Getting Ahead of the Game: Four Things to Think About Before Graduating

Whether you’re a freshman or a senior in college, you’ll inevitably have to make the change from college to a career. To prepare for this transition and lifestyle change, you might ask yourself a few important questions.

What do you bring to the table?
(Experience & Skills)

Getting a job right out of college is sometimes harder than expected. Depending on your major, there might be dozens or even hundreds of people applying for the same job with the same basic academic qualifications. So, how do you differentiate yourself from other candidates? What do you bring to the table? With so many candidates out there, the best way to separate yourself from others is through your unique experiences and accomplishments.

If you have not done so already, it is highly recommended that you complete an internship in your area of study. There are increasingly more accessible options for internships as companies have moved to having options for remote work. Having internship experience will put you in a much better position when applying for jobs as you can gain skills that are marketable and obtain related experience. It might even land you a full-time job offer with the company. An informative article on internships shows that 70% of employers offer their interns full-time opportunities.

Like internships, job shadowing can be a great way to gain experience and test out the waters. If you are not sure of the kind of work you like, job shadowing can help you understand the day-to-day aspects of a particular job.

Where are you going to work?
(Location & Housing)

This is about the companies you are interested in and where you want to live. Many companies currently offer 100% remote positions or hybrid work. Remote work offers more flexibility with your schedule and living arrangements but can make building workplace relationships harder. Having the option to work in-person allows for greater interpersonal communication and greater connection with co-workers. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to connect virtually, but it’s something to consider.

Housing is another important consideration and one that can be very costly. If you’re looking to save money, and your parents are on board with it, living at home can be a great way to pay off student loans early. Paying down the principal balance on loans early will help you save potentially thousands on interest payments.

If living with your parents is not an option, you’ll need to decide between renting an apartment or buying a house. Renting is usually a recent college graduate’s first choice because rent can be cheaper than making a down payment on a house, in addition to monthly mortgage payments. It is also common for people to find roommates when renting, allowing for a division of expenses. However, if you want to buy a house soon after graduation, you’ll need to ask yourself, “what house can I afford?” As a young person, you might not have the best credit, which could prevent you from being able to take out a loan or increase your payments. Because of this, you should consider all your options and possibly save for a few years before buying.

How will you begin your career?
(First Impressions and Professional Growth)

Before your first day on the job, you’ll want to think ahead about how you’re going to start off on the right foot. One of the best ways to learn about company culture, expectations, and paths to success is to find someone that is willing to mentor you. This can help you grow professionally as you are able to learn from colleagues’ general experiences including both mistakes and successes. Consider asking about existing company mentor programs during your interview.

When you finally start in your new position, work as hard as you can during the first few months to get up to speed. First impressions have a big impact and starting off strong will help company leadership think of you as competent, capable, and able to adapt quickly.

When do you start your full-time job?

One detail that many college students don’t think about is the time between graduation and employment. Some graduates being work immediately, but many have a few months between graduation and their first day on the job. This period can allow you to learn strategies for managing a new schedule, explore the area where you will be living, begin networking at community events or activities, and to set personal and professional goals. Life will get busier, so planning will make the transition much easier.

Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy your free time away from the job search. Spend time with friends and family and think of it as a mini vacation and a transitional period before your next chapter begins.

By Kristi Coleman
Kristi Coleman Director, Network Partnerships and Career Education - Career Services Network