Ah, your senior year. Bittersweet. So many wonderful college memories that it’s hard to consider that this is the final hoorah – that last chance to do all the things that you’ve been saying you wanted to do. You also want to focus on finishing the final year of classes. But, I bet this is also a time that’s forcing you to consider what you’re going to do after graduation. Maybe your family is asking you about your plans and you keep dodging the question. Or, maybe you’re torn between several different choices. How can you decide? Maybe you’re graduating in May, so you have plenty of time to figure it all out. Right?
Here are three things that every GC senior should know right now in September while the Fall semester is young:
1. It’s OK if you don’t know.
Our society makes us feel guilt or shame for not knowing what we’re “going to do for the rest of our lives”. It gets worse because we all have that one friend who constantly brags about how they’ve known they’re going to be a [insert nurse, doctor, lawyer, teacher, or any other career we’ve all heard of] since they were born. So, if you’re feeling doubtful about what you want to do, what’s wrong with you? Here’s the truth: nothing is wrong with you. Actually, I argue that most people have NO idea what they’re going to do next let alone for the “rest of their lives”. Most American workers change jobs over 11 times throughout their working life. There’s even growing research that suggests that most Americans will change careers multiple times throughout their lifetime. How can that be? It’s because careers are evolving and constantly changing. At any given time, we have limited amounts of information of which to make career decisions. Consider the career paths of the 57,000 people who work for Google. Although it might be hard to remember a time before Google, it really hasn’t been that long. Google was founded just 18 years ago! That means those graduating from college any time before at least 1998 did not think they were going to graduate from college and work from Google!
So, how do you figure it out? Focus on narrowing down the possibilities by considering the immediate options in relation to the tasks you like to do, your skills, and your personality. Tools like the Focus2 career assessment offer insight especially when combined with meeting with a professional career advisor, who can help you develop a strategic career plan.
2. You have more options than you realize.
Remember at freshman orientation when you were told that Georgia College will give you a well-rounded liberal arts education that intentionally exposes you to a wide range of subjects and teaches you diverse skills needed to tackle the biggest problems plaguing our society?
Don’t worry. Let me remind you that you intentionally sought out a different college experience. One that offered you opportunities to engage with faculty, experts in their subjects. One where you were more than a number. One where you were challenged to apply what you’re learning inside the classroom to experiences outside the classroom like doing undergraduate research, internships, student leadership roles, studying abroad, and any number of other experiences.
So, what’s all this got to do with your career? You have more options that you realize. We try to force every major into one specific career path. Like, aren’t all history majors teachers just like all nursing majors are nurses? All business majors work in business, right? Well, out of the nearly 500 GC history graduates on LinkedIn, 105 cite that they work in education, whereas over 190 state they work in business areas such as sales, operations, human resources, finance, project management, and marketing. Twenty-eight of those 190 even started their own businesses! Also, in case you’re curious, 187 GC business graduates report that they are working in education.
The truth of the matter is that your major in combination with all the experience you’ve had, paid and unpaid, inside and outside the classroom, gives you skills that can be applied in many different career paths. You must learn how to see these skills and communicate that you have them. A 2015 survey found that employers want to hire college graduates who are leaders that can work in a team, communicate effectively in writing and verbally, and solve problems. And, the best news? You have these skills. Own it and practice sharing examples that prove you have them both in writing (hello, resumes and cover letters) and verbally like in an interview or at a career fair. Challenge yourself to start exploring the wide range of current career options where you can apply your skills. If you’re thinking about going to work after graduation, it’s time to figure out what employers are hiring right now. If you’re considering graduate school, make sure you’ve thought through the financial return graduate school will offer and if a graduate degree is even necessary for the job you want to pursue. For a look into what others have done with their Georgia College degrees, search by your major for the career paths of GC Alumni inside of LinkedIn. For ideas on possible career paths, check out What Can I Do With This Major or scan some of the 300 job and internship postings the Career Center receives each month in Career Connection, GC’s job and internship database. You will be surprised because you really DO have more options that you realized.
3. Get started now.
Procrastination gets the best of us. At the root of procrastination is simply an instinctual desire to avoid the tasks that seem like too much work. Maybe that’s because we’re afraid of what’s going to happen. Or, maybe it’s easier to put your time towards simpler tasks first, telling yourself “I’ll get to that harder thing later.” Regardless, when it comes to planning for your next steps after graduation, waiting can be costly. In 2015, by January, nearly 2/3 employers reported that they had already made offers to their open entry-level positions to be filled with a soon-to-be graduate following December, May, or August graduations.
I’ve also talked with many employers and they all have one thing in common: they don’t just want to hire any college grad. They want to hire top college grads. Top college grads are usually the ones who start early, create and implement a strategic career plan, and use the Career Center’s events and resources. Finding a job can sometimes take 6 to 9 months from when you start your search. Pursuing graduate school usually means starting the process at least a year in advance, especially if you want to get access to the best financial packages, like assistantships and scholarships.
No need to worry. Georgia College makes it easy for you. You need motivation. So, your Career Center brings you Senior Picnic. In a casual and fun environment, kick off your senior year right by not only enjoying lunch with your classmates, but also networking with sponsoring employers and exploring the possibilities. This year, seniors will schedule a Senior Check-In at Senior Picnic. A Senior Check-In is a 15 minute meeting with a career advisor who will help you start getting organized and prepared for your next steps after graduation. Even you have 15 minutes. So, see you at Senior Picnic on September 7th, 11:30a – 1:00p, in Magnolia Ballroom. Yeah, the first 400 seniors to attend get this year’s Senior Picnic t-shirt, but a t-shirt won’t get you a job. Can’t make it to Senior Picnic? No problem. Contact the Career Center and we’ll get your 15 minute Senior Check-In scheduled. Start seeing yourself as a “top” college graduate and take this one step. One step is how we all start our career journeys.