How to Graduate With a Job Offer

There are a number of factors involved in making a job/career decision after graduating.  Many graduates are fortunate to have job offers waiting for them during their senior year, but the vast majority leave college without a job.  In fact, “more than four in five new grads [leave] college without a job” according to the Washington Post (January 2015).  That’s over 80%!

With so many new grads entering the “real world” without a job, one cannot help but wonder how to get into the minority group of graduates with a job offer on the table.  If you’re looking at just the numbers, it is daunting.  There is a ton of competition for jobs in the business world – Google, for example, only takes one out of every 428 applicants, which is a 0.2% success rate (October 2014).  The odds are not in your favor, regardless of how qualified you are.  But, keep in mind, the Googles and Facebooks of the working world are not the only options available to you.  There are many other large corporations that will provide you with great experience that have a lower competition rate and there are even more small to medium size companies out there that may even afford you additional responsibilities out of necessity.

So now you have some background on the status of current college graduates and the high level of competition, what can you do to get yourself a job offer before you even graduate?  If you are a senior in college, it is too late for you to take advantage of this advice.  You are going to have to do a lot of networking and personal-selling to get a job, assuming you have not put in the time and effort the previous two or three years.  This advice is largely for freshman and sophomores who have more time to lay the foundation for their future job prospects.

Freshman and sophomores: graduation may seem far away.  It is not.  If you do not start to focus on your career today, you are setting yourself up to scramble your senior year to find a job.  This cannot be stressed enough – start today.

Here are a few proven steps by year to help ensure you graduate with a job offer:

Freshman year:

  • Get a job.  This is the most important piece of advice.  Get any job.  Work in the cafeteria, clean floors, work at Starbucks – work any job you can get.  By having a job you show future employers you have work experience and have worked with others.  It also demonstrates time management
  • Join a student organization that will allow you to grow into a leadership position.  This may be a fraternity or sorority, a marketing association, or even the ski club.  Whatever the organization, join something that is of interest to you that you see yourself being a part of for the next few years and being a future leader
  • Get good grades.  Your first year is the foundation for your grades.  Be sure you are getting good grades.  Most companies will not even consider you as a candidate if you do not have a 3.0/4.0 GPA.  Getting bad grades freshman year will significantly set you back in the future
  • Go to career/job fairs.  Get out of your comfort zone and talk to recruiters.  You likely won’t get a job or internship, but you will become more comfortable in these situations

Sophomore year:

  • Continue working the same job/seek additional responsibilities in the job.  Being there for multiple years shows loyalty.  And if you are able to get a promotion or more responsibilities, it shows that your company trusts.  Future employers recognize this and see it as potential for leadership roles
  • Step up in the student organization you joined.  This may be a more expanded role on a committee or even a leadership position.  Regardless, do more than you did the previous year.  This shows you are putting in the time and effort to focus on improving yourself and the organization
  • Keep your grades up.  Again, if your grades dip early in your career it is harder to get them back up
  • Go to an internship fair and shoot for an internship for the summer before junior year.  By the time your sophomore year ends, you’ll have two years of work experience, been an active, contributing participant in a student organization, and have good grades.  Adding a sophomore year internship to the list will set you up nicely for the next two years

Junior year:

  • Seek additional responsibilities in the same job OR seek another job that offers you heightened responsibilities.  Oftentimes larger roles are available only to upperclassmen.  Take advantage of this while you’re on campus.  You will have more responsibilities to add to your resume and, likely, will get paid more for it
  • Be a leader in your student organization.  This does not mean you have to be the President (though that is great too).  Just be a leader of a committee.  Having a team work for you will show you can manage a team of people working towards an objective
  • Grades – keep grinding
  • If you got an offer to return from your previous internship for the summer after junior year, definitely consider it.  Otherwise, seek another internship at an internship fair.  This is the most important internship as many companies will pluck people from the internship program for full time jobs.  When talking to recruiters ask them about full-time employment.  Asking about it now shows you are thinking about the future

Senior year:

  • Continue working.  This will help you get in the mental mindset of full-time work.  Continue working at your job and/or seek a leadership position elsewhere.  As a senior, you are expected to take on more responsibilities
  • Continue to be a leader in your student organization.  Many people drop out of organizations their senior year, but this is exactly the time to continue and finish off your experiences!  By sticking around for your last year you will be able to mentor and lead younger students, something worth noting on your resume
  • Grades – finish strong.  You don’t want to slip up now
  • If you received a job offer as a result of your internship – awesome, nice work!  If not, head to the career fair and start networking.  Leverage your friends who have interned at other companies for introductions to companies that you are interested in working for.  If you’ve put in the time and effort according to this plan, recruiters will be swooning over your resume and will be eager to slot you in for an interview

By having a plan starting with freshman year, you can set yourself up well for full-time employment.  It is not easy and there are, of course, many other factors that come into play as you shoot for a full-time job after graduation.  But, having a plan and sticking to it will put you in the position you want to be in – one of the five that graduate college with a job.