I am three weeks away from graduating college and I could not be more excited. These last few weeks have been a complete struggle. Senioritis has hit me like a brick wall. The good news is that I have my immediate future figured out after graduation. Over the course of the past nine months, I’ve learned a few things about myself as well as about the working world.
1. Get to Know Yourself and Get Specific
I mean really get to know you. You’re probably reading this and thinking, “But Nick, who knows me better than me?” Hopefully, no one. The fact remains that many college graduates still have no real idea of what they want to do. Every political science major out there has some sort of interest in politics. What do you want to do with that? Do you want to work on a campaign?
How about for a think tank? Maybe a nonprofit? Within those, is your best fit in policy analysis or in press and communications? The more specific you can get, the better your prospects will be. Truly knowing what you want to do and having a demonstrable passion for it will take you further than merely knowing a little bit about a lot of things.
2. Most People Have a Jaded View Of a College Education
I would argue that a college education is basically a necessity these days and that it’s slowly becoming the new high school diploma. Some people probably disagree with that statement, but that can be debated another time. With an increasingly volatile and competitive labor market, prospective and current students need to change the way they approach a college education. The norm that I’ve observed is that most people choose a path of study that reflects their interests.
That line of thinking needs to be transformed. Students need to find out what industry fits their interests. Getting to know the industry will help you figure out what type of educational path is best for getting there. By choosing the industry first, you’re killing multiple birds with one stone. You’ve found out what kind of jobs and industry you want to pursue. You’ve hopefully researched the best course of study to take and if you’re early enough in the process, you can pick a school that is excelling in that degree study.
3. GPA Is Way Overrated
Unless you have scholarship standards to uphold or are pursuing a postgraduate program, your GPA doesn’t mean a whole lot. After five years of college and dozens of interviews for internships and now fulltime jobs, I have yet to be asked what my GPA is. Something that does matter a lot is work experience. Employers want to hire a proven commodity. There’s no better indicator of potential than work experience and references, which brings me to …
4. Get Really Good At Networking
I’ll spare everyone the very true, but overused networking clichés. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that 70% of jobs are filled through networking. That’s a lot of jobs that you don’t have a chance at if you’re relying on your resume alone. That number is almost assuredly greater when it comes to politics and Washington, D.C. There’s probably a reason why people are "appointed" to positions and not "hired." Start seeking out professionals now that you can foster relationships with. Contact family friends. Start a conversation with members of common groups on LinkedIn. Tweet at leaders in your field. Think of questions that you would like to be answered and go from there. Make sure to keep in touch every month or so. Avoid being shallow by directly asking for jobs. If you’re successful at networking, jobs will come to you.
5. Take The Bull By the Horns
This past spring break, I drove over 1,000 miles to Washington, D.C. to interview for positions on Capitol Hill. And guess what? I got the job. That never would have happened had I not contacted the recruiter and literally told her that I was willing to drive out there if she thought I was worth interviewing. My dad was right. The worst people can say is "no."
You haven’t lost anything and any sense of fear or embarrassment will go away knowing that you’ll probably never talk to that person again. Sometimes, you’ve got to make things happen for yourself instead of waiting for someone to open the door for you.