Get that entry-level job and thrive in your last year of college!

by Susan Mullin

Your final year of college is finally here. Where did the time go? Everyone keeps mentioning the dreaded “J” word (job search!), and you feel like dropping out of school is becoming a more appealing option with every passing day.  Are you trying for an entry-level job in DC? Law school in LA? A Gap Year abroad? No idea?

Senior year brings on a lot of responsibilities and stress, which can drive you insane if you don’t learn how to handle it. The COVID-19 pandemic threw in an extra obstacle to an already complicated transition. Many companies are playing it safe and unwilling to commit to new hires. It seems like for the time being everyone is concerned about one thing: uncertainty. This is nothing new for seniors in college who are already plagued by the idea of having no idea of what they are going to do next. 

However, a quick change of mentality will make you realize that this is a year for opportunities! You can still enjoy the last year of youthful freedom while preparing for your future. At the same time, these unprecedented times don’t have to mean that the job search process is more painful. It’s just different! Here’s a Senior Year Checklist to help get your job hunt started, as well as any other future plans that you may have.

Know your degree requirements

Your last year leaves you with two semesters to fit in any remaining required courses so that you’re actually eligible to graduate. Check with your advisor and make sure you have enough time to take the classes that you need to complete your major(s) and minor(s). Try to balance out the heavier course load classes so that you’re not drowning in work during one of your semesters (especially your last!). 

Pay a visit to the career center

This is one of the most helpful places you can go! The resources they provide are amazing, and they know exactly what you’re going through. If you think about it, every year a new batch of seniors rolls into their office with an existential crisis about their post-graduation plans. Allow them to give you guidance about your resume and cover letters–and where to begin your job search. If you’re not even sure what it is you want to do, talk through your options with a counselor. Identify a general industry that appeals to you and go from there. They can also help you with grad school applications if that’s the path you are considering. Ask about resources in your major department as well– they often have employment opportunities, office hours to help with portfolios and other events to assist you with your post-graduation plan. 

Talk to your professors

At the beginning of each semester, many of us claim we’re going to attend office hours religiously and become buddy-buddy with our professors. Instead, we may choose an hour of Netflix over getting to know them.  Your professors are here to help you and have experienced what you are going through. They can help you network, brainstorm ideas for your next steps and even write you a recommendation letter for your future job applications. It definitely pays to get to spend time with them!

Work on your resume

Don’t wait until the last minute to get started on this crucial part of your job search. Many of us continue sending in the same outdated resume that we crafted hastily in our first year. Take time to review your work experience and eliminate the sections that are no longer relevant. High school clubs and extracurriculars may have been acceptable when you were applying to internships in your freshman year. However, at this stage in the game, your potential employer probably won’t be blown out of the water because you were the student body government treasurer in high school. With that in mind, start crafting up general cover letters that can be used as a template for your future job applications. Obviously you will have to tailor the letter for each specific company, but having a foundation makes the process of applying much easier.

Clean up your social media profiles

Your last four years have been the most fun. You don’t, however, need a picture of you at a tailgate ruining your chances at a top agency. Go through your public profiles, switch your privacy settings, and check how easily people can find you on the web. Then switch your attention from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and start investing time on LinkedIn. An updated LinkedIn profile pays off when potential employers are skimming your past experiences. 

Prepare and practice interviewing

Interviewing can sometimes be a hard skill to acquire. Practicing frequently asked interview questions and learning how to carry yourself during a professional interview makes it ten times easier for when the real deal comes. Set up a mock interview at your career center, reach out to an advisor, or practice with a professor–they will all be glad to help you. Test runs allow you to have material to fall back on, so that next time you’re asked about a weakness that you have you don’t blank for five minutes and then follow it by “I’m too enthusiastic?” 

Thinking about grad school instead of getting a job right away?

If you are considering going to grad school, this is the time to get those applications ready to go. Find out important deadlines and get ahead of the process so that you’re not scrambling last-minute to complete them. You also want plenty of time to have peers and mentors review your applications. 

Consider taking up an internship or a project

If you are hearing constant “no’s” from the full-time positions you are applying to maybe change your tactic. You could take on a short internship and see what that takes you! Interns are always needed and the experience you can extract from these programs is invaluable. Additionally, it’s a way of keeping active professionally and building skills with less commitment. Consider starting a project you’ve always wanted. There isn’t a “right path” once you graduate college, there are many different routes you can take.

Lastly, enjoy!

Although a whole lot of uncertainty may lie ahead, it’s nothing you can’t deal with! Don’t allow the hecticness of senior year transform you into a big ball of anxiety. Instead of equating “hectic” with “stress”, equate it with “excitement.” You have the opportunity to experience your most beloved college traditions one last time and an exciting road of surprises lies ahead. Take advantage of the resources at your disposal to prepare in advance for your next career steps and get the most out of your last year! 

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Posted in , Job Search Tips