or talk with you while you are in school, but may be less welcoming once you are in the workforce. Start those relationships now.”
As for seeking internship opportunities or asking for recommendations and career advice/introductions, students may not have to look too far. “Leverage your existing network,” says Carly Keller, marketing associate at Chegg. “This doesn’t mean going around to networking happy hours with strangers; it means connecting with the people that you already know and asking for guidance.”