Congratulations! As graduation is near, you’re approaching the finishing line and it’s time to launch your career. If you thought finals were stressful; searching for your first job will be just as demanding a task. It’s never too early to start planning for your future and by starting early, you will help eliminate the pressure that comes with looking for your first “real job”. The following ways will give you a jump start on your competition and make you more prepared for your career after college.

Work with Your Career Development Services

Start building your foundation for a career by working with your school’s career development services. This department is dedicated solely to educating, advising, and connecting students to possible opportunities after graduation. By partnering with the department, you will get a better sense of your interests, passions, values, and overall career goals. They can also be instrumental in advising you on how to write a resume, how to prepare for an interview, and how to follow up with thank you notes after an interview.

Invest Time in Finding a Job

How much time should you invest in finding a potential job opportunity while still in school? There is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. However, as you approach your final semester, it’s important to allocate a certain amount of time to career preparation and your job search. Anywhere from 5-10 hours a week is sufficient to prepare for your search. You need persistence here- do your homework, research employers, educate yourself, apply to jobs, and send follow-up emails.

Fully Develop Your LinkedIn Profile

There’s no better time than right now to make sure your social media reflects the type of person a potential employer would want to hire. The first place to start is to create and fully develop your LinkedIn profile. With the new updates to the platform, there are plenty of areas of your profile that you can optimize. Add current courses you’ve taken, any volunteer activity, current projects or internships, various groups and clubs you’ve joined on campus, and more. Take the time to review your other social media profiles, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to ensure there aren’t any inappropriate photos or content on them.

Get Ready to Network

When you are trying to secure a job after school, you need to start building your network of connections. Having a point of contact or referral at an organization can certainly pay off in getting you an interview or potential opportunity. Build your connections through social media or your alumni networks. Your school will most likely have job fairs on campus, so you will want to attend those as well. If there is a certain city or location you want to work in, see if there are any local career events or networking opportunities in that area that you can go to and make even more connections.

Prepare for Interviews

As you are applying for positions and starting to get interviews, you need to prepare for the interview portion of the job search process. It’s time to invest in a professional interview wardrobe, have your resume critiqued and proofread, and practice your interview questions out loud with someone. Before you even go into your interview, you need to have certain materials ready, such as copies of your resume, a clean notebook and pen, and possibly a portfolio. As you are just entering the workforce, displaying an overall professional look here is key.

Learn How to Sell Your Skillset

In most instances, you will be entering the workforce with little work experience, as you’ve most likely taken an internship or two, on top of other collegiate activities and classes. In this case, you need to be able to sell your experiences and skillsets to employers. Take a true look at your skills, and see how you compare those to the current needs of an employer and the job opportunity at hand. You need to be able to sell your qualifications and show you are the best candidate for the position.

As a relatively new job seeker, it’s important to remain professional, confident, and diligent in your search. This will only help to alleviate some of the stresses that come with looking for your first job and help you to convey your worth to a potential employer.

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