Finding a Job is Like Earning a Degree

College students receive their diplomas at the end of the senior year; and, there aren’t many shortcuts to get there. Students understand that they must proceed through college one semester at a time, take the required courses and successfully complete each course with a passing grade. Otherwise, they will not have enough credits to graduate.

At most colleges, a well established sequence of courses exists for each field of study. Students can’t just take the higher level, senior year, courses and ignore the lower level courses because they serve as the foundation on which to build the knowledge and skills required by their major. It wouldn’t make much sense to take an advanced, difficult math or science class before obtaining a good foundation in math or science. Few students would succeed under those harsh circumstances. Unfortunately, not every student understands that a similar process is needed for a successful senior year job search.

Obtaining a good job requires a process that lasts from the day a student enters college until the day they leave college. Therefore, the question becomes, what can the student do with that time in order to give themselves the best possible chance to land a good job with a respected employer? Let me assure you that it’s not just good grades. There is plenty to be done, long before students get to the senior year. Just like earning a degree, landing a good job requires a step-by-step, semester-by-semester process.

Students who allow the semesters of college to pass by without doing anything to prepare for the senior year job search are greatly diminishing their chances for job hunting success. Here are some of the things that students should be doing before they get to the senior year of college.

- Identify and evaluate employers in your field of interest
- Determine what these employers want and expect from candidates
- Develop and follow a plan that will impress potential employers
- Actively participate in classroom, campus, work and community activities
- Build a list of accomplishments and successes
- Create a network
- Identify and contact alumni who work in the field of interest
- Figure out a way to differentiate themselves
- Work on their communication, leadership and people skills
- Research useful job hunting web sites and tools
- Draft the resume
- Draft a sales letter
- Get some interviewing practice
- Prepare a comprehensive job hunting strategy and campaign

This very abbreviated list should convince you that there are critical classroom, campus, work, community and job hunting preparation activities that should be performed throughout the entire college experience. However, when students fail to develop and follow a detailed plan, delay getting started or try to skip steps and take shortcuts, they will drastically reduce their chances for job hunting success.

It is important for most students to understand that they are unlikely to receive a job offer as the result of a campus interview. Only a small percentage of students across the country will have that happen. The rest of the 3,000,000 college graduates will have to chase after and compete for good jobs each year. That’s why it makes a lot of sense to accept the fact that an effective job search is built on the plans, activities and results that take place prior to the senior year of college.

Finding a job is like earning a degree. That’s why wise students develop a step-by-step, semester-by-semester process that leads to a great job. However, when students don’t develop and follow an effective plan, they won’t have enough credits (accomplishments and successes) to impress employers. That will mean that those graduates will probably have to accept a lesser job, greatly extend the length of their job search or find other ways to impress employers.