Throughout my time in university, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that you can’t cross the stage in four years and expect to receive a degree in one hand and a career in the other; succeeding in in the real world is going to take a heck of a lot more than that. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, you need to start thinking about your future career right now. Here are 5 essential moves to make before you graduate.
1. Test-Drive Potential Careers
Don’t wait until after you’ve graduated to start exploring your career options. If you’re not exactly sure where you see yourself in 5 years, that’s okay, now is the perfect time to start figuring it out. We have a very unique opportunity as students to “test-drive” potential careers. It is through co-op, volunteer and experiential learning opportunities that we can start discovering where our talents and passions lie. You might be lucky enough to stumble across your dream job or perhaps you’ll encounter a career that’s not the right fit for you – both are valuable experiences. What is most important at the end of the day is that you explore your options, gain a better understanding of the industry you’re interested in pursuing and start determining what fuels your career aspirations now.
2. Make Yourself Marketable
Know that your degree alone is not going to cut it. There is a very good chance that your future job is going to require skills that can’t be taught in the classroom. If you want to stay competitive in the job market, you need to take the initiative to supplement your degree with professional skills and industry experience. Take the time now to do your research and gain a stronger understanding of what steps you need to take in order succeed in your field. One way I make myself more marketable is by searching and saving job postings. When I collect job postings that are of interest to me, I take note of the skills and experiences that are expected of an ideal candidate. This way, I have a clear picture of what skills and experiences I need to need to focus on developing.
I was always under the impression that networking took place after you graduated, or perhaps in your final semester at the earliest. What I didn’t realize was that the earlier you begin reaching out to industry professionals, the more opportunities you have to gain insight and build meaningful connections. Many companies actually offer a networking budget that encourages employees to sit down for coffee chats and informational interviews with students and aspiring professionals. Although networking was one of the most intimidating moves for me to make, it has certainly been the most rewarding. Coffee chats have given me the opportunity to gain industry mentors and have really opened my eyes to future career possibilities.
4. Build Your Online Presence
Think social media doesn’t matter? Think again. Your online presence has never been more important. I interviewed one hiring manager who said that he would never consider an applicant if they weren’t on LinkedIn. Not only is LinkedIn a digital extension of your resume, the platform is a key hub for job postings and many companies use the site to actively recruit. Another way I like to build my online presence is by following and engaging with key influencers on Twitter. I use Twitter as a tool to demonstrate my knowledge and understanding of what is going on in the industry by sharing my own thoughts and opinions on industry trends and current events.
5. Get Involved
Above all, becoming an engaged student is one of the most important career moves you can make before you graduate. I got involved by joining student clubs like Young Women in Business, taking on leadership roles within the CMNSU and pursuing co-ops at Grey Advertising, SFU School of Communication and FleishmanHillard. My personal and professional achievements thus far can be attributed to these experiences. Getting involved gave me so many opportunities to develop my skill set, gain valuable real world experience and has opened up doors for my career.
I challenge you to invest in your career today. Have the urgency to succeed, the hustle starts now.