The idea of searching for a job before you need one, or heck, even before you have anything to put on a resume besides “college student” might seem silly – but it’s actually one of the best ways you can prepare for life after graduation. Here’s eight reasons why you should get cozy with your job search way before it becomes your senior year nemesis:
1. You’ll know what jobs exist – obviously
I’ve spent a lot of time researching job postings related to my field, often looking up keywords like, “communication,” “content creation,” “social media,” “writing,” and so on across various job engine sites. After seeing what type of jobs popped up, I also made note of what their descriptions entailed so I could have a fuller picture of various roles in the industry. This also helped me narrow down specific roles in the communication field I wanted to go into, and helped me stay on track to be eligible for those positions after graduation.
2. You’ll know whether you chose the correct major
Before I chose my major, I made a list of different career paths I thought I might be interested in and then I researched them like crazy. One of the most helpful research tactics I used was looking up the course selections at my college for each major, figuring out whether the classes covered material I was passionate about learning and then narrowing down my selections. As I just mentioned earlier, reading job descriptions is vital as well – if you can’t find a single job you’d be interested in applying for, it’s probably safe to assume you need to reevaluate your degree choice.
3. You’ll have an idea of companies you’re interested in
If you come across a job posting you’re interested in, a company with an amazing culture or even a just some influential professionals you want to follow in the footsteps of – write it all down! Justin Krutza sums this process up nicely by sharing how he kept an ongoing spreadsheet of, “ job titles, companies, locations, pay information, emails, phone numbers, references, and most importantly, people.” I’ve kept one of these spreadsheets running for myself since my first year of college and it’s been one of my most valuable resources every time I’ve gone looking for an internship or job.
4. You’ll know the types of internship experiences necessary for different careers
Aimlessly picking internship experiences is one of the worst things you can do for yourself. You need to be prepared and have a game plan for why you’re choosing a specific internship, like who you’ll meet through it, the skills you’ll learn, the possible job opportunities that will result from it and the experiences you can discuss in future interviews. For instance, my first internship was aimed at helping me get my foot in the door since I had just completed my first year of college, and also to see if I was interested in marketing specifically (I wasn’t). After that internship, I chose the rest of my internships based on my desire to get published writing samples, leadership experience, business development skills, published design samples and specific network contacts. Most of those decisions stemmed from skills and experience I saw repeated over and over again on job descriptions I was interested in, so those items became a priority to me when selecting internships.
5. You’ll be able to target your networking more effectively
Networking can be super intimidating but it’s also super necessary. Some people network like crazy just to make their name known and have endless contacts, and if that works for you, go for it. Personally, I’m on the introverted side and that type of networking wasn’t realistic for me. My biggest forms of networking have included informational interviews, internship experiences, guest speakers at college and social media, including LinkedIn. These forms of networking have allowed me to meet people I am inspired by, people I want to work with and people who can benefit from knowing my name too.
6. You’ll have a better idea of what college courses to take to gain vital skills
While college curriculum plans are structured, you do have some class selection choice when it comes to fulfilling certain degree requirements. Be smart about your college courses and choose classes that will help you learn skills based on the job descriptions that appeal to you. As Heather Huhman states, “If you find your skills not matching with job postings…take action to gain the skills and experience to stay competitive and knowledgeable in your field.” For instance, I chose to take a graphic design course as an elective because I knew that knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite was listed as a desired skill on every single job posting I had researched. Even though some programs were covered in the communication curriculum, I knew that having advanced knowledge would set me apart from competitors after graduation.
7. You’ll have realistic salary expectations
The first time I negotiated my salary for a job, I was terrified. Even though my minor in Human Resources has provided me with an understanding of employee compensation and the job market as a whole, the process itself was still new to me. Thankfully, I had done my research, asked the right questions to the right people, gained significant experiences for my age and knew what salary ranges in the industry were and what different job demands looked like. Don’t ever make the mistake of selling yourself short, or shooting yourself in the foot with a potential employer for that matter, by not being aware of what salary ranges look like for specific jobs, company sizes, years of experience required, and so on.
8. You can possibly land a job before graduation
This is pretty self explanatory, but if you stay on top of the items I’ve listed out here, you could potentially set yourself up for a job before you even officially graduate. By searching for a job before you need one, you can set yourself up for success by knowing what to expect on your job search, what skills to know, where to apply, who to contact and how to maximize internship and previous work experiences.