Career Corner: Decision making for rising seniors

While becoming a senior is a milestone and cause for celebration, it can also be daunting because of the overwhelming prospect of starting post-graduation “real life.” Students often struggle when deciding whether or not to seek employment right after college, to continue their education by going to graduate school or to take a gap year to explore various opportunities.

There is no “wrong” route, but there are steps one can take to help facilitate the process. Even students who know what general direction they are going to head in after commencement can benefit from resources around campus and being proactive in their pursuits.

Talking to professors is a valuable tool. Professors can offer their own experiences, as well as examples of possible paths that can be taken in a particular area of study. Many professors have unique advice that provides a fresh perspective. Additionally, they may have contacts that they can share with students for internships, chances to conduct research or even job openings.

Exploring the Internet, newspapers and other forms of media for inspiration is another way to evaluate post-grad options. Search for organizations that are hiring for your major and different graduate school programs that are relevant to your academic interests. You may stumble upon material that sparks ideas you had not yet considered. In addition, be open to opportunities that come your way such as internships—paid or unpaid—because they can be the kick-start you need as a foundation to your career path.

Sometimes, a gap year is the best option for students who are still unsure about their own desires for the future. “Gap years are increasingly popular. When students are truly torn about what to do following graduation, a gap year experience can offer a break from the pressure of having to make a decision that the student doesn’t feel ready to make,” Department of Career Development director Stacey Wiley said in an email interview. “That said, gap years can and should be used to explore possible career paths.”

For those students who know they wish to attain employment subsequent to graduation, it is important to take the necessary actions. Networking is imperative. Reach out to the connections you already have and extend communication to new contacts in companies you would be interested in joining. Research these organizations before contacting them to demonstrate your fervor. Send them a professional inquiry directly if there is no application available; it is possible that they will appreciate the extra effort and persistence.

Initiating this interaction can portray the passion a potential employer wishes to see. Accept as many interviews as possible to allow yourself an assortment of choices while also gaining practice. If you do not already have an up-to-date resume, make sure to complete one. Becoming familiar with writing cover letters is also vital to your employment search.

Students can also take advantage of resources available at the Department of Career Development. There, students can seek guidance on what careers best match their skills and personalities, discuss whether graduate school or a gap year is right for them and what steps they can take to initiate movement toward their goals.u