After years of school, finally entering the “real world” is certainly cause for celebration. Graduating from college is an incredible achievement and with it comes unlimited opportunities for the future.
But what exactly do you do after you graduate from a community college? What are your first steps?
Many community college students spend so much time and effort focusing on passing their classes and keeping up their GPA that they fail to really think about what comes next. You don’t necessarily need to plan the next ten years of your life down to the finest detail, but you should have some kind of game plan in place for when you finish school. If you aren’t quite sure what to do after you finish community college, here are five suggestions.
1. Update Your Resume and Beef Up Your Interview Skills
The whole point of going to college is to get the education and experience you need to land your dream job. Just because you have the right degree, however, doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the job you want. You need to make yourself look valuable to potential employers and that largely comes down to two things – your resume and your interview skills.
When you apply for a job, potential employers will look at your resume first. If they don’t like what they see, you’re unlikely to make it past that first round of cuts and you probably won’t get an interview. You could be the most charismatic person in the world, capable of crushing every interview you get, but if you can’t get your foot in the door, what good is it?
Updating your resume is extremely important if you want to land a good job. You’ll need to update it to include your degree as well as any other relevant skills you received in college. Don’t forget to include extra-curricular activities. Potential employers don’t want to see a list of every club you joined, but if you held a position of leadership or if the group was relevant to the job for which you’re applying, include it!
Once you have a bulletproof resume you should start beefing up your interview skills. One thing you should definitely do is craft a 30-second sales pitch. When you walk into an interview, you need to project confidence and you need to know exactly what it is that you have to offer. Many interviewers will ask you why you applied for a particular job or what your skillset is – having a short sales pitch prepared will start your interview off right. Talk to your community college career center for more interview tips and take advantage of practice interviews, if they offer that service.
This resume writing guide will take you through every step of the process, section by section, in less than 5 minutes.
2. Clean Up Your Social Media Accounts
During college, your social media accounts are how you stay connected with your friends. After graduation, however, they become a tool for potential employers to use in learning more about you. It isn’t uncommon for employers to check an applicant’s social media accounts and, if they don’t like what they see, they’ll just throw your resume in the trash.
Before applying to jobs, you need to take a closer look at your social media accounts and clean them up a bit. Look through your photos to see if there are any that might make you look bad to a potential employer. You should also read through your posts on Twitter and Instagram – don’t just check your Facebook account.
If you aren’t confident that a potential employer will be impressed rather than turned off by what they see in your social media accounts, just make your account private so they can’t find you! Another option is to change your username to your first and middle name, rather than your first and last, making you harder to find. And keep in mind that potential employers aren’t the only ones who might be looking – landlords and lenders can use your accounts as well!
This video explains how to clean up your social media accounts.
3. Apply to As Many Jobs as You Can Until You Get One
After you’ve fixed up your resume and practiced your interview skills, you’re ready to start applying to jobs. Applying for jobs in the real world is different than it is during college. You might not be given an application deadline or specifics about what skills or experience you need to have. You may not even know when the position is meant to be filled or if the company is even still looking at new applications. To some degree, finding a job after college is like finding a needle in a haystack – luck plays a bigger role than many recent grads would like to admit.
So, what is the best way to apply for jobs after college? First, you should have a good idea about what kind of job you are qualified for and what you want to do. Start by researching the top companies in your industry and see if they are offering any entry-level jobs. You may even be able to create a handful of different cover letters for specific types of jobs that you can customize for each application instead of writing a completely new one for each job.
When applying for your first job after school, it is a game of numbers – the more applications you submit the more interviews you’ll get and the more likely you are to land a job. Don’t enter the job application process feeling that you are entitled to the job you want just because you have a degree – employers are looking for more than just a diploma. You’ll need communication skills and the ability to work with a team as well. Just keep an open mind and apply to as many jobs as you are qualified for, even if they don’t specifically apply to your degree.
4. Start Paying Off Your Student Loans as Soon as Possible
After graduation, it is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of applying to jobs but there is another harsh reality you’re going to have to face – student loans. Different types of loans have different terms, so make sure you find out how long you have after graduation before you have to start making payments. Even if you have a six-month grace period, you might want to start making payments immediately so you can whittle down your principal amount. There are plenty of online calculators out there to help you determine how much you can afford to pay and how to reduce your payoff estimation by making additional payments to the principal.
This video explains how to pay off your student loans quickly.
5. Look for Opportunities to Keep Learning
Just because you’ve graduated from community college doesn’t mean that you have to stop learning! Learning should be a lifelong goal as well as a priority. Not only does an attitude of lifelong learning help you to grow and improve yourself, but it also looks great to potential employers! When you start applying for jobs, your resume will be just one in a giant pile – anything you do that might help you stand out is worth it! To apply for that internship, take that online course or volunteer for a local organization to gain more life experience and improve your marketable skills.
When you finally don that cap and gown, you may feel as though you have your whole life ahead of you, and you do! Life is full of opportunity and your success is entirely up to you. If you want to land your dream job and have the life you want, the work doesn’t stop when you finally reach graduation day – follow the tips you’ve received here to start your “real life” on the right foot!
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