Four years sounds like a long time. 8 semesters sounds far more fleeting. 8 semesters give or take one or two additional semesters is the amount of time that the majority of college students have. You want to spend this time creating experiences for yourself that you can add to your resume and discuss during the job interview. There are far too many activities, clubs and programs at most schools for you to spend that time just going to class. It is your responsibility to use that time wisely. In many ways that means you will develop yourself holistically into a candidate that employers will want to hire. Dont’ waste time by thinking that you have alot of time. You will learn soon that those 8 semesters go by very quickly. Spend the time you do have getting most of your college experience. This means getting involved in ways that are meaningful.
Most reputable graduate schools require some years of experience before considering applicants. I know this may be different for other areas including teaching or social work. But generally speaking don’t presume that because you have an advanced degree that it will translate into additional income or a senior position. Before forking over the funds associated with matriculation into a graduate program, consider if the pay raise you may earn merits the thousands of dollars you will inevitably spend to obtain those additional credentials. If you decide to pursue a graduate degree no matter your field, recognize that it does not replace “real work” experience. A person with a master’s degree and minimal relevant work experience will be compensated accordingly. In most cases you will only be eligible for an entry-level positions within your field. Master’s degrees are usually best for those who have some work experience and wish to use the degree to advance in that same area or pivot into a different profession.
If you know you want an advanced degree consider the same principles for securing a full-time offer at the undergraduate level also apply at the graduate level: take nothing for granted, you will have to attend events, meet representatives at career fairs, get involved, maintain a strong professional net work and polish your resume and interview skills. I think advance degrees are generally a good idea, however don’t expect that the degree will automatically translate into greater opportunities. A colleague of mine once recounted how her students would tout the fact that they had MBA’s and should be able to get a job. Her response to this attitude: ” Congrats! Now get in line with the thousands of others who have the same degree”. No matter what degree you decide to pursue you must always consider that you will have to exert some effort in finding employment, the degree is rarely ever enough.
In my opinion the most common mistake that college students make with regards to the job/internship search process is waiting to engage in the job search. Many believe that their degree and resume is enough to secure an opportunity and as a result they underestimate the time and effort required to obtain a good opportunity. Some wait until AFTER they graduate to look for a job and are confounded to learn employers need more than a college education. Keep in mind that there are millions of students in America with a similar credential so it’s important to use your time in college to develop yourself holistically. Your job search begins while you are in college not AFTER you graduate. By that time you have forfeited a strategic advantage that is afforded college students: employers’ willingness to invest a significant amout of resources to recruit you. Study abroad, internships, community service and campus organizations are some of the many ways that you can develop the knowledge, skills and abilities that employers deem desirable. Determine what what you find most interesting and immerse yourself in that area. Ultimately your goal is to develop yourself beyond your coursework. This will be best achieved if you start early. Begin by visiting your school’s career center.
“The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.” Albert Einstein
Many people erroneously pursue a college degree with the intention that “they will get a job, when they graduate”. Sadly this is not the purpose of a college education. The intention of many degree programs is to inspire thought and thinking from a variety of disciplines. It is the hope of any civilized society that individuals trained in various areas will have the ability to sufficiently address the challenges that every community will inevitably face.
For instance those who major in history will not open a history store, however they will have crafted the ability to research and gather data. Those who study English are not destined to teach however in the process of pursuing their education they will have acquired the ability to write and interpret information. An Africana Studies major will not be the next head of the new Black Panther Party, but an individual who has ability to see the world from a largely ignored view-point. The ability to research, write and interpret positioning is inherent in nearly every discipline. It is from these perspectives that a nation will train its citizens to carefully assess its dilemmas and hopefully find solutions.
You go to college to learn to think. You acquire a job based on the skills you develop and the relationships you build during this process. I believe that more people would have a much more enjoyable college experience and a much easier job search if they accepted this view-point. So pursue your passion as this will get you through an already difficult process, but in the meantime seek out opportunities to hone those attributes that employers find desirable : high GPA,oral and written communication, interpersonal, leadership and quantitative skills. Develop relationships with individuals within a field of interest and be prepared to showcase how well you’ve honed the aforementioned abilities. Your infectious passion and stellar performance in your chosen discipline will position you as a viable candidate in nearly any sector which you have a genuine interest.