While your child may be looking at college as a chance to gain independence, grow personally, and make lifelong friends, chances are that you, as a parent, are looking at it as a way for them to improve their future and launch a great career.
However, a college degree doesn’t guarantee a job upon graduation.
Employment opportunities for new graduates aren’t helped by budget cuts to career services offices, which traditionally act as a liaison between college students and the companies that want fresh talent.
While on-campus recruiting is still common at a number of universities (and definitely something worth asking about prior to committing), more of the legwork in finding that first job is going to be on your child.
Luckily, there are a number of steps that can help them.
Make the Most of Career Services
Just because colleges are cutting back on career development services doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t use them. It’s never too early to reach out.
Freshmen and sophomores can find information about internships and part-time jobs, while juniors and seniors can start to look for more permanent opportunities. All students can benefit from interview prep, resume-building workshops, and career exploration.
Even if career services can’t hand a job to a student on a silver platter, they can provide an opportunity to network with alumni who work in fields of interest to your child.
Build Skills Outside a Major
Unless your child is in a highly technical field like engineering, then chances are they will have plenty of time for elective coursework. These classes can be used to explore other fields of interest, and build marketable skills.
For example, benefits liberal arts majors have include the soft skills necessary to deal with people, and an ability to write and analyze qualitative data.
For a science major, picking up a few English or history classes could enhance their communication skills, which will help set them apart.
The converse is true for a humanities major; the ability to use statistics or basic coding is increasingly important in every field.
Another practical skill is knowing a foreign language. Many colleges require a year of study, but additional years can drastically increase written, spoken, and cultural understanding, opening up job opportunities.
Network, Network, Network
Networking is essential for your child to showcase their abilities and land that first job. Luckily, college provides plenty of opportunities to network in a relatively low-risk environment.
After all, most jobs are found through word of mouth rather than through advertisements.
College career centers and LinkedIn are great starting points for networking, but there are many other resources. Internships, professors, and even conversations with friends’ parents can be a fountain of information.
Don’t be surprised if some of your child’s friends ask you about your work.
Making the Most of Summers
While relaxation is important, summers offer an incredible opportunity for internships. After all, students can work more hours and get a real feel for whether or not they enjoy a line of work when they’re not in class.
Internships allow students to further network. They are often unpaid, but that does not mean that they do (or don’t) lead to permanent jobs thereafter.
Before your child takes an unpaid internship, make sure that it’s one where they will learn applicable skills and gain valuable professional introductions.
(In addition, make sure any unpaid internship meets all of the required criteria under federal and state law to be regarded as valid.)
Look Online and Start Early
Websites like Tallo and Generation Hired can help your child match their skills to job opportunities.
While there are lots of traditional job boards, these two specifically help with the job search for students and recent grads looking for work and internships.
Encourage your child to start their job search early. Career development centers at universities are always more able to help a sophomore than a senior.
They are always available for alumni looking to change jobs or their career trajectory after graduation.
Career planning and development may not be the topics that your child is most excited about when it comes to college, but they should still be part of the conversation.
An ability to make the most of career planning services, show a willingness to build new skills, network, and make the most of summers will help your child not only find a job after graduation, but find one that they love.
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