All of your university’s buildings look like they’ve been made from those gingerbread house kits, frosting spread thick across every awning. Yep, it’s winter break, which means school is closed and it’s time to visit your parents.
But just because you’ve headed home all excited because you couldn’t wait to stay up all night waiting for Santa (it’s not weird for college seniors to still be doing that, right?), that doesn’t mean you can procrastinate preparing yourself for what’s to come after your impending graduation. Yes, even though you’re on a break, it’s still possible to work towards getting a job after you graduate. And you know Mom and Dad are going to be hounding you, so here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time at home during the holidays.
You’re a senior. If you haven’t already, start looking into which field you would like to enter after you throw that graduation cap. Then take a look at some companies in your field.
Make a list of the companies you are most interested in working for. If you’re not sure where to start, think of products and services you use all the time and love.
See if you can find any information on the interview process at your top five companies. Also look into what the company culture is like there. Glassdoor is a great site to help you get the inside scoop.
Become a LinkedIn ninja. Create a profile, add all your classmates, professors, former coworkers, and other professional contacts. Use the alumni feature and see if anyone who went to your school is doing something cool. Look for groups that relate to your interests. Join them and start posting questions and participating in discussions.
Research salaries. Using sites like Salary.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, figure out what a reasonable salary would be (remember to take into consideration things like where you might live and what your job title might be).
Looking at your list of companies, search for any connections you may have to someone employed by them. Alumni of your school? Friend of your parents? Someone you met while interning? Reach out to them.
Lee Svete, Director of Career Development at Notre Dame, mentions the usefulness of one-day shadow programs. These programs allow students to see what a typical day looks like for Notre Dame alumni working in various fields. “Some of these have been expanded into externships for students to do one or two mini project-based internships with the Notre Dame alumni.” It can be a great opportunity to explore and make decisions about future career paths as well as make connections with alumni in the same field. See if you can set up an experience like this for yourself while you have some free time.
And you shouldn’t just be networking exclusively with people in your field. Network with any and all connections possible. I know, you haven’t been home in months, and high school seems like it was centuries ago. Networking with people you run into in your hometown may seem like a useless waste of time. But, in his article “Finding the Hidden Value in Your Network,” Adam Grant refers to sociologist Mark Granovetter’s findings that we may benefit more from networking with weaker ties rather than strong ones. So, go out there and start networking! You really never know who is going to help you to find a job. Who knows, it could be that woman at Starbucks.
When I returned home after college my father made me go to a networking event with him. While there, he gave me the assignment of introducing myself to the owner of a magazine for the entrepreneurs of Hawaii. If you know me, you know that I am terrible at meeting people. Since I’m fairly introverted, making new acquaintances is a huge challenge for me. But I faced my fears and introduced myself to this woman. She ended up being a great person and we made a lunch date for later that month.
No job offer came from my meeting, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t benefit from the networking experience. At our lunch date, she told me her story of going from a freelance writer to the owner of her own magazine. Through her story I learned that I would need to be more assertive. She spoke of the many times throughout her career that she would have to push herself at prospective clients. She emphasized the importance of following up. If you don’t get a response within a week, email. When you get a response, send a follow-up thank you email. She also worked with me on my “small talk.” I’m not talking about “What do you think of this weather?” kind of small talk. But how to ask people questions that will get them talking about themselves. The experience was all in all very helpful in my future job search.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to put something out there on LinkedIn and other social media accounts. Let people know you’re in town and you’re hoping to learn more about working in a certain field. You never know where a random post could lead!
3. Ask for Recommendations
You might have had some internships or part-time jobs by now. If so, this is a great time to ask for letters of recommendation or check to make sure someone would be willing to provide a reference for you. Organize everyone’s name, phone number, email address, and any other information you need into a spreadsheet (Google Drive is great for this since you can access it from any machine). Nothing’s worse than getting to page 9 of a 10-page online application and realizing you can’t complete it because you don’t have your references’ contact details. You can also talk with professors and administrators to see if they would be willing to write one for you as well.
4. Edit/Proofread Your Résumé
You’re excited to have a few weeks of vacation from school. Then you remember: You haven’t spent this much time with your parents or crazy Aunt Sally in months. Working on your résumé is the perfect excuse to dodge all of those suffocating hugs and endless questions your family will be bombarding you with.
Find yourself a little nook in your house and clean up your résumé. There should be no grammatical errors, your work history should be up-to-date, and your soft/hard skills identified.
Make sure to ask for help with editing. This would be a great task for Mom and/or Dad. They’ll be able to notice things you may have missed and they’ll feel like you’re making progress with the job search: It’s a win-win.
5. Proofread Yourself
Not only should your résumé look its best, but you should too! Make sure that your voicemail is appropriate and your email address is professional. HoTtStuFF@gmail.com will not fly in the business world…
Go over your various social media profiles and see to it that they are business appropriate. I know you’re very proud of that 45-second keg stand, but I promise you, your potential boss will not be as impressed as those sorority girls were. If you don’t want to take the time to edit all the content you’ve already posted on Facebook or Instagram, at least make sure that your full name no longer appears in your profile.
Taking into consideration the research you did, figure out if you have an appropriate outfit to wear to your interviews with each of the companies. If not, go out and get one! We have some ideas on our Pinterest board as well.
6. Schedule Mock Interviews
Make sure you look into everything your career services center has to offer. Many career services centers conduct mock interviews or interview seminars. Sign up for any of these offered in the spring semester.
There are a few sites where you can practice the interview process online. It’s good to get as much practice in as you can. It will calm your nerves and leave you prepared for the real thing.
7. Get the Scoop on Career Services at Your School
Lee Svete says that they are now encouraging students to go a step further than mock interviews. As a part of the Career and Internship Consortium, Notre Dame helps to coordinate four job fairs for students during winter break. These fairs are held in Boston, New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles. The career fair is in the morning and on-site interviews are held in the afternoon. In order to prepare for these events, Lee and his team provide informational meetings, job search advice, mock interviews, as well as an alumni mentoring program in each of those cities. This way students not only interview at these fairs, “but also connect with Notre Dame alumni in one of these four cities.”
He also mentions that Notre Dame’s Wall Street and Finance Clubs visit New York and Chicago’s investment banks and tour firms that will recruit students in the future. These trips are open to any level of student, not just seniors, and can be a great way to familiarize students with potential employers. See if your college offers any similar programs.
8. Schedule Real Interviews
If you haven’t already done so, begin applying and interviewing to positions you have been looking into. Many job positions are filled before the year’s end. Use what you’ve learned, practiced, and prepared to rock your interview and get that job!
Senior year can be hectic. You have class and also want to spend as much time with your friends as possible before saying goodbye. Use this time away on winter break to further your job search. Without the distractions posed by the college environment, you have no excuse not to. And once again, any progress you make now will be so much sweeter with Mom and Dad cheering you on.