Don’t wait until you’ve graduated to begin preparing for your job search. Becoming an attractive candidate begins from the moment you start college. In addition to picking a major that is in line with your career goals, it’s important to make the right choices that will set you up for success. Take advantage of every opportunity to connect with campus leaders that will help you achieve success in college. Hard work, campus involvement and building a network of support will pave the way for finding a job after college graduation.

Aim for Success

If you’re wondering how to get a job after college, begin by working hard in your academic classes. Good grades will set you apart from other candidates. Many employers look at college transcripts to determine your academic proficiencies. It’s okay to have one or two blemishes, but a strong grade point average is the first step in demonstrating you’re the most qualified candidate for the job. Consider double majoring or selecting a minor that will add to your list of competencies. For example, if you’re a communications major, select a minor like Spanish or French to show that you have an added talent.

Get Involved

In addition to classes, future employers are interested in candidates with leadership skills. Get involved with clubs and organizations. Choose an organization that complements your major and another that showcases your personal interests. If you join a club right away, strive to serve as an officer when you’re a senior. If you didn’t get involved early on, it’s never too late. Future employers will look favorably upon candidates that can manage multiple responsibilities, so campus involvement is a must.

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Find a Mentor

Develop relationships with faculty and staff in college. Meet with your professors or club advisors to help them get to know who you are as a student and as an individual. Mentors often have connections in the professional world and can provide valuable advice about how to get a job after college. You will also need references. A mentor can provide an insightful reference that will tell an employer why you are the candidate for the job.

Network With Alumni

A valuable benefit of attending college is the network of alumni that can open doors for future employment. The alumni office can connect you with graduates that are established in your career field. Don’t hesitate to reach out to alumni and ask for advice about how to go about your job search. You can even do this while you are in college. Ask about what prospective employers are looking for on a resume and the experiences that you should pursue to become a stand-out candidate. You might even be able to secure an internship or a job, based on your connections with alumni.

Prepare Your Resume

Don’t wait until your senior year to start working on your resume. Keep a running list of everything that you do in college. It’s easy to forget when you participate in a research project or join a student organization. Attend a resume writing workshop to learn more about the best format to use. Once you have written your first draft, show it to a few people to get their feedback. If your career field demands a portfolio, as evidence of your work, prepare that too. In the end, the resume needs to be something that you feel proud of, but seeking other opinions will help you create the best document that represents you.

Schedule Mock Interviews

Before you walk in to to your first interview, practice beforehand. Research the frequently asked questions for your career field and draft your answers to best prepare it. Seek the advice of your professors about the best way to impress an employer in your career field. Ask your parents, friends and mentors to participate in a mock interview session. The career center may even have speed interviewing sessions that will help you get used to what it’s like to be in the hot seat. Many campuses offer on-campus interviews with prospective employers. These interviews are used as a screening tool to determine finalists for a position.

Get an Internship

Completing an internship will give you one of the best chances of getting a job after college. Most career centers provide a database of companies that are actively seeking college interns. You can even get course credit for your experience. Some internships are paid or offer a stipend. An internship will give you the opportunity to apply your classroom learning in a real-world setting. You’ll also get a glimpse into what a job related to your major will be like. Many companies hire interns as full-time employees once they’ve graduated.

Attend Informational Interviews

Attending an informational interview with a prospective employer is a great way to increase your chances of getting a job after college. Think of it as an opportunity to meet informally with a potential employer. An informational interview provides a relaxed setting to learn more about the work environment and what it takes to be successful in the job. It’s important to prepare for an informational interview, since it’s your first contact with a potential employer. Even though they are there to share information with you, it’s also an opportunity for you to get noticed. Dress to impress and come prepared with a list of insightful questions about the company. Be ready to give an elevator speech about who you are and why you’re interested in the job. Even though an informational interview is not designed to screen potential candidates, it’s an opportunity to network and open the door for future conversation. Be sure to get contact information and send a thank you note.

Use the Career Center

Finding a job after college is hard, but if you use the college career center, you’ll have the resources that you need to realize success. A college career center is staffed by experts that know the intricacies of running a successful job search. Schedule an appointment with a Career Services Specialist to discuss your career goals. Attend seminars about resumes and interviewing skills that are hosted by the career center. Be sure to take advantage of the databases of employers and potential internship sites, housed in the career center. You can also do research about companies that are hiring, so that you’ll be prepared when you interview.

Go to a Career Fair

Most colleges sponsor career fairs to help graduating seniors connect with companies that are hiring new employees. A career fair will allow you to meet with several employers to gather job information and show them that you are interested in an interview. Come prepared to hand out your resumes and bring a notebook to jot down important information. Dress in an interview suit and be ready to impress prospective employers in one minute or less. Visit the employers that you’re most interested in first and be sure to pick up business cards, so that you’ll have contact information for the future. Follow up after the fair with a thank you note and request the opportunity to meet and discuss the job further.

Use an Employment Agency

Seeking the help of an employment agency is an effective way to find a job after college graduation. Most employment agencies work within a specific geographical area. Once you’ve determined where that you would like to live, schedule a meeting to learn about job openings that match your skills and background. You shouldn’t have to pay a fee for their services. An employment agency is not staffed with career counselors. The staff is specifically employed to match employees with jobs that need to be filled.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.