After all of the hard work you’ve put in for the last four years while getting an education, there are few things in life more exciting than graduation. Trouble is, your hardest test is yet to come: making it in the real world. Some of you may have had an opportunity to experience the world of work through an internship, while others may be leaving college without this experience — which may make them feel a bit uneasy.
To save you some time in trying to figure out what your next move should be, I’ve put together some tried and true methods of preparing for your entry into the world of work.
1. Have a Plan
Spend some time thinking honestly about yourself:
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What kind of environment do you need to do your best work?
- What are you good at?
- What are your life goals, and what kind of jobs would be the best options to support those?
- Where do you want to live, and how far are you willing to commute?
Asking yourself all of these questions will put you on the right career search path and help you determine what questions to ask prospective employers as you try to select the right job for yourself.
2. Companies Have Ads; People Have Resumes
Your resume is marketing collateral, and it has one purpose: to get you an interview. You have about a minute to get the attention of the person reading it — maybe even less – and you want to make the kind of impression that lands you in the “yes” pile. Write clear, concise sentences that make your point, and save the details for the interview. Organize your bullet points in groups to present an organized, logical flow. Find a way to support what you did with numbers that demonstrate you are a results-oriented individual. If it takes a hiring manager too long to figure out what you did at your previous jobs, they will likely move on.
3. Network, Network, Network
Your senior year is the best time to learn how to network and master the art of interviewing. Go to on-campus job fairs, connect with alumni, and keep a close eye on company websites. You may uncover a great contact or discover a potential future job opportunity. If you already accepted a job, be sure to stay in touch with the people you met during the interview process and attend any new-hire events the company hosts. These events are a great opportunity for you to develop relationships and get a better sense of the company. At Cognolink, our events give new hires the opportunity to meet people from across all departments, members of the executive team and, of course, other new hires!
4. Consider the Total Opportunity
When considering job opportunities, resist the temptation to focus too much on the starting base salary. Instead, look at the total package.
- Is there a performance incentive program to earn additional cash rewards?
- What is a typical career path at the company?
- What is the general schedule of promotions and salary increases?
- How much paid time off will you receive?
- How much of your health insurance premium will be covered?
- Is there a company match to the retirement program?
- What pre-tax programs are offered to help you reduce your taxable earnings (e.g., a commuter program or flexible spending account)?
- Does the employer provide company-sponsored training and/or a study support reimbursement program that will help you develop your skills?
- Is there a pantry stocked with snacks and beverages?
Assessing these factors at each potential job, and comparing the results across companies, will allow you to see the total value of each opportunity and, ultimately, make the best career decision for yourself.