Does the question “What are you doing after graduation?” fill you with dread and send you into a cold sweat? You’re not alone — many students lack a clear, solid plan for their life post-college, and the associated anxiety can cause struggles in important academic tasks like completing a dissertation or completing a heavily weighted exam. Elizabeth Mann Levesque calls this phenomenon a motivation barrier: a “difficulty for students to identify connections between their coursework and their own lives and future goals.” Because academia focuses so much on, well, academia, bridging the college-career gap yourself can be difficult. However, your chances of having a plan before you graduate increase significantly when you invest your free time wisely.
Create Your Handshake Account
If your university has a career services center, it’s likely that you’ve heard of Handshake. Handshake is your window to the professional world outside of your institution with ample employment, internship, and career opportunities. Even if you’re not sure where you’re headed after college, it has the features you need to discover all kinds of opportunities based on your major.
Join a School Organization
Find a club that resonates with your career goals. Classes won’t often offer opportunities to network and build leadership skills like an organization can. Can’t find one you like? Start your own! Participating in an organization is also an excellent resume booster to help your application stand out amongst hundreds of others.
Find Shadowing and Internship Opportunities
It’ll come as no surprise that internships can increase your chances of finding a post-college entry level job that pays well. According to U.S. News, “65.4 percent of the class of 2014 who had completed a paid internship at a for-profit company received a job offer prior to graduation.” That’s a massive jump from 38.6 percent of students who received offers without internship experience.
Shadowing opportunities in your field of interest can also help you become familiar with the workplace to make ensure it encompasses the professional life you’re looking for. While a career is an ever-evolving journey, it’s nice to know early in the process that you’re pursuing a career path that’s compatible with your lifestyle and goals.
Now that you’re all set up on Handshake, you’ll be pleased to find out that these opportunities exist on the platform. For more inspiration, check out how college students are finding their internships with the help of Handshake and their Career Services centers.
Consider Graduate School
Start thinking about whether pursuing a master’s or terminal degree is the right path for you. It’s a double-edged sword that can lead to higher wages (master’s degree holders have a $12,000 higher salary, on average) and competitiveness in the market, but can also lead to serious student loan debt. Have the conversation with an academic advisor and/or career advisor early! Planning for graduate school is a divergent path that requires extensive preparedness.
So, take a deep breath. Following these simple steps now will increase your chances of laying out a solid future for yourself. You might even have a job lined up before you toss your cap into the air on graduation day; we promise you that things are looking good!