Finding a job during or after college can be a struggle for anyone, no matter your background or field of study. Particularly in the U.S., the job market tends to be overly competitive. As a result, the chances of landing the career you want may be lower than you think. However, you can eventually make it to where you want to be, with the right mindset and some helpful tips.
Even with little to no prior work experience, there are several ways to land a position in the industry of your choice. Through certifications, internships, or networking, it’s possible for U.S. college students to enter into lucrative and fulfilling careers.
It’s not all about the degree
Obtaining a degree is a monumental achievement. It shows that you’ve gone through a rigorous knowledge acquisition process and that you can focus on a singular goal for multiple years. But with the level of saturation in today’s job markets, having a degree isn’t enough to distinguish you from your competition.
Not only is there rampant competition in the job market, but most graduates are left with enormous student loan debt, which makes finding a source of income more imperative. On average, students can expect to pay around $30,000 for a bachelor’s degree, and it may take about 20 years on average to pay that off.
Meanwhile, 53% of college graduates find themselves either unemployed or not working a job they studied for upon leaving school. It’s typical for graduates to settle for jobs far outside of their field of study and possibly be pigeonholed there for a long time.
And what about students who wish to work while they’re in college? Some people have to pay for some portion of schooling out-of-pocket. With no degree or work experience, how do these students find jobs that pay enough to also bankroll schooling?
Try these tips for finding work during and after college
Fortunately, there are a few tricks that can get you in the door of the career you want sooner rather than later. The right solution may depend on whether you want to work while in school, have already graduated, or are currently working but not in the role you want.
One of the most tried-and-true ways to enter into the career you want is to pick up an internship. Internships are often unpaid jobs that expose you to the working knowledge needed to obtain a full-time role in a given field. And while most internships are unpaid, many companies do pay their interns.
Unless you can afford to sell some of your time for free, it’s probably best to track down a paid internship. Paid internships can be found on many of the same job boards that part-time and full-time positions are listed on. Popular places to find job listings are on LinkedIn, Craigslist, and Indeed.
If you have enough knowledge about a given field, or if you’re willing to do some extra studying alongside your regular duties, then getting a certification or license is an excellent boost to your career chances too. Many industries allow people to acquire specialized certifications by studying and taking a test that you usually have to pay for. These certifications are prevalent in real estate, information technology (IT), insurance sales, and nursing.
For instance, in the IT field, it’s common for people to acquire various CompTIA certifications which showcase their knowledge in certain areas of computing. CompTIA certifications cover areas such as hardware repair, networking, and cybersecurity.
Let’s take the insurance industry as another clear example. Many graduates apply for and are accepted into positions at the huge and ever-present insurance industry, and similarly to the IT industry, there are regulations and certifications. It’s common for prospective insurance agents to obtain a property and casualty license in order to sell all kinds of insurance, from automotive insurance, to professional indemnity insurance. To work for an insurance agency, you need to be at least 18 years of age, which is the age most people are when heading into college, so it’s a great choice for someone looking to take on work that is not physically strenuous, assuming they’re able to study and pass a licensing exam, to acquire the correct licenses and certifications.
Similarly, to become a real estate agent, you must acquire a license based on your state’s requirements. After determining the requirements, there is usually an exam, a license activation process, then the task of finding a brokerage to join.
Aside from internships and licenses, another great way to enter into the career of your choice is to know the right people. Not everyone is good at networking, but it’s a skill worth learning. College is an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people and build relationships. As each student ventures off in their own direction, they will likely find success in their own way. Having a close network after college means that old acquaintances can pass opportunities your way.
Even building relationships with college faculty members could earn you a job opportunity down the line. Make sure to consult career coaches and advisors on campus for further advice and resources on job prospects.
And finally, if you do find yourself working a job that’s not related to your career, at least see if there are ways for the company to pay for your schooling. Especially for full-time employees, there are usually benefits that include some form of continued learning or college assistance.
There’s no question that it’s difficult finding career opportunities as a college student in the U.S. Luckily, there are other routes besides simply graduating with a degree, filling out a resume, and hoping for the best. Instead, try options such as obtaining certifications, working an internship, or building a quality network while in college. Once you’ve got your foot in the door of an entry-level position, it’s much easier to work your way into the specific career role you’ve always dreamed of.