Approximately 692,000 out of 1 million college graduates in 2020 were able to find employment by October of the same year. This means that about a third of college graduates remained unemployed for at least five months. This shows that a bachelor’s degree alone does not guarantee immediate employment, especially given the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic.

If you are still in college and want a smooth transition into the workforce, you need to invest the time and effort into assessing the job market, before you even enter it. So with that in mind, here are a few tips you can use as a student to effectively plan out your career before graduation.

Look into all possible career paths

Today's degrees are designed to be more versatile so graduates are employable across different industries. For instance, computer science majors have a large pool of career options, ranging from software engineering to web design to data science — and almost every industry now requires these professions. Though these careers can be attained with the same educational background, each of them requires different skillsets. For example, software engineers need to be good at conceptualizing tech innovations, while web designers need to be able to excel at conveying information visually. Data scientists, on the other hand, learn how to organize and interpret data.

No matter what your course is, you need to do research on the careers you can pursue given your educational background. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, look into electives and extracurricular activities that might align with your goals. You don’t have to figure out your career path immediately, but if you follow up your career research by being proactive about gaining the relevant skills, you’ll get a clearer picture of what you like, what you’re good at, and what you need to accomplish before graduation comes.

Look for an Internship

An internship is a great way to gain experience in the industry you're interested in, as well as a way to build your resume and portfolio. If you're an aspiring graphic designer, for instance, you need to build a portfolio to prove design proficiency to future employers. However, a portfolio packed with work-related publication materials overshadows a portfolio that’s limited to school projects. Graphic design students need to seek work experience, not just to have an edge over other candidates, but to bolster their creativity and stack their portfolio with industry-standard works.

This is not just limited to creatives either; no matter what field you’re in, you need to get some kind of work experience. Prove your skillset to future employers by adding these valuable industry experiences to your resume. Start looking for work experiences early on, and don’t be afraid of rejection — everyone experiences rejection at some point in their career. Research all the companies you can work with and stay updated on their internship openings so you can grab any opportunities when they are advertised. But even if you don’t get accepted, you can actually gain valuable insights from the application process itself.

Map out your plans for continuing education

Say for instance, you want to explore a career in education. There are various job opportunities in the sector aside from being a teacher, but you might need to take up further studies to get roles outside of teaching. A degree in doctor of education (EdD) is one such degree that can open up doors to leadership roles in the academe, with department chair, dean, and admissions director as some of the leading job opportunities for EdD holders. This is great for people who want more career options available to them as educators, and want to have more influence in this particular sector.

It’s important to note that not all career paths require further education, but many do, especially when it comes to education, law, and healthcare. Set a timeline for law or medical school, if being an expert in those fields are a part of your long-term plan. If post-graduate education is necessary for you to achieve your career goals, you should start researching your chosen institution’s requirements so that you increase your chances of being accepted. You might be required to take a certain number of units for specific courses in your undergraduate years, or brush up on certain subjects for entrance exams. Post-graduate schools might also require a letter of recommendation, so be sure to foster good relationships with superiors like professors, internship bosses, or alumni.

Study for necessary license examinations

Many professions require licensing or board examinations. Accounting graduates, for example, need to prepare to become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Not all are required to become a CPA, however licensed professionals have higher chances of securing employment. This is because having an accounting certification assures employers that a candidate has accomplished the education and training necessary to meet the industry standards in subjects like financial reporting, business, and auditing. This level of proficiency also provides CPAs more options for career advancement.

One absolute key bit of information is to check if your career path requires a license. Accounting, finance, healthcare, and engineering are a few of the fields where having a relevant license can help you stand out in the job market. Research the application processes for these certifications, then start preparing your requirements. Check the coverage for examinations, and make a realistic study timeline so you can prepare accordingly.

It's never too early to start planning for your career. If you want to gain an edge in the competitive job market, you will need to spend your college years building your knowledge and experience so that it is relevant to your ideal career path.

Article written by Julie Russel

Exclusively for InternX

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