Preparing for a lifetime of work can be daunting. Life is unpredictable, and circumstances beyond your control can change everything. While it’s important to go where your talent and interest take you, care should be taken to avoid dead ends.
We’re on the tail end of a time of upheaval due to the rise of the internet. Fifteen years ago, the job “travel agent” would have been very different than it is now. Travel web sites have largely supplanted that career option, and today’s travel agents are fewer in number and more specialized. Many traditional publishing jobs have been replaced by web development positions, and there are fewer jobs for journalists now that news has been aggregated by the internet.
Before gearing up to embark on a particular career, start by checking out the Occupational Outlook Handbook, offered by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a great, comprehensive source of career information. Find out about the earnings and jobs outlook for many different professions. The Handbook is available online, or a printed copy may be ordered.
Don’t pass up any opportunity to attend a job fair. Colleges often have these events near graduation time, and you’ll have the opportunity to meet recruiters and employers from many different industries. Talk to everyone you can. Find out where the growth opportunities are, and where more people will be needed.
If you can get an internship during college, do so! It’s a great way to get job experience while developing contacts in the industry you’re studying. Even if you don’t end up working at that company permanently, you may learn about other career options while completing the internship that you would otherwise never have heard of.
If you’re going to law school after college—stop and think. There is a huge surplus of lawyers and law school grads, and employment is extraordinarily difficult to find. Whatever kind of postgraduate study you’re seeking, find out what the job outlook will be before committing to more years of toil and debt. We’ve seen a Ph.D. grad in philosophy who got by working at a gas station, because every time a job for a college professor in philosophy opened up, there were more than 100 applicants. Psychology is another popular degree where there are more students majoring in psych than there are jobs for psychologists in the entire country. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that over 360,000 Americans with graduate degrees are on public assistance. A graduate degree isn’t an automatic ticket to employment, so be careful before you enroll.
Ask your faculty, your advisor, your school’s career and placement office, or anyone else you can think of. Career opportunities may be waiting to be discovered. Businesses may reach out to your school looking for talented graduates to recruit. By proactively asking around, your name might float to the top of the recommendation list. Remember that job placement is an important statistic for colleges, and they want to see you succeed. Give them every chance to help you get established in a career.
Take advantage of every job interview you get. Ask questions about the business, about jobs that might not be well publicized. Your curiosity will help develop your knowledge, and it will make you stand out as an applicant.
Developing a career that is fulfilling is crucial if you have a lot of student loans. Being able to repay that debt depends on a reliable source of income. If your student loan situation is difficult to manage, get counseling from a qualified nonprofit student loan counselor. Don’t put off facing these debts, especially if you’re still not sure about your future career path.