Three pieces of ‘employability’ advice for college seniors
A little planning will go a long way in finding a good career match
START GETTING INTERNSHIPS your first year of college. Always keep an open mind about what kind of career could work for you. And refuse to think you have to squelch your personality—or fit in a cookie cutter—to be an attractive job candidate.
From my two years as a career services counselor at Bentley University, those are the top three pieces of advice I have come to see as critical for my student advisees. They also guided my service on a New England Board of Higher Education commission that recently produced a landmark action plan for addressing one of our region’s top priorities: ensuring that our 260-plus colleges and universities are producing the most employable graduates possible and meeting the needs of employers here and across the country.
Among other things, the commission took care to include students’ voice, including mine, in its work.
Here are a few pieces of advice that I offer to other students and also contributed to the commission.
- Start the process early. Often, students think that you do not need to start interning until your junior or senior year, but I started interning my first year of college, and by doing so, I was able to find a career path which I genuinely love. Besides just building your resume, internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience and also network with professionals. I believe that it is important for students to realize that no internship is a waste because if you do not figure out that it’s work you love, at least you know it is not what you want to do.
- Keep an open mind. The second biggest piece of advice that I have as a student who has gone through the process is to keep an open mind. By keeping an open mind throughout college and internships, students are able to gain a broader perspective and potentially find work that they enjoy outside of their major. Networking is one of the best ways for students to show and explore their curiosity, and as students begin to network more and more, they begin to build up their confidence.
- Stay true to yourself. My last piece of advice is that students should stay true to themselves throughout the process. I think that often times, students try to fit into a cookie cutter mold that they think companies are looking for but do not realize that diverse and well-rounded students often have an edge up. This is one of the biggest reasons for starting internships and networking early in college—to find what you really enjoy doing and are good at doing. In addition, do not be afraid to join clubs on campus or complete internships that are different from what you want to do full-time. Find clubs or activities that you are passionate about and take a leadership position in them.
The commission invested 11 months in public meetings and working group sessions exploring New England employers’ concerns about a lack of qualified, skilled workers, particularly in rapidly changing, technology-intensive and growth-oriented industries.
In its report, “Learning for Life and Work,” the commission offers a strategic action agenda with key recommendations to align institutions, policymakers, and employers. The commission believes that all postsecondary students must have access to and demonstrate completion of critical employability-related experiences during their postsecondary education, including:
- foundational skills in literacy, numeracy, and communication
- an individual career plan prepared early in their postsecondary experience
- at least one paid and/or credit-bearing work-integrated learning experience
- achievement of digital competencies related to their course of study, career goals, and the fast-changing economy
- attainment of an affordable credential that is employer-informed and aligned to a career pathway
Maximizing the employability of New England’s college and grad school graduates is critical to our economic vitality, to their professional and financial success, and to ensuring applicants, employers, and policymakers continue to see and believe in the provable, tangible value of higher education in workforce development.Everyone has a role to play—and that includes our students. By starting early, keeping an open mind, and recognizing they can be their authentic selves and find great jobs, they can make their own huge contribution to addressing our graduate employability challenge.
Alexandria Steinmann graduated last month from Bentley University and is working as a bond analyst at Credit Suisse. At Bentley, she served as student director of the university’s Career Services Office and was a member of the New England Board of Higher Education Commission on Higher Education & Employability.