Too often parents assume that getting into a prestigious college will guarantee a great job for their children by the time that they graduate. That’s not, however, automatically true.
No matter what school they attend, it’s extremely important for students to hustle during their college years to boost their chances of transitioning into a good-paying career when they graduate.
One of the foremost experts on college and career issues is Jane Horowitz, a career-launch coach and founder of More Than a Resume. Horowitz, a former corporate executive, has helped college students and young grads with majors as diverse as engineering, fine arts, computer science, sociology and banking.
While parents and teenagers are focused on picking the right academic major, Horowitz says what is infinitely more important is developing valuable skills in college and identifying them before tackling the job market.
The Game Plan
Below is Horowitz’s career blueprint, starting in a student’s first year of college. Parents, save the below as a resource. You’ll be grateful if it keeps your children from returning home after graduation rather than moving on with their lives and supporting themselves.
The more you learn about possible career paths, the easier your transition will be from college to career.
Get Involved. Freshman orientation week bombards you with information about clubs and organizations. Investigate and join on-campus organizations that provide opportunities for you to develop skills, make connections outside the classroom and when the time is appropriate, lead activities to share goals.
Assess yourself as an individual. As a freshman, you get to reinvent your high school self.
Don’t think majors. Think skills and job functions. Economists and business leaders do not know what jobs will be available when you graduate. The world of work is changing so rapidly. However, they can reasonably predict which skills employers will value and the essential functions needed in the workplace. Take courses to attain and develop these competencies.
It’s time to take control and focus your academic and extracurricular efforts and interests.
You majored in what? Ignore those critics. Not everyone is cut out for a STEM-based major and career and for most, there’s no linear path that takes you from a major to a career. Art history majors become palliative care doctors, history majors become SEO specialists and philosophy majors become lawyers. Declare a major that aligns with your interests, but most importantly develops valued workplace skills.
Focus on a few vs. many things. Students, especially the success-minded ones, take on too many commitments. They think the more things they fill their resumes with, the better. The problem with this strategy is, if you try to do everything, you’ll be good at nothing. Employers look for candidates who demonstrate command of a skill and show leadership.
Master the informational interview. One of the best ways to learn more about a potential career path is to talk to people who are actually in that career.
Towards the end of the first semester, start to talk to alumni, your parents, and friends of your parents to see who knows someone in your field. It’s a great way to start building your professional network. And you’ll get practice interviewing.
Find a mentor. Faculty advisors, professors, and school administrators are important relationships, but are academic vs. workfocused.
Your school may have a formal mentoring program that matches students with an appropriate mentor, most likely alumni. You want a mentor connected to the career field you are exploring. Meet with a professional in the career services group and with someone in the alumni relations group.
Build your personal brand. Your major/degree is not your brand. Your GPA, is not your brand, nor is your school.
Craft your personal story. You want to be memorable as a whole person, and convey why an employer should care about you and what value you bring beyond skills and functions.
This is the story of you—a real person who knows what he or she does and why he or she does it. It's a unique way of describing yourself to people who don't already know you and informs them about your fit with the organization.
Get experience. It’s time to give up the camp counselor job and get an internship. Internships are an essential part of the college experience. Internships provide you the opportunity to test-drive a career field, make contacts, build marketable skills and figure out your likes and dislikes within specific fields and cultures.
Today’s graduates without work experience will stand little chance of securing a job after graduation. Getting that internship can be as competitive as getting a job at graduation.
Get into good physical and mental shape. You probably have some work to do to get back in shape. You do need to be concerned about the impression you make on job interviews. Employers fairly or unfairly make quick judgments about job candidates based on how they look and how they dress.
Big dreams are great. If you don’t create space in your life for making progress toward them, then they’re fantasies. Turn a dream into a plan and work the plan to land your first professional job.
Develop a job-search plan. You really do not want to leave launching your career to chance. Understand what it takes to find a job in today's job market and develop a targeted plan with goals, daily/weekly tasks and deadlines to work your way into the companies on your list.
Start your job search early. Landing a job in today’s market can take quite a bit of time. You have nine months from now until graduation. Between completing your coursework and planning for graduation, you have little time to search for a job unless you build it into your schedule. Plan and use this time wisely.
Be sure to attend career services sponsored career fairs and your department’s networking events. Take any opportunity to meet employers who are looking to hire young talent.
It’s not always whom you know, but who knows you. Networking is NOT about you. It’s about building a relationship with people who want to connect for mutual benefit. Even when starting a career, it’s about finding out what someone else needs and helping them get it—being a resource in any way that you can.
Finding your career and getting a job in that career is a process you can’t leave to your senior year. Taking the time to create and work your plan nets the results you want.
What happens if a student receives a large scholarship and there is money left in a 529 account?
Answer: Parents worry about this possibility, but it rarely is a problem. And if it is, it’s a nice problem to have. When 529 account money is spent on nonqualified withdrawals, a 10% penalty is normally assessed and tax is owed on the earnings portion of the withdrawal. However, the 10% penalty can be avoided if the child gets a scholarship. You can take out non qualified withdrawals up to the amount of the taxfree scholarship. This also applies to the military academies since they are free to students.
Can you use money in a 529 college account for graduate school?
Who is Really Benefiting From Early Access to Federal Student Aid?
Families can now submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) three months earlier than traditionally. The move was intended to primarily help lowincome families, but not surprisingly, more collegeeducated parents are taking advantage of the change. (RealClear Education)
Dispelling the Myth of Underemployed College Graduates
Stories of under and unemployed college graduates may sell well, but they are mostly myths. File them under the heading of fake news. (Forbes)
Michael Howell is a registered representative with, and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC.
This research material has been prepared by Horsesmouth
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.