How to land a job before you even graduate
A common misconception among students is that the job hunt begins after graduation. But by the time you have your degree, you’ll be competing with hordes of other graduates and experienced workers. That’s a problem. Canadian student debt is at an all-time high, making it increasingly important for students to score a good job – and fast.
Here are 6 strategies to help you land a job before you even graduate:
Seek out mentors
Building a relationship with a mentor can be easy, and it’s very important. The key? Doing it while you’re still on campus! Creating relationships with a respected professor, guidance counselor, or even a club or society leader fosters ties with an important person you can lean on when needed.
This mentor will have more experience in your industry and can provide advice on how to break into the workforce. They may even notify you of industry-specific job opportunities, or put you in contact with someone that can. They can also provide a great reference letter, which can often make the difference during the interview process.
Employers are not only looking for specific skills. They also want to hire a well-rounded individual that will mesh with their work culture and existing team. Carefully selecting extracurricular activities on campus, such as volunteer work or sitting on a particular committee, can separate you from the pack. Extracurricular activities can demonstrate leadership and initiative, as well as expand the transferable skill set you can offer your future employer.
For example, if you’re hoping for work in sales or marketing, you’ll need excellent verbal communication skills. Joining a recreational debate group, such as ‘toastmasters,’ can enhance your vocabulary and your public speaking skills, as well as introduce you to like-minded individuals.
Using social media can help you secure a job and network with others in your industry. The goal is to create a compelling professional profile with relevant keywords. This type of online presence can then be used to attract hiring managers to your profile and connect with key companies and thought leaders in your field.
For this to work, though, you have to make sure your profiles are honest and “safe for work.” Unprofessional photos of your most recent drunken escapades can be a major turn-off to employers and recruiters. Try to build your profile like you would a resume: choose a business-like headshot and include relevant experience and skills.
As the old saying goes: “life is about who you know.” While this may not always be the case, a network of professionals in your field can help the job search. Look out for industry-specific associations and try to join them while still in school. Often these memberships are free to students, and they allow access to member-only sections of online communities, which can contain job postings, ongoing learning opportunities, and mentoring programs.
It’s also a good idea to seek out relevant conferences in your field. Apart from demonstrating ambition and a motivation to learn, conferences offer great opportunities to network face-to-face, which can help you stand out during the application process.
But don’t forget about job fairs. If you’re a younger student, job fairs offer the chance to explore industries and professions, without the pressure of an actual job search. You’ll not only learn what to expect, you might even hear about summer internship opportunities. If you’re a senior student, attending a job fair can be your ticket to a job interview: it’s an opportunity to speak with businesses and ask questions, submit resumes, and snag business cards.
Though summer internships are often unpaid, you can gain practical job experience to add to your resume. Go into them like you’re auditioning for a job. This way, you’ll do your best to make an impression and build a long-lasting relationship with the company. If you know the ‘ins and outs’ of the job and the business by the end of your internship, your manager may view you as a top candidate when an opening does come along. Plus, it might lead to a good reference or contact that you can use down the road.
Put in the work
Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves. Securing a job before you graduate takes hard work and consistent researching – do your homework.What are the biggest or fastest-growing companies in your fields? Who’s hiring? Are there interesting start-ups? Looking into these questions can narrow down the type of job you’re looking for and which companies you can target. You might want to keep a spreadsheet to monitor job market trends, or a journal of job postings that interest you.
You can also take advantage of job search websites’ email newsletters or their keyword notification systems. Simply add in your email and relevant keywords and they will notify you with opportunities in your field as they arise, meaning you will have more time to focus on your studies. It’s also a great idea to upload your resume to Workopolis and create a job alert for the position you really want.