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A January To-Do List for the College Class of 2010

Graduating College SeniorsIt's the start of the homestretch for college seniors, the last break before the final semester and—for most of them—their transition into the workforce.

It leaves me and others wondering if they'll graduate with a sense of apprehension or one of anticipation. Depending how you look at it, we're either coming out of, or still mired in, a tough recession. In its most recent monthly tracking of employers' hiring plans for the Class of 2010, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported a slight rise in the number of employers planning to hire new grads in the coming year, from 17% in August to 28% in November. But that's still a low number, coming on the heels of what NACE called a "flat hiring market" for the Class of 2009 just before it graduated.

So, with five months to go until graduation, what does the Class of 2010 need to do? If you haven't completed one yet, an internship in your chosen field may give you an advantage, so watch for opportunities over the next few months. In the meantime, get started now on the following three areas, which come from a post I wrote last year for the Class of 2009, What College Seniors Should Do over Break (But Won't).

1. Know What You Want and write it down. Think what, who, and where.

  • What. What kind of job do you want? What jobs does your degree (and any work or internship experience) make you well suited for? What are you really good at?
  • Who. Compile a list of target companies, then look at the job postings on their web sites to get a feel for the skills they’re seeking in the positions you’re targeting, as well as what they pay.
  • Where. Do you want to work near your home? Near your college? Or, do you want to relocate to a different town, state, or country? Check the area’s cost of living, especially housing, since it will take up a hefty chunk of your income.

2. Define Your Value Proposition. Once you’ve answered the "what" above, you're ready to write the 30-second elevator pitch, which sums up your personal value proposition—the experience, skills, and talents you bring to the table. Use this in interviews with potential employers. Just remember that your primary emphasis is what you can do for the employer, not the other way around.

3. Start Writing Your Resume. When you know what you want in a job, gather the essential information you need to include in your resume: education, related coursework, work experience, relevant volunteer experience, and special skills (such as proficiency in specific software applications). If your work experience is more relevant to the jobs you're targeting than your education, list it first. Otherwise, lead with your education.

When you return to campus, make an appointment with your school’s career services office to get their feedback on your resume and job-search strategy.

There’s a lot to do to prepare for life after graduation. Nobody's going to think less of you if you spend your last "free" vacation sleeping in and partying. But by getting a jump on career planning now, you might decrease the stress that comes with end-of-year finals and job hunting.

What other job-search advice do you have for college seniors? Please share your thoughts in a comment below.

RELATED LINKS
Transitioning from Student to Professional: What They Don't Teach You in College
Hey Grads! No Experience? No Problem! (Sort of)
Class of '08: If We'd Known Then What We Know Now

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