7 Ways to Understand and Improve Your College to Career Transition

In every person’s life, there are landmark points where life transitions from one season to the next. The first landmark in life comes shortly after birth when a child starts walking. This landmark is literally the first step that gives a child the freedom to act on his or her own; to get where they want to go by their own will. The next milestone is speaking for the first time. This is a landmark occasion that begins to develop how we connect and communicate thoughts and emotions to the world surrounding us. The commencement of school is the next landmark, which lays the foundation and cultivation of learning, intellect, and understanding. Graduation is one of the major achievements. This is where freedom comes to depart college with all the knowledge and wisdom from lessons learned, and make a mark in the professional world. Until we graduate, we can only look to the future to find our dreams. After graduating, we have the power and opportunity to actualize those dreams into present reality.

All of us have a dream, hopefully dreams. If you ask any small child about his or her dream, he or she will tell you things that can be beyond your imagination. Upon graduation, we get a qualification that has the potential to open many doors for us. Something that says, “satisfactory completion of course study” and “I have the capacity and capability to learn.” However, when it comes time to turn that capacity to learn into cash-flow from a career, many college graduates are discovering that the path to finding your dreams (or dream career) is not paved in the manner that it was promised. The time period between graduation and actually finding a career is getting longer and longer. When it comes time to touch your dreams and make them real, will you be ready for the transition?

If we prepare for our futures, and graduation goes in the right direction, the possibilities for growth can be endless. That’s one more educated and (hopefully) responsible citizen able to forward himself or herself and make a contribution to society. But if we are already in school pursuing a degree and getting an education, how else can we prepare for this landmark transition? Is there anything else that can be done to better the chances for success? The short answer is, “yes!” Here are 7 understandings that will prepare you for graduation and improve your transition to finding a career and actualizing your dreams.

1. A College Degree Does Not Guarantee You a Job

Let’s get one thing out of the way first; no one cares about you’re “A-for-Effort” (or you’re A+ for that matter). What was true 40 years ago (what your parents told you) is no longer true today. Just because you spent the last few years of your life toiling away does not mean that someone will hire you. Even though a university education is one of the best ways to increase your earning potential throughout your career, it does not guarantee it. If you have learned anything in college, you should have learned that nothing is given; everything is earned. The same goes with your transition from college into your career. A degree does not give you the right to an interview and a job. You have to earn that like you just earned the degree; Remember.

2. The College A.S./B.S. Are The New H.S. Diploma

Go ahead, punch your pearls. I know you can’t believe I just said that. After all the hours of sleep that you missed and money spent on coffee beans, how dare I compare the two! Now that you have calmed down, let’s take a logical and educated look at the matter. One of the things that you learn in college is that the more specialized that you are, the better your chances for selection. The higher the degree (i.e. Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D.), the more specialized you are in your field and the more money you can make. So if a high school diploma is just a general education that prepares you for your bachelor’s in a specific subject or field, you are still in the general population of that field. Everyone graduating with you will have one of those pieces of paper just like you, and believe it or not, there are a lot of people graduating. What will set you apart from the rest?

3. Be On A First Name Basis With Your Professors

Now I’m not sure what size college that you go to, but if it’s a large university, this is definitely for you. This is one of the first things that you can do to set yourself apart from the rest of the general population. Make yourself a name, not just a college identification number. Many times, a professor may have existing connections in the field, especially if they are working in it as well! You never know what opportunities communication with you professor may present, such as specialized office hours and communication while in college, and personal letters of recommendation afterward. It’s not just about what you know, but who you know and how you know.

4. Keep Constant Communication With Your Counselor/Advisor

How is your college experience so far? Are you having fun and living life? If so, then I am sure that you want to keep it up and are looking forward to graduating on time in the near future. Sometimes during your years of study, program requirements change along the way. If that is the case, you probably don’t want to approach your “last” year and find out that you are missing courses from your track or have been taking courses and spending money unnecessarily; something that could have been avoided by communicating with your advisor. Going to see them at least once a semester will keep this from happening.

5. You’re Going To Join Social Organizations, Make Sure To Join A Professional One

We know that you did not come to college just for the books, so enjoy your years while you still can. Experience new things, find friends and make memories. However, in the midst of everything, do not forget about your end goals of graduation and pursuing your career. One of the ways to do that is to supplement the social organizations that you join with at least one professional one. This may seem like a trivial task, but it’s one of the ways to begin developing your network while you are still in college. You may get the chance to develop your career skills hands-on before you have to take yourself too seriously.

6. Seek Out and Take Opportunities To Gain Experience

Remember how we discussed earlier that the bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma? This is one of the ways to prepare yourself and gain an edge. Separate yourself from the general population of people who want exactly what you do. Everyone will have a degree, but few will actually have experience working within their field, only aspiring dreams too. This may come in the form of an internship, professional development workshops, undergraduate laboratories, workplace shadow programs and a vast amount of other ways to prepare you for your transition after graduation. Furthermore, you know what you would like to do; do you know if you in fact like doing it? Imagine how it would feel to spend years focused on a future career doing something, only to hate it immensely once you actually do it. If this happens, what have you done with the last four years of your life? More importantly, what will you do with the next four years? Avoid an experience that many college graduates go through by exposing yourself, through opportunities, to figure it out first hand.

7. Do Not Wait Until Your Last Semester To Visit Your Career Services Center

I repeat, DO NOT wait until your last semester to visit your career services center. This is last, but most certainly not least of all. I urge you not to make the mistake of procrastinating on this one; like most college graduates do. You spend the first three years carefree and having fun, only to spend the last year trying to prepare for graduation and cramming all the career preparation tasks into one semester. If this is you, stop cheating yourself immediately! You are missing valuable information and resources that will help to prepare you to enter the workforce with energy and expertise. Services such as resume creation and re-writing, employer workshops, interviewing skills and mock interviews, career advice and job fairs are just a few of options that may be available to you as an undergraduate at low or no costs. These services will cost you hundreds of dollars after graduation if you do not take advantage. The point is to make money at some point, not keep spending it, right?

When it comes time to touch your dreams and make them real, will you be ready for the transition? Will you be as prepared as possible, equipped and ready to move in the direction of your dreams? I hope that you now have the knowledge and wisdom to pursue the career you want and actualize your dreams. You have the power to make your mark on the professional world. Will you take advantage of your opportunity?