By Alaysha Riley
Graduating from college comes with a mix of emotions. It can be frightening, motivating, intimidating, or all three. If you are like me, the time leading up to graduation filled me with anxiety about my next steps in life. Luckily, POW helped me grow personally, professionally and provided experiences to make me feel proud about my education. Here are the lessons I learned along the way to help you feel confident about your college journey and graduation.
1. Think about what you want to do in life.
I used to spend time every day trying to answer the question “Do you know what you want to do with your life?” The truth is you do not need to have a definite answer to this question. It's okay not to know but it is important to have some ideas about what you want to do. The sooner you know, the sooner you can start following your bliss. Start brainstorming with ideas about what does and does not make you happy. These ideas do not necessarily need to come in the form of a job title such as CEO or fireman. It is okay to come up with ideas such as “I want to work for a small company” or “I love fashion.” These ideas will bring you one step closer to figuring out your career path.
2. Build your network.
I want to stress the importance of building your network as soon as possible. I have utilized my network for job opportunities, personal support, and much more. It may seem tough at first, but your network is bigger than you think. Lucky for you, college is the perfect place to build relationships. Start with getting to know your peers in your classes; plus you likely already have common ground such as the same major. Going even further, join a student organization that targets your interests. Lastly, don’t forget to add all your new contacts on LinkedIn. Once you are ready to graduate, you can utilize your network on your job search.
3. Craft your experience.
Once you know what industry or role you want to work in, start looking at job descriptions for that industry. You can use Glassdoor to find specific roles and find out the type of skills that are required for the role. From there, the job requirements will give you an idea of what experience you need to get your dream job. Then, you can start looking for opportunities at your school that will allow you to gain the necessary experience. It will be better in the long run if you start learning these skills sooner rather than later.
4. Work as an Intern.
Internships are a great tool for job experience, networking, and helping you figure out what kind of career you want. Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom because there are often opportunities for growth. Often time internships can be highly competitive so don't get discouraged if you are struggling to find one. If you are not having luck finding an internship, create one. Think about how you can help your favorite companies, pitch yourself, and create a role for yourself. Companies want to hire someone who is passionate about their job so when talented young professionals make themselves known, they often take a closer look.
5. Evaluate your happiness.
As a young student, it is common to change your mind about the path you’re taking. Throughout your college career, keep asking yourself “Am I happy with what I'm doing?” If you feel that you are unhappy with your current major or any other activities in your life, it is time to make some changes. Don’t be afraid of switching gears because you will be happier pursuing what you love.
Remember, college is no easy task and roughly 30% of Americans have at least obtained a bachelor’s degree. You've spent the last 4 years (or more) getting your degree learning something you may or may not have been interested in. If you have made it this far and are preparing to graduate, you can succeed in anything you put your mind to!