Today’s job market is extremely competitive. For Millennials entering the workforce and Gen Z’ers entertaining ideas of where they’ll apply in the next few years, the thought of starting a job search can be overwhelming. How will you find a job? Will the education you spent thousands on pay off? How can you smooth your transition from student to working professional?
The best answer to all three of these questions is planning.
If you’re like 82 percent of the 2015 graduates in Accenture Strategy’s 2015 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study, you’ve considered the job market before choosing your major, and that’s a start, but it’s only that — a start. Once you’ve researched the market, it’s important to take steps to strengthen your resume and make yourself stand out from the pack.
Whether you’re just entering college or a senior who’s finally realizing how competitive the job market really is, here are four things you can do to map out your career today:
1. Understand what makes you tick.
Take the time to get to know yourself before you make any decisions about your future. Are you driven by financial gain? Or do you want to feel like your job is impacting others’ lives? Do you work better on a team, or independently?
Questions like these can help guide what entry-level roles you pursue and how you see your career progressing long-term. No matter what industry you’re interested in, understanding how you work best — and in what environments — is key to taking the right steps before you enter the job market and beyond.
2. Learn more about the jobs you’re interested in.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? In theory, it is. But in reality, it can be difficult to find out what a day or week in the life of your ideal job really entails. Sure, the Internet makes researching positions a little easier, but you can’t always count on the second and third hand information you find online.
The solution? Getting information from the source. When you go directly to those people who do the work everyday to learn about different industry roles, you’re more likely to get real, actionable intelligence. Find local professionals who specialize in the industry you’re interested in, and ask for informational interviews.
Having trouble connecting with professionals?
The PathSource app, for example, has in-depth information and a library of video interviews taken from thousands of professionals in different positions that will help you learn more about the roles you’re interested in, direct from the source. Take some time, complete free quizzes to figure out the best jobs and salaries that fit your lifestyle and personality, then scroll through the different interviews to learn more about your dream job.
3. Hit the books…and the streets.
Once you’ve decided on what you want to do, it’s time to get the knowledge you need.
If you’re early in your college career, now is the perfect time to start thinking about what classes you need to take to earn the degree you want and what supplemental classes and electives will make you a more well-rounded candidate.
If you’re later in your college career, do an educational audit, verify that the classes you’re scheduled to take contribute positively to your career path and explore extracurriculars that can boost your resume.
Hitting the books isn’t all you need to do, however. You also need to hit the streets and gain your own firsthand experience in your ideal industry. This is where internships, fellowships, and part-time positions come into play.
Set yourself apart from other job seekers by focusing your efforts on paid internships and part-time jobs. Data from InternMatch’s 2015 College Hiring Report shows that job seekers with paid internship experience are three times more likely to receive a job offer after college than those with unpaid experience or no experience at all.
You don’t want to waste time making coffee, do you? Use internships to build on the foundation your education is setting with real-world experiences you can highlight during future interviews.
4. Join industry-focused organizations.
Professional associations like the Public Relations Society of America, the National Restaurant Association, and DECA are focused on developing talent in their respective industries. Getting involved in these organizations as students can be a good way to learn from and engage with professionals all around the country.
They’re also great resources for networking and career planning. Take advantage of the organizations in your area and, if possible, get involved in leadership. The more you do to learn about the industry and stand out, the more attractive a candidate you’ll be.
Whether you’re a student preparing to enter the work world or a professional looking to re-evaluate your career and considering going back to school, think about how to implement these four strategies to help set yourself apart from the pack.
What other strategies can students and young professionals employ to help plan their careers? To set themselves apart from other job seekers?