post grad careersYou’ve watched your classmates put on the cap and gown, receive their diplomas and start their careers. You might be thinking that because you have another year left in school, you have plenty of time to figure out your next step. However, your graduation will be here before you know it, so be sure to learn these things for your career now:

Where the Opportunities Are Geographically

Although the county’s job market as a whole has been improving, some cities are doing better than others. If you’re open to moving post-graduation, make sure you do research by talking to your network and reading lists like the ForbesThe Best Cities For Jobs 2014.”

Where the Opportunities Are Within Your Industry

Aside from learning where the opportunities are located geographically, you should also learn where they are located within your industry. Are non-profit organizations, government agencies or for-profit companies hiring more professionals within your industry right now? Talk to alumni, professors and other professionals to see what trends they are seeing for new grads and where they’re seeing them.

How to Find Open Jobs

With the growing popularity of LinkedIn, the high-traffic use of online job boards and the abundance of networking opportunities, there are many ways to find a job. Ask alumni what strategy they focused on the most. Did they join a lot of professional organizations? Did they take advantage of social media? Did they get their foot in the door through an internship? Or maybe there is another strategy you should adopt to find your perfect opportunity. Also figure out when others started looking for their post-grad jobs.

What Employers Want

Every industry is unique in their requirements for new professionals, so learn specifically about yours. Talk to professors and alumni about what it takes to best position yourself. You might learn that you need a year of internship experience, knowledge of another trade, a certain GPA or maybe even a higher degree. If you learn these things now, you have plenty of time to accomplish what you need to accomplish before graduation.

What You Should Expect

Opportunities don’t grow on trees, and unfortunately, many graduates don’t simply walk into their first job the Monday after graduation. It may take a while to find your first post-graduate job or you may have to start at a company as an intern. Again, talk to alumni and professors to learn what you should expect post-graduation, so you’re not hit with a big reality-check.

Who You Are as a Professional

Finally, learn who you are as a professional. What is your dream job? What interests you most within your field? What type of work environment and culture will best suit you? The most effective way to learn this is through interning within various organizations to learn what you like, what you don’t like and where you can excel. Once you learn these things about yourself, you can truly target the right opportunities.

Don’t wait until next May; now is the time to start preparing yourself for graduation! Keep this advice in mind, and make this summer and upcoming school year extremely productive for your future career.

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