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5 Things Recent Grads Wish They Had Done In College For Their Careers

It’s hard to focus on the future when you’re soaking in every moment of your college life. However, many recent college grads out in the struggling job market are looking back and wish they had prepared themselves a little better for the ever-looming “real world”. In fact, a survey conducted by staffing firm Adecco shows that 71% of college graduates wish they had done things differently before graduation day arrived. Thankfully, post-collegiettes are sharing what wish they had done for their career during college—here are the top 5 ways to prepare for the real world before graduation.

Network, network, network!

Networking is one of the most important aspects of getting a job post-graduation. According to ABC News, almost 80 percent of jobs are filled through networking. But many collegiettes graduate only to realize they did not make the most of the networking opportunities they had.

Vicki Salemi—author of Big Career in the Big City, founder of Career Boot Camp for College Grads and host of “Score That Job” on MediaBistro.com—stresses the importance of networking. “This is the one area where college students could really tap into on campus,” Salemi says. “Your network is bigger and more robust than you think! Your roommates’ parents, professors, the works!”

Vicki also reminds students that networking is not as hard as they might think. “A lot of students sometimes get overwhelmed by the notion of networking but they don’t realize they — rather, YOU, are already doing it!” she says. “It’s nonchalant and doesn’t have to be oh-so-formal. It could be getting to know members of your lacrosse team, going to an alumni mixer and chatting it up. All you need to do is be open and friendly to meeting new people and asking for help in terms of informational interviews, find out what they enjoy doing and why, etc. to get your foot in the door.”

Learning how to network is an essential skill to develop during your time in college. Go to networking events on campus, create a LinkedIn profile if you haven’t already, and keep a list of connections you already have (such as previous employers, family friends, and former professors). These are all resources you can turn to when working toward a career or internship opportunity!

Dream (Realistically) Big

In our society, we are told that we can do anything we put our minds to. Unfortunately, the economic recession and the crisis in the job market have made it tougher to get jobs after graduation, and many people are facing “underemployment,” or working jobs that don’t utilize the knowledge or skills they learned in college.

Many collegiettes are coming to the realization that they may have set their expectations too high straight out of college. Resham Parikh, a recent grad of USC, says she wishes she had “aimed higher (with goals, internships, ambitions) but was more practical at the same time (knowing what was a realistic goal for the future — what would land me a job, what could get me into graduate school, how much money I would make to live decently, etc.).”

Talk to recent college grads about what to expect after graduation. They can tell you how they landed their job, how much money it really costs to live, and what they wish they had done differently to prepare themselves.

Start Earlier

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in college life that you put off the job search. The G-word can be pretty scary, and there are tons of memories to be made during senior year. However, waiting to look for jobs until the last minute can be seriously detrimental.

According to Forbes, students should be starting the job search as early as the beginning of their junior year so that they have plenty of time to keep applying and secure a job before graduation.

Resham realizes that she and her friends were so focused on living in the present and that they put off thinking about their future. “We thought, once we graduate anything is possible — that’s what a college degree is; that’s what life is,” Resham says, “but it’s not true! You need to actually begin working toward your career goals in college, and even with experience you need a network of supporters.”

Take advantage of school breaks and summer vacations to start looking for career opportunities. It is never too early to see what kinds of jobs are out there! Talk to friends and family working in fields that interest you, add more people on LinkedIn, sharpen up your resume, and start perusing job sites. You can never apply to too many jobs, and the sooner you start, the sooner you will land one you love!

Do Your Research

Tons of students go into college thinking they know what they want to do with their lives. Once they start looking for jobs in those fields, often they realize it isn’t quite what they were expecting. It is important to research various fields before graduating so that you are not limited to a narrow career path.

“My advice to college students is to look ahead to your career and figure out what knowledge and skills you’re going to have to know,” says 2012 USC grad Rebecca Buddingh. “The best way to do this is to ask people working in the field you’re looking to go into.”

“If I could go back and re-do, or offer advice to those who are in college now, it would be to look at the jobs out there now, even if you’re a freshman,” says Colie Lumbreras, a 2011 graduate from University at Iowa. “This way, you’re aware of what the market wants from recent college graduates, what you should know, and you can follow the changes and take the extra classes needed or snatch up an internship in that area.”

Not sure where to start? MyPlan.com has a great tool that lists tons of jobs suited to every major. Find your major, click on a job that sounds interesting, and you’ll see a job description, list of qualifications, average salaries and so much more!

Use Your Resources

At Loyola Marymount University, the Career Development Services office puts on workshops at least once a week about something career – or internship -related. They also host job and grad school fairs periodically. Career counseling is a free service at universities that can be incredibly beneficial for help with everything from resumes and cover letters to mock interviews and alumni connections. They can even present you with job opportunities and help to debunk some career myths that can circulate in college.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to check your school’s Career Services office out! Clare Flaherty, a 2012 LMU grad, says, “I wish I would have utilized Career Development Services more than just during my senior year. They were a big help in my process of figuring out what path in nursing school I wanted to take.”

“Take advantage of any career preparedness workshops your school might offer,” Buddingh advises. “Once you’re working, you have to hit the ground running and you don’t really have the time (or the money!) to try and learn new things.”

Salemi also highlights the benefits of using on-campus resources. “Leverage your career office and most importantly, alumni,” she says. “Find out which alums work for companies you’re targeting and industries you’re vying to break into. Reach out to them. Ask for a phone interview or office meeting or even a cup of coffee. This way, you’ll not only get to hear about their first-hand experiences, you’re making new contacts in the process.”

Get a schedule of all of the workshops that the career center is offering and find the ones that interest you. Motivate yourself to go by putting them in your planner and finding a friend or two to join you! You can also set up a meeting with a career counselor who can give you more information on what services they offer and how they can best help you.

Taking these simple steps can really pay off when it comes to securing your dream job after graduation. Don’t let it be daunting! Schedule a little bit of time every week to spend on post-college preparation, rather than leaving it all until the end when it will seem overwhelming. Take these collegiettes’ advice now and spend senior year focusing on what matters most—enjoying the end of your college experience!

As the Senior Designer, Kelsey is responsible for the conceptualization and design of solutions that support and strengthen Her Campus on all levels. While managing junior designers, Kelsey manages and oversees the creative needs of Her Campus’s 260+ chapters nationwide and abroad. Passionate about campaign ideation and finding innovative design solutions for brands, Kelsey works closely with the client services team to develop integrated marketing and native advertising campaigns for Her Campus clients such as Macy’s, UGG, Merck, Amtrak, Intel, TRESemmé and more. A 2012 college graduate, Kelsey passionately pursued English Literature, Creative Writing and Studio Art at Skidmore College. Born in and native to Massachusetts, Kelsey supplements creative jewelry design and metal smithing with a passion for fitness and Boston Bruins hockey. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_thornFollow her on Instagram: @kelsey_thorn