Thursday, May 21, 2009
Five Steps Every College Student Needs to Take Now to Get a Job Later
I've spoken with several campus recruiters lately, and they all say the same thing: You think this job market is tough? Just wait.
Not exactly music to the ears of a college student right now. While they're studying and funneling thousands of dollars into tuition, they're hearing that the next two years may be even rougher as the job market continues to lag behind an improving economy.
Still, I don't think any college student needs to just throw his or her hands up in despair and expect to be unemployed upon graduation. There are several things -- very simple things -- any student can be doing now and in the coming years to help them get a job.
1. Pay attention. Most colleges and universities have gotten very good at freshman orientation. They have students and professors and career counselors and the school mascot telling incoming students that school is hard work. It's like a job. In order to be successful, these incoming freshman are told, they've got to devote regular time and effort to their classes. They're given numerous tips on how to be successful. But it's hard to find an 18-year-old who looks as if they believe a word of it. While their parents diligently take notes and ask questions, the new freshman is usually texting, staring off into space or smiling and nodding, while not taking in a word. It usually takes about a year for a freshman to admit these other people were right -- and that's a year they've lost to those who DID pay attention.
2. Stick out your hand. Learn to introduce yourself to your professors, to your adviser and to the kid who lives next door. Use their names in your greeting so that it becomes a habit for anyone you meet. Shaking hands and introducing yourself needs to become as natural as breathing so that when you start moving into the professional arena and making contacts, it doesn't appear you were raised by wolves.
3. Take an etiquette class. Many universities or even local business groups will offer etiquette classes, which many college kids don't even consider until they're seniors and realize their manners border on the ape-like. Take a class your freshman year and then practice what you've learned for the rest of your college career. Good manners being ingrained will pay off when you won't have to worry about them as you focus on questions during a job interview or when meeting important professionals at a networking event.
4. Sit in the front. Whether you're attending a club event or a class, don't shuffle to the back and then prop your feet on the seat in front and fall asleep. Or work the crossword puzzle. Or text. Speakers, professors and college recruiters notice who sits in front and pays attention. It's a great way to score points with whomever is behind the podium.
5. Ask questions. College is your time to learn, to solve some of life's mysteries and to get your money's worth. You're paying thousands to learn, so you have every right to ask questions! There are no dumb questions in college. That doesn't apply to the workplace. So, figure out what's what, and quiz away. It's much better to ask and learn in college rather than to make some very "freshman" mistakes in a job interview.
What are some other tips for college students to prepare themselves for the job market?