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Prepare for Life after College with These Tips

College seniors will wrap up their studies, don their gowns and mortarboards, and pick up their hard-earned degrees this month before many of them – eagerly or not – transition into the workforce. For the lucky ones among the Class of 2008 who have already accepted job offers, this transition won't be too traumatic. But the rest may face a summer of high anxiety, or serious FUD – that's "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" – to use a rhetorical term.

Of course, the current state of the economy and the U.S. labor market throw plenty of fuel on the FUD.

For instance, a series of monthly polls by CollegeRecruiter.com found less confidence among college students and recent graduates about their job search prospects from November 2007 until April. For instance, CollegeRecruiter.com asked college students and recent graduates: "If you were to start looking for a job today, how many months would you expect it to take to find one?" Here's how they answered:

The percentage of respondents who expected it would take three months or less to find a job fell sharply:

  • 75% in November ‘07
  • 74% in March '08
  • 64% in April '08

However, the number of college seniors who believed it would take more than a year to find a job also dropped:

  • 13%  in November
  • 12% in March
  • 5%  in April

How do you push the FUD out of the way and get on with life after college? Take these four tips:

1. Got relevant work experience? Play it up in your resume. While a strong academic record may be impressive, employers don't want to spend more time than they have to in training a new hire. If you have work experience – especially an internship – that's relevant to the role you're seeking, that's more important than your degree and a stellar grade-point average. Mention your duties, but if you made significant accomplishments on the job, play those up first. For instance:

  • Took the initiative to find and correct operational flaws that saved the company 10% on its distribution costs.
  • Brainstormed with sales associates on how to increase sales among college students, helping to boost revenue 15% among that demographic group.

2. Don't have relevant work experience? Focus on volunteer activities. Did you perform volunteer work for a college-based organization? Did you play a leadership role in a campus-based group, such as that of an officer, or even head a fundraising drive?

3. Never underestimate the power of coursework. If your major was, say, political science, but you minored in marketing and decided you would like to try your hand at something that involves marketing, you might be a prime candidate at a non-profit organization that engages in political activity, such as government lobbying. Or a political campaign might be looking for someone with your background, especially since this is an election year.

4. Just get out there! If you're anxious about making the transition and wondering where the next step will lead, put the anxiety aside and hit the career fairs, post your resume on job boards, and send your resume to companies that interest you (Don't forget to follow up a week or two later). Even if it doesn't land you a job quickly, at least be satisfied with the fact that you're doing something toward taking that critical step into your professional life.

If you're part of the Class of 2008, what are your post-graduation plans and what advice would you add here? If college is a distant memory, think back and add your advice too.

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