Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Back to School Means Back to Thinking About Your Career

As back-to-school time approaches, I am reminded of advice that I have heard from several college career counselors: It pays to start thinking about your career as soon as possible. In fact, in a recently released survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 71% of 2007’s graduating students had started their job search by March. Of those, 79% had already applied for jobs. And of those, 51.2% had already accepted their post-graduation job. (Of course, those majoring in liberal arts were less likely to have applied yet--presumably because of the less-clear career paths.)

But even starting to think about your career at the beginning of your senior year isn’t soon enough. Shawn Graham, an Associate Director of the University of North Carolina’s MBA Career Management Center at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, shared with me some back-to-school career tips for underclassmen:

  • Choose your classes wisely. Use your coursework as an opportunity to expose yourself to different career paths and to develop prerequisite skills for those areas.

  • Meet with a career counselor. If you already have a job-search plan, they can help you evaluate its effectiveness. If you don’t, they can help you structure one.

  • Have focused flexibility. Narrow your search to two or three different career paths. If you’re not sure what you want to do, rule something out.

  • Talk to faculty in your major to get their thoughts on possible career paths. Also talk to classmates and family members about careers. Get a feel for what they do and how they got there.

  • Attend career workshops and events. Both offer a great chance to gather career information. Depending on the event, you might also be able to network with recruiters at your target companies.

  • Do your career homework. Your job or internship search can take just as much time as a college-level class. Dedicate time to researching career options. Check with your campus career center about available resources. Vault and Wetfeet are usually great places to start for an overview of popular career paths.

Shawn is the author of the upcoming book, Courting Your Career, from JIST.

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