Today’s top suggestions come from Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and author of at least two books about finance. Her article, titled “How Students Can Improve Their Chances of Getting a Job,” was published on Kiplinger.com last week. And I think she’s a pretty smart woman—then again, I always think people are smart when I agree with them! That’s not to say I agree with everything she says, and you’ll see why in this post presenting her six suggestions and my thoughts about them.
1. Start your job hunt while you’re still in college.
This piece of advice is really common to career counselors and those of us who try to help students prepare for their future careers, but it’s mysteriously not something that many college students know. If you’re still in college, take full advantage of every opportunity to build your resume through internships, extracurricular activities, and creating a strong network. It’s also the time to figure out what you’re good at and how that can translate into a career. In my book, I provide tips for things to do throughout your college career to enhance your marketability, not just after graduation.
2. Chose your major strategically.
Okay, this is where I’m not sure that Bodnar and I see eye to eye. She provides a link to the “10 Best Majors for a Lucrative Career,” but believe it or not, there’s more to life than money. Also, what if you don’t WANT to be a nurse or an electrical engineer (or one of the other “lucrative” majors)? College is a time to learn as much as you can about a variety of things (especially in your first two years) and figure out what you’re really passionate about. Your best chance for a happy work life comes from figuring out how you can turn that passion into a career. Step 1 (Identify your skills and strengths) of my book suggests that learning what you’re good at and what you enjoy may be more important in the long run than your major.
3. Network, network, network.
If you were to only read 1 of my 5 steps, I would suggest that you read Step 3 (Create a network). The 14 Tips in that one section are well worth your time and effort.
4. Get an internship—or two.
Absolutely! Employers are looking for people with relevant experience and a track record of willingness to work and fulfill obligations. An an internship is one of the best ways you can get that experience and demonstrate your employment readiness while you’re in college. Internships come up often in my book, explicitly in Tip 5 (Before you graduate, try to complete at least one, and ideally several, internships relevant to careers that interest you).
5. Don’t neglect “soft skills.”
“Soft skills” often pertain to communication: oral, written, interpersonal. You need to be able to talk to people—individually and in meetings. You need to be able to write clearly and concisely, so that you can share your ideas with others and persuade them to agree with you. You need to be able to work on a team, and potentially lead the team. Courses in public speaking, writing, and interpersonal communication will stay with you and be a resource for you long after the technical topics in your courses have become dated. When I taught Communication for Engineering and Industry, I told the students that the half life of what they learned in their engineering courses was about five years (it may be less by now), but that the skills they developed in my class would last their entire career.
6. Be versatile.
This is another solid piece of advice, and it goes well with what was just said above. In addition to building your soft skills, make sure you take some classes that are outside of your area of interest but that may prove useful to you down the road. Everyone could benefit from a basic understanding of business or accounting, even if only to deal with budgets when you become a manager or need to argue for resources for a project.