How You Can Go From a Backpack to a Briefcase

How You Can Go From a Backpack to a Briefcase

By Emily Salazar, Career Counselor/Adjunct Faculty Member at St. Edward’s University

Now that the school year is back in full swing, everyone’s to-do list is a little longer. From where I sit as a college career counselor, I watch students frantically juggling class assignments, squeezing in part-time jobs to help pay for college, navigating a new life on campus, and oh yes … finding time for a little fun.

Despite the risk of stressing students out further, I suggest to them another to-do. Even as freshmen, students need to think about how to get a full-time job one, two, three or four years from now. 

That’s right; on top of everything else, they need to have a plan at the very beginning for how to secure a job upon graduation. It is no longer sufficient to wait until junior or senior year to start considering life after college. The more experience and internships a student has, the more desirable he or she is to an employer.

According to the “Class of 2012 Student Survey Report” from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 63 percent of paid interns got at least one job offer and 41 percent of unpaid interns got at least one job offer upon graduation. In contrast, only 36 percent of graduates who have no internship experience received at least one job offer.

Still not convinced? NACE’s “Job Outlook 2013” survey states 71 percent of employers prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience and nearly 60 percent of those surveyed want new graduates to have internship experience.

Internships aren’t the only thing that matters — how you position yourself online is also important. Close to 60 percent of employers surveyed plan specifically to use social networks more often as recruiting tools.

A main focus of the St. Edward’s University strategic plan is to educate students for the opportunities available to them after graduation. For this reason, we have a “Backpack to Briefcase” plan to help our students begin building a competitive career profile the moment they first set foot on campus. Career Services works in conjunction with each student’s academic advisor to complete a career program plan, in order to help the student secure a job at graduation.

“It’s important to start preparing for a career from the very beginning of a student’s college experience, not simply in the senior year,” said Mary Boyd, vice president of Academic Affairs at St. Edward’s University. “The ‘Backpack to Briefcase’ plan helps students obtain the experiences necessary to be a strong job candidate, and it provides opportunities for students to reflect on the careers that match their skills and interests.”

If your university doesn’t offer a program like this, not to worry; you can take the initiative and complete a similar program on your own. Here’s what you need to do:

FRESHMAN YEAR: Self-Exploration

o   Explore possible majors and take career assessments with a career counselor.
o   Find out about career resources and events available through the Career and Professional Development office.
o   Develop a strategic résumé with a career counselor.
o   Create a profile on your school’s online job portal and discover internship, job and workshop opportunities.
o   Start building your professional online profile with guidance from Career and Professional Development social media networks.

SOPHOMORE YEAR: Career Exploration

o   Take a career management course taught by career counselors.
o   Ask your career counselors and academic advisors what you can do with your major.
o   Gain an edge with employers by completing at least one internship or career-related off-campus experience, domestic or abroad.
o   Meet professionals in your field of interest through informational interviews.
o   Get connected and learn more at Career and Professional Development events like career fairs, networking mix-and-mingles, graduate fairs and career topic workshops.

JUNIOR YEAR: Networking and Experience

o   Determine if graduate or professional school is right for you, take an admission test prep class, and submit your applications.
o   Update your résumé and LinkedIn profile with guidance from a career counselor.
o   Master your interviewing skills with practice tools — for example, St. Edward’s has a Career and Professional Development online video practice tool.
o   Complete another internship, or consider studying abroad for a summer or semester.
o   Get connected and learn more at Career and Professional Development events like career fairs, networking mix-and-mingles, graduate fairs and career topic workshops.

SENIOR YEAR: Launch

o   Start your formal job search with guidance from a career counselor.
o   Develop your personal statement and 30-second “elevator pitch” that answer the question, “Why should I hire you?”
o   Conduct a mock interview with a career counselor.
o   Polish your networking and professional etiquette skills.
o   Get connected and learn more at Career and Professional Development events like career fairs, networking mix-and-mingles, graduate fairs and career topic workshops.
o   Become more marketable by completing another internship or career-related off-campus experience, domestic or abroad.

No college or degree can guarantee you employment — like everything else in life, it’s all up to you — but your Career and Professional Development office and academic advisors can guide you through the best way to secure a job. 

For more information on the St. Edward’s University “Backpack to Briefcase” plan, please visit http://www.stedwards.edu/academics/specialprograms/careerandprofessionaldevelopment

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