If I had a penny for every time someone asked me about post-graduation plans during my senior year of college, I would not need plans because I’d have a million dollars. Coming from someone who has recently graduated from college, I highly recommend getting all your ducks in a row. Graduation seems like light years away when you pull up to your apartment for the beginning of your senior year. After all, you have so many “lasts” to live out – the last football game, the last fall semester, the last accounting class. In reality, the real word is right around the corner.

In order to be setup for a an easier post-grad situation, here’s a to-do list that you need to be aware of throughout your entire senior year:

  1. Visit your career center – Believe it or not, this place is one of the most useful buildings on campus, even for seniors. There are killer resources here. For instance, you can learn resume basics, how to properly write a cover letter, various job search strategies, networking advice and much more from career center workers. They’re there to help you succeed!  At my college, you could order business cards and print resumes on real resume paper FOR FREE. (Yes, our two favorite words as college students)…It’s worth a peek!
  2. Gather references/recommendations – While your college years have been mostly about having fun and meeting new friends, I’m sure you’ve made some pretty awesome connections along the way. Before it’s too late, ask your best professors, advisers or graduate assistants for a reference letter. They’ll be more than happy to help, but it usually takes a couple of weeks to crank out one of these letters. Prepare now so you can ask at the right time.
  3. Interview, interview, interview – as much as you possibly can. LinkedIn, online job boards and personal connections are your best bet at landing interviews. Even if you don’t have the burning passion to sell pet food or write for a local newspaper, take the interview. The more practice you have in college, the better. The more you expand your network early on, the better.
  4. Invest – The financial struggles of college students are a burden everyone feels. However, if possible, find a way to purchase an interview outfit. I believe it was in Remember the Titans where Coach Boone gave his famous advice, “You will wear a jacket, shirt, and tie. If you don’t have one, buy one. Can’t afford one, borrow one from your old man. If you don’t have an old man, then find a drunk, trade him for his.” Maybe avoid the last part of Denzel’s advice, but definitely look into investing in one interview-appropriate outfit. In addition, you can make other professional investments. For example, certain industries require specific technology or programs. Building a credible and great-looking online portfolio may require a paid subscription or a graphic-based industry may entail purchasing a specific software.
  5. Hunker down a job – This is the big one, the grand slam, the mother of all college priorities. That’s right, it’s all about landing a job is what you went to college for! As a college senior, it’s your job to dedicate the next 9 months to job searching. Begin crafting what exactly you want to do after college. It sounds like a no-brainer because that’s what all college seniors are doing, right? Well, I did know someone in college who waited so long to figure out what she wanted to do that graduation came, went, and she’s still out of work, which is not easiest situation. Even though you may have a chosen industry, you might not know everything about the actual titles, roles and companies in your area of interest. Be sure to do some of your own research.
  6. Keep an open mind – A minor side note to the planning step above, don’t be afraid to accept an entry-level job. Sometimes, we get caught up in pursuing the dream job that we’ve wanted since we could talk. While that seems like a wonderful idea, it doesn’t always pan out right away. Nowadays, most employers require experience. With that in mind, don’t completely dismiss any entry-level job. For example, some entry-level medical positons require over-night hours. Although it’s not ideal to work 7pm to 7am, it provides the employee with the experience they’ll need later on.
  7. Rekindle some old flames – ,but not in the way you may be thinking. Reach out to classmates, friends and siblings, who have graduated before you. Seek their advice about what they did during their senior year to prepare for graduation. As a recent grad, I can tell you the number one thing I recommend is to attend career fairs and job search early. Choosing a career path and receiving a job offer will take loads of stress of your back.
  8. Consider higher education – This is a viable option for many career paths these days! If you have a path in mind that requires additional training or education, now is a great time to explore options. It’ll be easier to conduct the research now instead of waiting until last minute. If you are considering higher education, keep an eye out for application deadlines because they usually come up throughout the school year. In the end, if pursuing this path is in your cards it’s great because employers love to see a commitment to life-long learning!

Graduation is exciting! You’ll finally be able to show off all of the great skills you learned in college and begin the next chapter of your life. However, it does require some preparation. Don’t fall into the “senior year, don’t care” trap. Be diligent and proactive this year. Good luck, seniors! Is there any advice from post-grads out there? If so, feel free to share below: