Five Career Planning Steps That College Seniors Should Take Right Now

The 2010-2011 academic year just began, and if you’re a graduating senior, you may think that it’s too early to brainstorm career planning strategies. Believe it or not, it’s never too early to start taking steps forward in your career. Even with a national unemployment rate of about 10 percent, many companies have already begun the recruiting process for entry-level candidates. While some companies have a formal recruiting process, others may just be scoping out the talent pool for high-quality candidates. Regardless, it’s never too early to try—you might be lucky enough to secure a job before you graduate.

Even in today’s economy, a head start on your career planning pursuits can bring you peace of mind in the upcoming months. At the very least, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. Here is a list of five steps that every college senior should take sooner rather than later:

1)Prepare yourself for rejection. Career planning is full of ups and downs, and especially in today’s economic climate, you need to realize that you’re going to get turned down. With so many candidates for so few spots, employers will be looking for perfect matches. Especially for someone entering the workforce, rejections are demoralizing. Instead of letting a “no” hold you back, embrace it and learn from it. Sometimes, it takes hundreds of rejections before you find something that’s absolutely perfect. No matter what, be proud of yourself, stay confident, and remain optimistic.

2)Research companies & available positions. Even if you know that you want to work, you may not know what you want to do or what type of organization you’d like to join. Some places will be better fits for you than others, and if you find a niche group of organizations, you can develop a strategy for networking and building connections. You don’t need to plan your next ten years, but you should take some time to understand your personal and professional values. Otherwise, you may end up in a job that makes you unhappy.

3)Build connections. The term “networking” can have a sleazy connotation, but it’s vital for career planning. Reach out to your school’s alumni base, attend career fairs, and talk to friends to build genuine connections. You don’t need to be sleazy—just be yourself, and be genuine. Look to build meaningful connections instead of finding people to just help you land a job. See is there is a way that you can help people in addition to seeking help for yourself. Keep an open find, and expand your mind to new opportunities.

4)Think about whether graduate school fits into your plans. Decide whether you want to apply now or after a few years of work experience. Knowing this information will help you decide what types of opportunities to seek out. Are you looking for a job or for a career? Your graduate school plans may help you answer this question.

5) Decide where you want to be geographically. You’re young, so you have the freedom to move around, meet new people, and experience the world. You should decide ahead of time whether you want to move back home or venture somewhere else. Your location-preferences will help you focus your job search.

Good luck with your career planning objectives, Class of 2011!

Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack