One of the best professors that I ever had in college gave me on the first day of class some of the best advice I ever received. He told my class that getting a good job would take at least two years and that we needed to start immediately. I took that advice to heart.
Did I end up with my dream job? Honestly, no I didn’t. But I did end up with a good job that has provided me with a lot of experience and a decent loving for my family. Further, the steps I took while earning my undergrand and the experience I’ve had since graduating has led me to being accepted to some top ranked MBA programs.
I’m going to walk through some of the important steps that you should be taking while an undergrad. I will also explain why each step matters as I go along. Also, if you have any advice, please leave it in the comments section.
Very first – get to know the people in your career services center
Most undergraduate programs or universities offer career services. These individuals should be your best friends. They know when recruiters are coming to campus, what you need to do to apply and often have connections that otherwise would not be available to you.
Spend some time in your career services center learning about the process of getting a job in your industry. Ask lots of questions. As you progress through your undergrad, stop back by and make sure that you are on track to getting a good job.
Complete a summer internship between your junior and senior year
You may have multiple opportunities to complete internships (take them!). But at a minimum, you need to complete an internship during the summer before your senior year.
- First, internships often lead to a job with the same company. I had the opportunity to intern at Kohl’s corporate office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two days after completing the internship, I was offered a full time job starting upon graduation.
- Apply early. If you wait to apply for internships, then you may miss the deadline to apply. Honestly, you should start looking at who will be recruiting at your university about week two of the Fall semester. Doing your research well in advance will also help you know what courses you may need to take to qualify for specific internships.
- Apply to a lot of different companies. You never know where you will be accepted and you might be surprised at what you end up choosing/liking. When I first applied for the internship with Kohl’s, I did so because I had some friends that had enjoyed their internship there. During the application and interview process, I became very excited about the opportunity and placed Kohl’s at the top of my list. Also, the old adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” comes to mind.
- Be willing to work for free. I know that you are an undergrad and that money is probably tight. But getting good experience on your resume will help you in getting a good job after graduation. Most companies won’t ask you to work for free, but some will. If the company or experience is good, then be willing to work for free.
I can’t say enough about preparing early, applying to multiple companies and completing a summer internship or two.
Third, excel in school
I skipped a lot of classes in high school. I was almost on a first name basis with everyone who worked at McDonald’s during my second hour class. That attitude all changed once I started college. I realized that I was now choosing and paying to be in school. So if I was going to be there, I might as well get everything I can out of it. I only missed 2-3 classes total each semester. I intentionally took hard classes and pushed myself. There were nights when I was cursing at the homework assignments because I just didn’t get it. But by the end, I was almost always at the top of my class. Developing a habit of hard work and dedication has served me both in getting what I want in life as well as keeping what I want.
Put the time in now for a few years and you will reap benefits for decades. I’m not saying to lock yourself up. I still socialized and dated quite a bit. I even got married and had a kid before I graduated. So if I could find the time to study and work hard, so can you.
Last, apply for jobs early and often
Very much like applying for internships, you need to start early. Here’s what I recommend.
- Target specific companies two years before you graduate. Know who you want to work for and what it will take to get a job offer. And it’s okay to change your list as you learn more about your industry and those companies. The point is to have a plan of attack.
- Use your network to get interviews. Upper-class men who have already had internships or have job offers can help you with everything from basic questions to getting interviews. Make friends with students that are older than you.
- Don’t let rejection bother you. Let me be the first to tell you that you will be rejected, maybe a lot. That’s fine. Just keep working towards your goals. Where you end up may surprise you, but I bet you will be satisfied.
If you aren’t working hard towards a good job, your classmates who are will beat you out.
For more information about financial planning and careers, follow Rabbit Funds on Twitter. Also, this post was featured in the 340th edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance hosted at Young Adult Finances.