As college or graduate school winds down and graduation approaches, thinking about your post-graduation plans can be stressful. If you don’t have a job, don’t worry just yet, you’re not alone. You can make it happen by getting organized and doing your research. My biggest tip, of course, is to have a system for getting through the application and interview process but that’s for another post.
The big problem I faced when I was about to graduate from my undergrad program was that I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had a few interviews by April but I was still unsure of the path I wanted to take. I had applied to grad school but I was still holding out for a job offer that was magical and somehow filled all the criteria I had set in my head. Unfortunately, I had no idea what this position this would even be and in what kind of company. Here are the two big things I did when I hit that point in my senior year: created a plan of attack and talked to a lot of people.
It’s a good idea to create a plan of action. Narrow down your short-term goals and start your job search with those guidelines in mind. Once you’ve set goals, you’ll have a better idea what you need to do next and what types of jobs are a good fit. Create a timeline that includes which jobs you will be applying for along with accounting for any other life changes such as moving to a new city.
On the other hand, you might have an idea of where you want to end up but no idea how to get there. You don’t necessarily have to create a 5 or 10-year plan but you do need to know how you can get to where you want to be. While charting your path, research industries and companies that interest you. This can help establish which companies and people you would like to work for and rule out companies that don’t share your values.
You may not get your dream job right away. There is nothing wrong with not having a job lined up after graduation or not getting your ideal job right after school. Many people have worked their way up to a dream job by taking less-than-ideal jobs in their industries just to get experience. Getting your foot in the door is more helpful than waiting for a big break.
If you are unsure about your future plans—or even if you are—informational interviews with professionals in the field you would like to work in can be a great resource. They are an easy way to learn more about the industry and become informed about the latest trends and developments. These interviews are also a way to explore different careers, new employment opportunities and identify challenges you might face.
Start by talking to people whom you already know such as family, friends, professors and coworkers. If they’re not able to help you, they probably know someone who can. Once you have made a list of people you would like to connect with, reach out through email to set up a meeting. Don’t hesitate to contact any role models. Many people would love to help someone just starting out in their career. Informational interviews usually last around half an hour and can be casual or formal.
After setting up the interview, research the person’s career path and current role before you meet. You may want to ask probing questions about their career and how they got to where they are. It’s also important to brush up on the latest trends and news in the industry. You will be better equipped to ask questions and keep the conversation flowing. They also might have contacts in the field they can connect you with. Their advice and experiences can be beneficial for your own career path.
If you think the meeting will be slightly more formal, dress as if you’re going to an actual job interview. If it is an informal informational interview, dress in business casual attire. During the interview start with an elevator pitch to give the other person a clear idea of who you are, what your skills are and what you would like to do in the future. While talking to your interviewer, stay engaged by taking notes. After the interview, always send a thank you note.
You might not know where you’re headed quite yet but with a little research and a lot of networking, you’ll be on your way to setting up your career! Was there a turning point when you decided on what you wanted to do? How did you get through those last few months before graduation?