Career planning shouldn’t begin when you graduate college; it should be an ongoing process starting your freshman year. This applies regardless of whether you’re dead-set on a career path or have no clue which field you want to go into. Having confidence in your career path is crucial to staying on track and reaching your dream job.
We spoke with Celyn Boykin, director of career services at the University of New Orleans, to get an inside look at the best career-planning practices for freshmen.
A university’s career services office is a student’s best resource for career planning, Boykin says. With advisers who can help map out options, you will receive expert advice and guidance on planning and career decision making. Advisers can help with résumés, job searches, interview skills, networking skills and locating job-shadowing or internship opportunities, Boykin says. If you haven’t decided on a specific career, advisers can help with career assessments that match your skills and interests to different fields or jobs, she says.
The University of New Orleans’ Career Services office also offers online tools for insights into different career options, networking with career mentors and alumni, and searching for job and internship opportunities, Boykin says. The offerings can help users to create a professional presence and begin applying for opportunities to kickstart their career.
Developing a professional presence lets you showcase your abilities, skills and experiences. Boykin says college students often delay creating their professional presence because they believe it’s too early and they work lack experience. But this presence is what helps you acquire internships and job-shadowing opportunities, which in time helps you gain professional experience, she says.
The development of your résumé and online profile on sites such as LinkedIn lets you display your professional image to future employers, recruiters or connections, Boykin says. There is eventually a self-perpetuating cycle of new jobs and new experience that further boost your professional presence, and developing and strengthening that presence early gives you a head start on this process, she says.
You can put your professional presence to work and your career plan into action by applying for internships and other opportunities. Boykin says many college students miss chances to advance their career by waiting to pursue internships or other opportunities until their later college years. Thinking about and exploring possibilities as a freshman increases your chances of securing different opportunities by your sophomore year, she says.
By taking early advantage of internships, job shadowing, on-campus organizations and activities, you give yourself more time to make changes to your career path, develop your skills and network with future employers. When you graduate and enter the job market, these opportunities and chances you took as a freshman will give you a competitive advantage over your classmates, she says.
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