New grads and career changers are popping out of certificate, vocational, and standard degree programs at an alarming rate and many of them are finding the bleak reality of the current job market at their feet. This is because many were lead to believe that education is all it takes to get a job. Not so! Here are some tips on preparing yourself during your education so that you can gain meaningful employment right when you graduate!
1.) Focus on Your Studies
It’s not enough to just get by in school – you want to do your best! Be on time, be prepared, and work hard. How well you do in school is often compared to how well you’ll do in work, so employers will take notice. Instructors also make great references, but only if you’ve proved to be a great student who tries hard and is dependable!
Employers want experience, not just education. Especially in the current job market it is difficult to sell yourself to an employer with no experience. So what do you do? Get some related experience through volunteering! Start this as soon as you begin your education and you’ll have gained some substantial experience by the time you graduate!
3.) Join a Professional Association
Professional associations offer a lot of benefits, well-worth the price of membership, such as networking events, workshops and classes, job boards, volunteer opportunities, industry magazine and journal subscriptions, discounts on products, and more. It also looks great on your resume! The membership rates are significantly lower while you’re a student, so don’t wait to join until later!
4.) Become Certified
There is a certification available for just about every career. These certifications prove that you are competent at your craft, and employers actively seek out certified candidates over un-certified ones. Plan on taking your certification test as soon as you have finished your program, while the information you have learned is still fresh in your mind. Start studying for the exam a couple months before you graduate and take several practice exams to ensure you’ll score high when exam time comes!
5.) Find a Mentor
Find a mentor who has your ideal career. You can start off having informational interviews about their job, how they landed their first job as a new graduate, answer tough questions you may have, and more. They can be an invaluable resource and a friend to you throughout your career development, and if they own their own business they may even be able to provide you with some hands-on volunteer experience or hire you when you’ve completed your training.
Joining a professional association and finding a mentor creates the opportunity to make solid contacts for your career, but there are also many other opportunities to get out there and network. You can ask professionals for informational interviews, network on online chat boards, attend additional professional development workshops, and much more. Sometimes it’s not just what you know, but who you know that will land you a job, so make sure you take every chance you can to expand your network!
7.) Be Flexible
When employers want experience, being a new grad searching for work is difficult enough. The more limitations you give your job search, such as acceptable salary, location, or job title, the more difficult it will be. For new grads the key is to find an organization who will allow you to get your foot in the door at the bottom of the ladder and begin there. A year down the line you can be pickier because you’ll be experienced. If you’re very picky in the beginning it’s likely you could remain unemployed for quite a while!