You can finally see the light after years of hard work and determination! Graduation is around the corner and you are so ready for it… or are you?!
Preparing to graduate college is a super exciting time in your life and you should absolutely be enjoying as much of it as possible and having fun! But you also need to make sure that you can transition smoothly from college to the real world. This transition is so different for every person and for the most part I can only speak from personal experience. I actually started my post-graduation job the week before graduation, specifically I walked in for orientation 1 hour after my last final (don’t necessarily recommend this haha). But regardless of what your plan is it’s just important to have a plan so you can start taking the necessary steps whether that’s applying for jobs, enrolling in different programs or organizations, or applying for higher education.
Below are 4 major steps you need to do before the big graduation day and some best practices for ensuring that you are all set for the next exciting stage of your life.
- Make a plan
Okay I know this sounds both obvious and daunting but sitting down and making some sort of plan will make this huge life changing you are facing a little less scary… a little.
Depending on how long you have until graduation will determine what your plan will look like but a few key areas to include in your plan are:
-Academic requirements: ensure that you have all the correct requirements for graduation. Make sure you “apply” for graduation if your school requires it. Meet with your academic advisor for a final “you’re all set” months before graduation. Stay on top of deadlines related to graduation and keep up your grades!
-Post graduation jobs: below is more in depth on the job search information but make sure to schedule time for applying and set deadlines for yourself. This is especially important if you don’t currently know what you want to do post-graduation. If you need to meet with career services or career mentors then make sure you leave time for that in your last semester or two.
-Living logistics: if your post-graduation career/program/ or higher education requires you to move to another city make sure you figure all of those logistics out. This includes finding a place to live and finding a sublease for your current place if necessary. Figure out any travel plans if necessary for moving there and make sure you understand and utilize a relocation package from your company. If your next step doesn’t involve moving cities you will still want to make sure that you have your living arrangements figured out.
-Finances: I stress this a lot but MAKE A BUDGET. As soon as you have a solid idea of what your earnings will look like after graduation it is important to start working on a budget to account for the increase income but also the increase living expenses- including student loans if applicable. On that same note- if you do have student loans then make sure to complete all necessary paperwork and set up billing plans for them. You don’t want to be caught off guard if you didn’t budget for them…including interest!
Use everything from above and also evaluate your personal situation and make a serious plan (and stick to it!) for the next few months. Staying on top of everything and staying organized will help this crazy time of your life to be less chaotic and manageable. You want to complete everything but it also helps you make sure you have time to enjoy your remaining time in college.
- Make a professional Resume
This needs to be 10 levels better than the one you submitted for college jobs or even internships. So how do you make your resume Do your research. Figure out what works best in your industry. Proof read it 15 times. Read it out loud to catch any weird or off wordings.
Then take it to your schools career services and have it reviewed. Almost every college or university offers some version of this (at a lot of schools its within your individual departments, especially at bigger schools). If you can’t find the information online then ask your academic adviser because they should be able to point you in the right direction. This is such an under-utilized tool that can make a huge difference in not only how your resume looks to companies but how often it is getting read. Companies get hundreds and for some jobs thousands of applications for each job they post. Lots of applicants aren’t qualified enough to even get read by a human in the recruiting department so how do you get your application read? The key is making sure you have the right words in the right places on your resume! So go to career services and get your resume looked over! They will help with ensuring that your resume triggers the right things on the algorithm for companies.
If you’re school doesn’t offer any tools for this then don’t worry- you can still access the tools you need online (thank goodness for technology right?!). I recommend using Resumeble. You just upload your resume and they give you super important rewrites and help! Check it out here:
If there are more things required for your job (or school) applications then make sure to get on top of those too! Some career paths will involve submitting portfolios, projects, or research performed in college. So make sure that you have all that information put together and presentable! The more professional they look the better even if you need to tweak them a little- it’s worth the extra time and effort to stand out.
Last note on resumes- make sure to have a professional looking pad-folio when going into interviews and make sure there is a pen in it as well.
This one is only $15 so it won’t break the bank: Samsill Classic Collection Business Padfolio
- Start your job search
You will need to figure out what the time window looks like for your major and what you are trying to do after graduation. I had quite a few friends in engineering programs that started their job search in September for a start date in May and a lot had already signed offer letters by Christmas. For my major (Hospitality Management) the positions are what I call one-to-one so when one opened they wanted to fill the position ASAP so I wasn’t able to start looking until about a month before graduation. Instead I spent that time researching companies and positions and ensuring that I was in an ideal position to apply to after graduation jobs as soon as I was able to.
During your job search you will want to make sure you are prioritizing jobs and don’t just mass apply to everything. Because you may get an interview and an offer right away for a company that you don’t really want to work for but find yourself accepting it out of fear/obligation. So many people fall into this trap! I recommend applying in rounds, with the first round being pretty selective, the second round being less picky but still well researched, and then if you haven’t had any luck then do a round of applying to “any and everything”. Again, the time frame in between rounds is going to vary based on your field. The types of jobs that hire a round of new-hires right around college graduation time will tend to post cut-off dates for applications and if its a few weeks after the cut off dates and you haven’t heard anything its probably a safe bet to say you should start applying to the next round of jobs.
One-to-one jobs tend to have shorter turn around windows so keep that in mind if you are applying to an industry that only hires when replacing someone. Trying to figure out what the hiring process looks like for your career path? A good general rule is if you are applying to a position where you are the only one doing that role and/or there are less defined “levels” that’s a good indicator it’s one-to-one and you’ll be applying closer to graduation. Using the engineering example again, a lot of engineering companies have a number at the end of their jobs indicating the level and level 1 tends to be all recent graduates.
- Enjoy your last semester
Yes it is so important to set your self up for success after graduation but don’t lose yourself in all of the logistics. Take time to hang out with your friends and enjoy yourself before you have to officially enter adulthood.
If you are feeling extra ambitious you could even make a “last semester bucket list” to make sure you do everything you wanted to in college! Looking back I really wish I would have done that because there are absolutely things that I didn’t get to do that last semester that I really wish I would have. Work hard but also make sure you are making time to have some fun!!
Best of luck on your graduation and remember- this is an exciting new chapter in your life! Enjoy every minute of it!