Job Search Tips While You’re Still in School

business professionals shaking hands

Even the most accomplished professionals, when asked how they planned for their career, will tell you they wish they’d started sooner. If you’re in school, there’s no time like the present to begin laying the foundation for your post-graduation job search. Your degree will open doors, but it helps when someone is there to open them for you, and that could happen with some well-timed, well-executed pre-graduation planning. 

Asking a college student to add career planning to an already weighty schedule can be a bit much, but the little time you can dedicate to your career planning checklist today will save you from playing catch-up when it really matters. Here are some tips at different milestones in your education journey to make your job hunt easier.

Two Years to Graduation

Two years into a degree program, most students have settled into workable routines and have just enough flexibility to focus on their post-college careers. 

You may already have an idea of what you want to do and what company you want to work for, but even if you’ve made up your mind, it’s still a good idea to start raising your profile and catching the attention of people in your professional field.

…the little time you can dedicate to your career planning checklist today will save you from playing catch-up when it really matters

Ashford University students can use this time to explore the resources available at the Career Services department. While it may be too soon to start applying for jobs, you can take part in webinars, practice writing your resume, and speak to a specialist about networking strategies.

Networking is key, no matter how many years you have until graduation. Start building out your LinkedIn profile by adding your collegiate accomplishments and interests, and join a professional group (or two) related to your career. 

Joining a group is a smart way for you to begin making connections. Once you’re in these groups, ask questions and respond to others who post in the group – just as you would on your Ashford classroom discussion board. The more involved you are, the more comfortable you become in your interactions with people, and the more likely they are to remember you down the road.

At the same time, don’t hesitate to look for potential connections and mentors in areas that are not your specialty. Making the acquaintance of someone outside of your network can open you up to new perspectives and “creative ways to problem solving,” according to Dr. Avisha Sadeghinejad, a Program Chair in Ashford’s Forbes School of Business & Technology™. 

One Year to Graduation

By now you may have a list of companies where you’d like to work, and you might even have accumulated a few contacts. 

Do some additional research using websites such as Glassdoor, which gives you access to company ratings by current and past employees. If you’re considering reaching out to any employees via LinkedIn, have someone you both know make the connection first. 

Continue checking in with Ashford’s Career Services team to see how you’re developing as a job candidate. Take advantage of the webinars available and continue to make tweaks to your online profiles, giving potential employers a chance to see all that you’ve accomplished while you’re still in school. 

Lastly, this might be a good time to start setting aside a little money for your job search. You’ve likely heard the phrase “finding a job is a full-time job” and that’s true, only you don’t get paid. There will be expenses – everything from the paper you’re printing your resume on to the outfit you pick out for your job interview. If you start putting away a little bit here and there for a year, you’ll find yourself well-funded when it’s time to schedule your first interviews.

Six Months to Graduation

This timeframe is where it pays to have done some pre-work. Students who are six months away from graduation are under immense pressure to finish their final classes while checking off everything on their commencement to-do lists

If you’ve successfully made contact with potential employers, you’ll want to drop them a line to let them know that you’re six months from having your degree, and their company is one of the first you’ll be reaching out to. This connection reaffirms your commitment and keeps you top of mind in the recruiter’s head.

Much of finding a job involves marketing yourself, so ask a Career Services specialist how you should frame your accomplishments in a resume or cover letter. At the same time, you should take advantage of the department’s interview preparation and practice resources. This experience will get you familiar with the types of questions employers ask in interviews, so you have plenty of time to work on your responses.

Graduation

At the commencement ceremony, celebrate all that you’ve accomplished alongside your friends, family, and fellow students. For one day, you don’t have to focus on your job search.

After commencement, you can proudly display your degree on your resume and LinkedIn profile, and you might even see the fruits of your labor in the form of “Congratulations!” emails from connections you’ve made the last two years.

As a graduate, you also have access to Ashford’s alumni network, a global community of professionals who can not only help you meet the right people, but can also offer you advice on finding your first job after graduation. 

At the same time, take advantage of the job search assistance provided by Career Services and polish those interview skills once more while continuing to send out resumes and cover letters. 
 
Remember, patience is key. You worked long and hard to get through college, so you know that getting what you want requires hard work and determination. If you start planning ahead of time, you’ll leave school with a degree and a lengthy list of contacts, interview and resume-building strategies, and a job search fund to keep you motivated and on track toward your ultimate goal. 

 

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Written by Ashford University staff

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