What I Wish I Knew: As a College Senior
You've been in college for 4 years. That is 1,460 days of your life that were dedicated to first, adjusting to college, then succeeding in your classes, and lastly finding your career. The end of college sneaks up on you, despite everyone constantly warning you that college will pass by in the blink of an eye.
I personally found it difficult to fathom that graduation was rapidly approaching. I either ignored the fact that I was graduating or spent time stressing out about everything that could go wrong. To be totally honest there were times I was genuinely convinced I would never find a job and I would end up living on the streets. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I was supposed to go from broke college student to saving money and paying bills. The math wouldn't add up in my head, so I spent senior year dreading graduation and my impending doom.
I made a lot of mistakes my senior year, these mistakes greatly took away from me enjoying my last year with my friends and decreased my self-confidence immensely. I hope that some of the lessons I learned in college will be able to help someone else out there who needs a little guidance like I did.
#1 Stop Comparing Yourself
"Comparison is the thief of joy" Theodore Roosevelt said this in the early 1900's and it still rings true today. Roosevelt is arguing that comparing your work and life to others will only serve to make you unhappy. Comparison can be detrimental because you know all the negatives of your situation or the problems with what you've created, but you only know the seemingly positive surface information about others. You should be solely judging your success or failure based on your own principles and leave comparison out of the equation. Just because you have the same major as someone else doesn't mean you should be following the same path as them, you will never know what familial connections or summer internship helped them get that post grad job with the huge signing bonus and matching 401k.
#2 Graduating with out a Job Lined up is okay!
I remember telling everyone my goal for senior year was to have my job lined up by Thanksgiving. When that didn't happen it really took a toll on my self confidence, especially when I constantly saw people posting about their great new job on social media. I started to believe that there must be a reason I wasn't employed, because at the time it seemed like the majority of the people around me had their post-grad plans all figured out. Truth is, it is much more common to graduate with out a job lined up than it is to graduate with one. So take a deep breath and realize that you will be okay and are in no way a failure if you are still interviewing for jobs after graduation!
#3 Travel after graduation
I truly regret not taking the time to travel with friends after graduation. It is only January, you have plenty of time to find a couple of friends and make some incredible plans. Traveling does not necessarily mean going abroad either, a trip with your friends could easily be accomplished on a budget! Rather than flying to Europe and backpacking, like many people I know did, you and a few friends could do a road trip or rent a house somewhere interesting for a week. The few months after graduation are likely the last time you will have a several month long break, take advantage of it and do something you'll always remember!
#4 Don't feel obligated to move where your family members prefer
When I began school at Indiana I had always assumed I would move back to Atlanta after graduation and live at home for while and save money. This plan was steadfast until around this time last year when my mom asked me if I was looking at job opportunities outside of Georgia. When I said no she encouraged me to start looking at other cities as well, this completely changed my job search process. Rather than feeling limited to this one location I now had the opportunity to move somewhere I thought would make me the happiest and most successful.
When you are trying to decide where to live after graduation there are many things to consider, most importantly though you need to think about where you will be able to grow the most and where you will be happiest. It is certainly important to consider your family members opinions but you should make this important decision based on you and only you.
#5 Talk to your recently graduated friends for advice
Graduation and adult life can be extremely overwhelming, especially when it seems like this alternate reality that you know nothing about but will soon be living in. Chances are you have at least one friend who graduated within the last year or two, take advantage of their knowledge and learn from their mistakes. My big sister in my sorority Kristi was a huge help to me as a senior. Whenever the idea of graduation would become too scary or I would feel like a failure after a bad interview, she would always be able to put things into perspective for me. Seeing things from her perspective was incredibly helpful because she was literally in my shoes the year before, she was able to make it through this transition and therefore so can I!
#6 Cut out pride and take a job that will pay the bills
I've found that many people assume since they have a college degree they should immediately be working a job that requires a degree and is "impressive". If you are living at home and have the luxury to take your time and find your perfect dream job then more power to you. The rest of us however, will have bills to pay and occasionally like to have money to buy food. If you fall in this category of recent grads then seriously cut the pride and start working a job that is going to start supporting you financially.
After graduation I got a retail job in Atlanta that I worked at part-time from May-August in order to start saving money. In August when I moved to Chicago I transferred from the Atlanta location to the Michigan Ave location and worked there from August-October. I always had my end goal in sight, which was to find a full-time job I loved, but I had to support myself until then. Sure working a retail job wasn't a huge resume builder, but I was able to improve my communication skills which in turn improved my interview skills!
#7 YOU have marketable skills!
After 4 years of school I honestly felt like I didn't have any skills that recruiters were looking for... obviously not true, but it was easy to convince myself that was the case. It is so important to realize that you have more marketable skills than you even know about. One of the things that got me my current job was my understanding of social media, never in a million years would I have thought that would be a marketable skill, but to some companies it is.
The best way I know to determine your own marketable skills is to simply sit down and write a list of ten things you're good at or have experience in. For example, playing soccer for 15 years was on my list. Not exactly a marketable skill, however, dedication/loyalty and teamwork are both marketable skills you can come up with from playing soccer. If you are struggling to think of your own marketable skills you could ask a close friend or family member make your list, but writing it down will allow you to tangibly see everything you have to offer!
#8 Purchase LinkedIn Premium
This will make applying for jobs significantly easier. With LinkedIn Premium you can see everyone who views your profile, average salaries for each position, what percentile you fall into out of all other applicants, and much more. While it is not necessary to purchase premium it does give you helpful information that allows you to form a more informed opinion about companies, recruiters, and your likelihood of getting a position.
#9 Do every interview, even if you're not sure about the job.
Interviewing like anything else takes practice to improve. My first 5 plus interviews I was a nervous wreck. When you're basically shaking because of your nerves it becomes difficult to convince someone that you're the best possible choice for a position. If you want to improve your interview skills then you need to frequently interview, this could mean practice interviews with your school career center or with actual companies but you need to practice!
#10 Realize that you are interviewing the company while they are interviewing you
This was probably the most important realization I had about the job search process. Towards the end of my process I changed the way I thought about interviews. Rather than looking at an interview as one sided I began looking at interviews the same way I looked at sorority recruitment. When you are going through the recruitment process you are constantly told that you need to consider whether or not you would be a good fit for a chapter and that if a chapter doesn't ask you back it means they don't believe you would be a good fit. So rather than believing I needed to be perfect to impress the recruiter I just started being myself because I realized I don't want to work anywhere where being myself isn't enough. If I didn't get a job or a second interview I stopped looking at it like the end of the world and started viewing rejection as just the company being the wrong fit for me. When I started being myself rather than the person I thought interviewers wanted I began to be much more successful in interviews. Overall, keep in mind that the company interviewing you has to impress you just as much as you impress them so ask them a lot of questions!