Don’t Panic: College Graduation Checklist

You’ve taken your senior photos, ordered your cap and gown, mailed in your application to graduate – now what? Graduation is less than six months away and the anxiety attacks are occurring more frequently. It’s finally time to decide: what will you do with that multi-thousand dollar degree?

The most damaging mistake a senior approaching graduation can make is to assume they have to psychically have their diploma in hand to begin the job search. From personal experience, I have learned that the search begins as soon as your graduation application has been signed and you are positive you have fulfilled all of the requirements.

Here are a few tips on how to prepare for securing a job upon graduation:

1. First thing’s first. Create a list of the top 10 companies you would like to work for. Include the company name, name of the human resources director/hiring manager, and their contact information. Once you have a list of 10, or more, set it aside – you won’t be needing that again until step 3.

2. On a new sheet of paper, draft a “future-plan.” Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 15 years? What would you like to be doing? (Career-wise anyway; save the wedding dress design for another sheet of paper, on another day.)

3. Now, returning to the list of your top 10 companies, cross off any company that will not help you achieve your 5, 10, or 15-year goals. For example, if in 10 years you’d like to be the Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine, a position with Whole Foods may not be the best stepping stone – even if they pay really well. Then, again, that’s another question to ask yourself: are you working for the money or the growth? Ideally, you want to eventually be able work for both!

4. Once you’ve gotten your company list cleaned up, it’s time to do your research. Use the company website to find out who’s who and what’s what. Before you even apply for a job you should have a basic understanding of the company culture, what your role would be, and who is in charge. This way, you not only show initiative, but also, that you can read – which is equally as important.

5. Pay attention, this next step is critical, often overlooked, and essentially the reason most people end up unsuccessful on the job search (for entirely too long) post-grad. Compose several e-mails to request an informational interview with each of the companies remaining on your list. Unlike a job interview, the objective of an informational interview is not to gain immediate employment. Instead, you are reaching out to the hiring manager of the company, making him/her aware that you will be graduating soon, you are very interested in their company, and would like to learn more about the company culture, values, etc. This is also your opportunity to find out what qualities the company is interested in for a new hire. If you don’t possess any of the qualities, you have six months to go and develop them!

6. Every company has a different attitude toward the appropriateness of “follow-up” phone calls. Unfortunately, it is “hit or miss.” If you haven’t heard back from the company within two weeks of sending the e-mail, it is at your discretion to call (I always call).

7. One month prior to graduation, it is finally time to start applying and requesting “for hire” interviews. In your cover letter, be sure to remind the hiring manager who you are, and thank him or her again for the informational interview. From there – show them why you are a good fit for the position. Make sure your resume is updated, and proof-read for errors. Also, within your cover letter, be sure to state why you would be of value to the company and how you plan to make your boss’ life easier. After all, that is the purpose of your cover letter, right?

Taking these steps will put you on the right path to securing a job upon graduation. It can be a bit nerve wrecking, but don’t panic… You totally got this!


About MJ

A young communications professional who enjoys passport stamps, trap music and seafood.

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