College should be about more than just academics and socializing. Read these recommendations on how to maximize your chances for a successful college career!
Especially in the U.S., college is typically the starting point to your career. With a college degree, you can open doors to more job opportunities and higher earning potential. As a student, you can better prepare yourself for the world of employment by applying to the right colleges, choosing the right major, and utilizing your time as a student to your own advantage to jumpstart your college career.
If you want to make yourself a competitive candidate post-graduation, start thinking as early as possible about how to stay on top of your future. According to a recent NACE Job Outlook study, there is actually a gap between student and employer perceptions of professionalism. While 77% of students reported feeling confident in their work-ethic, teamwork, and collaboration skills, only 43% of employers felt that recent graduates were really proficient in these skills.
What Can You Do to Set Yourself Up for Success After Graduation?
1. Career Decision Making
Most students go to college to earn the degree and skills attractive to employers. Give yourself an advantage by planning your career early! Start visiting college campuses, assess your strengths and weaknesses, participate in your university’s career activities, and start getting hands-on experience as soon as you can.
2. Update or Create Your LinkedIn Profile
Your LinkedIn summary will let employers know exactly who you are and what you are looking for. Make sure to only list the relevant experiences and, as a student, document all internship and work experience that you believe will help post-graduation.
3. Resume and Cover Letter Writing
As your first chance to make a real impression on employers, your resume should be almost identical to your LinkedIn profile, including a description at the top with a passionate message about your strengths and your plans for the future. Try to sound professional in your cover letter, but remember that this is your chance to really show your enthusiasm for the opportunity!
4. Prepare for Job Interviews
One of the biggest mistakes people make during job interviews is missing the opportunity to prove yourself. Employers will want to know about your education and past professional experiences, but they also need to be sold on the reasons why you are the best candidate for the job. Once you finish your initial research about the role and company (including the interviewer), think carefully about what you can contribute and come up with your ‘elevator pitch’ explaining why you deserve their trust.
5. Try an Internship
Start interning as early as you can! Not only will you gain marketable experience for your resume, but most importantly you will learn what personality types you work well with, under what conditions you feel the most productive, and how to motivate yourself and manage your time.
6. Find a Mentor
Your mentor should be someone working in a field or a role you can genuinely see yourself in down the road. For those who are less sure of their path, start with a professor of your favorite subject. You can simply start by emailing a general career question or asking for a brief meeting outside the classroom. Once this relationship is established, you should utilize it to learn how they ended up where they are now, including the challenges along the way and personal accounts of success.
7. Talk to Your School’s Academic and Career Advisors
From your first semester as a student, you should be in contact with your university’s career center. Academic advisors will help advise you on the most suitable majors and courses to select, free of charge. When you are ready to start planning, the career center will be able to advise you more personally on your resume and interview skills, helping you create a career plan based on your genuine interests.
8. Network, Network, Network!
A great way to start professional networking as a student is through greek life. If you don’t see yourself as the type of person who would enjoy being in a fraternity or sorority, check out your school’s professional organizations. Pre-law, pre-med, and business groups give students in similar fields the opportunity to establish bonds with their student peers that will connect them throughout their post-graduation careers.
9. Choose the Right Major
Are you already thinking about a second degree after your bachelor’s? If so, you will want to select an undergraduate major that you can see yourself studying in 5-10 years. Although you are never really bound by the degrees you earn, they send a signal to employers of the way you see the world and the knowledge you bring to the field.
10. Find Recruitment Companies
First, because many job boards are free of charge, register for as many as you can find and set up job alerts in areas of interest. When you are ready to begin interviewing, find recruitment companies and start contacting!
- Tip: The more organized and straight-forward your LinkedIn profile and resume are, the easier it will be to explain to recruiters what types of jobs you are looking for.
11. Do Your Own Thing
You can impress employers even further by showing them your entrepreneurial spirit. For those who are passionate about writing, you might consider compiling a portfolio before you graduate. For those more interested in the non-profit sector, for instance, try creating your own project, recruiting volunteers, and even finding individuals willing to fund the project. On a more personal level, you might even enjoy the confidence boost of a job well done!
Of course, your chosen major does not guarantee career success, but, coupled with strong work ethic and a positive attitude, you will be surprised by the amount of opportunities you encounter after graduation.
Top 10 Majors Based on Job Prospects, Alumni Salaries, and Popularity
- Computer Science
- Government/Political Science
- English Language and Literature
- Chemical Engineering
If you are already thinking about your job security, we recommend thinking about your interests and career goals as early as possible. Which subjects are the most interesting to you? Which subjects are the least interesting? What type of company do you see yourself working for?
In today’s world, computer science and engineering professionals have a very high earning potential. Though with focus and persistence, you will be able to find a job in almost any area that interests you. Start thinking early about the prospects of the following careers, according to College Choice’s highest paying careers for college students.
Highest Paying Careers
1. Petroleum Engineer
- (Average salary: $102,300 – $176,300)
Because there is no well-known major leading to this profession, petroleum engineers might study some combination of environmental studies and engineering. These professionals are responsible for the design and development of oil deposits under the earth’s surface, with a reported 15% job outlook between 2016-2026!
2. Nuclear Engineer
- (Average salary: $67,000 – $118,000)
Nuclear engineers harness the energy released from nuclear reactions, dealing with its application in a variety of settings, including nuclear power plants, submarine systems, medical equipment, food production, and waste disposal.
3. Computer Science Engineer
- (Average salary: $66,700 – $112,600)
Possibly one of the fastest growing and post popular professions today, computer engineers typically work in either software or hardware, designing elements that help computers operate in almost any field imaginable. Computer science, information systems, and software engineering are all common majors, and some key skills of this profession include problem-solving, communication, technological skills, and analytical thinking.
- (Average salary: $57,200 – $105,100)
A degree in physics can qualify individuals for a variety of careers from research to improving and inventing. Depending on the specialization, physicists work across a huge range of fields, like transportation, environment and climate, education, buildings and structures, medicine, and aerospace.
5. Mechanical Engineer
- (Average salary: $62,100 – $101,600)
Mechanical engineering is a very diverse subject ranging from small devices to large systems like spacecrafts and automotive machines. Essentially dealing with anything that moves, this type of engineering requires the ability to overcome constraints, the analytic tools needed to achieve design goals, and the teamwork needed to design, market, and produce a system.
6. Business and Information Technology
- (Average salary: $56,900 – $99,100)
As a graduate of business information technology, you will possess the skills needed for a successful career combining both management and computer science knowledge. There is a need in almost every sector for IT professionals who can make calculated decisions and implement methodological information systems that help businesses function and profit.
- (Average salary: $50,300 – $92,900)
Mathematicians primarily conduct research, exploring and developing theories. The broad nature of the field opens doors to a diverse range of positions including financial analysts, professors, elementary, middle, or high school teachers, systems analysts and computer scientist.