Winter break is over, and the final countdown is here. By now, you’re probably used to being peppered with questions from just about everyone: “What are you going to do when you graduate?” “What on earth will you do with an English major?” “So you want to be a teacher?”
Depending on your career aspirations, everyone’s post-grad game plan is going to look a little different. But let’s say you’re going to graduate this upcoming spring and head into the job-search trenches to start pounding the pavement. Where do you even start?!
Don’t wait until after you graduate to set things in motion! Hopefully you’ve already started figuring out how you’ll stand out in the job market, but there’s a lot you can do NOW and over your last semester to make a huge difference in your immediate post-grad success, employment prospects and stress levels.
Here are a few key points to guide you through your final semester of college:
1. Create a resume, or put the final touches on an existing one.
Take stock of what you’ve done over the last four years of college, from extracurriculars and jobs, to scholarships and awards. While you’ll surely revise, edit and tailor your resume to each job you apply for, getting yourself lookin’ good on paper is a great (and manageable) place to start.
2. Research internships and jobs.
It’s easier said than done, but sometimes you have to jump in head first. What if you don’t even know what kind of a career you’re interested in?
A practical place to get started is searching for positions that are open in the city you'll be living in after graduation. We recommend checking out job search sites like Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, LinkedIn, and a job board your college may offer. Start with a general search for what you’re interested in: “writer,” “content manager,” “social media,” “publishing,” etc. Click on some jobs you may not have considered before (or even knew existed) and read their descriptions—some are sure to sound terrible, and some will sound awesome and inspire you to start writing a cover letter.
We also recommend taking some time to explore Dear English Major. Read about the real experiences of your fellow English majors and go out on a limb and reach out to a few of them!
3. Make sure you have compiled a portfolio of your work.
If the job you’re applying for involves writing, usually employers will want you to submit a few writing samples along with your resume and cover letter. It can be a pain to have to dig around for a new writing sample every time you apply somewhere, so keep a folder on your desktop filled with go-to samples of your best work. Even better, showcase some of it in an online portfolio that you can direct people to when applicable. (Here’s 13 things to keep in mind as you build your professional website and online portfolio.)
4. Spruce up your online presence.
In addition to possibly creating a professional website that features an online portfolio, you’ll want to make sure that you have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile. Have a fellow English major proofread it, and make sure you have a professional photo uploaded! Don’t have a clear, recent photo of yourself? Then it’s time to get one! First impressions last.
Now is also a good time to clean up anything online that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see, whether it’s questionable content on Facebook or deleting an old blog.
5. Visit your school’s career center.
If you’ve never visited your college’s career center, then there is no time like the present! Share what careers interest you, ask for recommendations, and have someone look over your resume and cover letter. See if they can help you reach out to any alumni or other connections in the community. It’s what they’re there for!
6. Reach out to alumni.
Your school may have a career center or a helpful section of their website that will help you contact alumni who might have job leads, advice, and insight into any given field. You’re probably sick about hearing how you’re supposed to network, network, network, but it’s true!
Tip: If someone refers you to their employer and you end up getting hired because of it, your connection might be offered a bonus! You could actually help someone make some extra dough, so it may certainly be worth their time to help you if you look like a promising candidate.
7. And finally… apply to internships and jobs!
Don’t let designing your website or obsessing over perfecting your resume distract you from your real goal: gainful employment! Select a few job postings that look promising and go for it. Keep track of what you apply to in a spreadsheet, and be sure to take the time to tailor your resume and cover letter to each opportunity. (Check out our free guide on how to tailor your resume!)
It can take weeks and even months to hear back from jobs you apply for, and sometimes you won’t hear back at all. And while sometimes employers need someone on the job ASAP, the interviewing process can also be a long ordeal of phone and in-person interviews. (Wow, that was depressing.) But it will be so worth it once you land the job, and you’ll be thankful that you took the initiative to prepare for your post-grad life ahead of time!