Whether you’re applying to grad schools while in college or are looking to enter the workforce, there are necessary steps to take to ensure your career (and the rest of your life) begins without a hitch.
On what courses grad schools like to see on a transcript:
It is not always necessary for students to only have a background in what it is they are looking to pursue in grad school, but students should be aware of what pre-requisites the grad school they are looking to attend may have. For instance, over the last 15 years or so, medical school admissions officers have increasingly placed more emphasis on balance, meaning that premedical students need to focus on foundational biology courses AND on the humanities. It can be very interesting for a medical school applicant to have a liberal arts background.
On how clubs and activities can positively impact a grad school application:
A leadership position can make students stand out on a grad school application. No matter what clubs or activities students have invested time in, they should make sure they are an essential part of the group and can demonstrate how they made an impact. Students should be able to answer questions like: How were you innovative? How were you important to the club? How did you change the experience for those around you for the better?
On whether having a part-time job is impressive to grad schools:
It depends on the type of grad school the student is applying to. If it’s a medical school, a part-time job in research can be very impressive, and can ultimately sway the outcome of whether a student is admitted or not. Similarly, if the student is looking to get admitted to a law school, part-time work in a law office can be beneficial. Some selective business schools require students to have some full time employment between undergrad and grad school. Students should do their research and look into each school’s requirements for admittance.
On when to begin the job search:
Many students don’t want to hear this because they want to soak in their time at college, but the job search should be well off the ground months, if not years, before students receive their diplomas. Internships and past jobs may have already exposed some students to their dream jobs. If that is the case, they should reach out to the contacts made from those opportunities by November or December of senior year, and remind them that they will be graduating/inquire about any potential opportunities.
Students don’t need to know what they want to do right away, but they should be meeting with family friends, attending career fairs and on-campus employer events to see what is of interest during their junior year. From there, they should make sure they are setting up informational interviews and coming up with a plan for senior year. Some industries begin recruiting for jobs as early as the fall of senior year, so students don’t want to miss out because they are unprepared.
On perfecting a résumé:
Play up summer experiences and on-campus jobs or activities. Students should demonstrate how they are committed, trustworthy and intelligent individuals. Showcasing wins is important! Working at a retail store may not have seemed like the most rewarding experience at the time, but to a potential employer it could read as sales experience. Share specifics from these opportunities. For example, did you sell the most amount of merchandise in one day in the company’s recent history? That’s a big win that should be highlighted.
On creating a network of connections:
College students should research local companies or organizations in which they are interested to see if they have any connections who work there. They should reach out to learn more about opportunities those companies may have. Students can use parents, friends, teachers, the college alumni website, other job search sites and past employers to connect with individuals who could sit down and provide more information about their field of work. Just like in the college search process, it’s helpful to do research and talk to as many people as possible in order to learn more about a specific field, company or job opportunity.