Guest post by Kevin Cary, who writes about topics related to the college experience for job-hunt.org.
With the spring semester over, many Syracuse students are doing summer internships or continuing their education through summer classes. But while many students are taking a break until the fall, experts say the summer time is not a time to pause from making decisions about your career path.
“The summer months may be a down time as far as not having classes or major distractions, but that’s a great time to focus on which particular field you want to pursue after college,” said Geoff Peterson, a recruiting expert and the managing principal of General Lead.
Those who have lined up summer internships are one step ahead, but for those who haven’t, here are three key things to do to help narrow your focus:
Research, research, research. Learn as much about potential career fields as possible. What is the job outlook for a particular field? What are the expectations in the field?
Peterson advises using search engines such as Indeed.com to determine the expected growth of a particular field. There may also be other opportunities to explore fields, including volunteering or shadowing a professional in the field.Bob Roth, a Syracuse alumnus who later served as a college recruiter and wrote the book “The College Student’s Guide To Landing A Great Job,” said that students should also not hesitate to use a parent to give them guidance.
“Parents may be a positive influence because they may be able to remember areas where the student had success in the past,” Roth said. “Of course, the parents have to remember that they can’t impose their will on the student. If the student truly loves and respects their parent, they will listen to them, but if they don’t, they won’t.
”Roth said that students can also consider older relatives, or even older students who helped mentor them early in their college life. But, ultimately, the decision will be up to the student. “Listen to everybody, but ultimately pick something you like,” he said.
Engage through social networks and more. The explosion of social media can be greatly beneficial to college students as they navigate their career paths, Peterson said. He recommends that students read industry blogs and make connections with corporate and agency recruiters through LinkedIn.
“Be very detailed with your bio and add a good number of keywords,” he said. “Recruiters find people inside LinkedIn using advanced search, mainly searching bios for keywords.”There are other techniques to succeed on LinkedIn, but networking doesn’t have to be limited to social media. Roth said students should use the career services department, but should also consider every resource available to them on campus.
“Every person on a campus has a network,” he said. “Students need to realize that everyone they interact with can help them. Each person on campus probably knows at least 75 other people. There is a vast network that is often not used.”
Don’t procrastinate. Research and networking can help narrow down career choices, but don’t be paralyzed from the new information. There may be other factors that can create anxiety and delay decisions, but experts say it is vital to narrow down your career choice as soon as possible.“Ideally, you’d want to get started during the senior year of high school,” Roth said. “Determine your major, determine what employers expect, and develop a semester-by-semester plan. Get involved in some kind of work, whether or not it directly relates to your field, to help build references for your work history.
It may be tempting to consider the summer as a “break” period, but Peterson said that can be a major mistake that can create more work and financial burdens down the road. “If students drag their feet into the third year and beyond, they risk spending more time in school, having to take more classes and adding additional tuition costs,” he said.
Making a decision to pursue a career path doesn’t mean you can’t ever change your mind about it. But, the earlier the initial decision is made, the more time you have to better understand what to do next.
“If you start early enough, it gives you a little time to adjust your plan,” Roth said. “Every year that slips by means you have a little less time. The time to start is now.”