Career Prep Checklist for College Students

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When freshmen first arrive on campus, the last thing on their minds is getting a job! But, it’s important to remember that for most students, going to college is intended to prepare them for careers whether they be professional or academic. Most, if not all, colleges and universities have career centers or concentrated resources students can access to assist them in exploring career options or applying for jobs. At Syracuse University, there is a central career center, as well as individual centers at some of the larger colleges on campus, including the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. These centers employ human resources and staffing professionals and advisors specially trained to help students prepare themselves for the workforce.

“We’re here for students anytime whether it be to complete a career assessment, explore possible career options, help prepare a dazzling resume or practice interviewing skills,” said Tracy Tillapaugh G ‘15, assistant director, counseling for Syracuse University’s Career Services. “Every student has different needs and is at a different point on their career development journey. We match their needs to our resources to help them succeed.”

She added that although there is no “magic bucket list” of what to do when, there are some guidelines all college students can follow as far as when to start seeking an internship and when to network with alumni. Below are some key actions Tillapaugh suggests students should take during their time in college:

Freshmen Year

  1. Identify your personal strengths, skills, interests and values and complete a career assessment to narrow down your ideal career paths.
  2. Create a resume.
  3. Review your options as far as joining appropriate clubs or organizations on campus that are aligned with your career interests.

Sophomore Year

  1. If you haven’t already, connect with a career counselor at your school/college or university and start researching opportunities for internships and other experiential programs.
  2. Practice interviewing skills.
  3. Create a LinkedIn profile.
  4. Consider whether study abroad will enhance your educational experience.
  5. Declare a major by the end of this year.

Junior Year

  1. Continue to meet with a career counselor to develop your career plans and keep your resume sharp.
  2. Conduct informational interviews with professionals in your field of interest.
  3. Attend internship and career fairs.
  4. Join alumni networks and groups on LinkedIn.
  5. Complete an internship.

Senior Year

  1. Begin the job search or graduate school admissions process.
  2. Connect with alumni who work at organizations that interest you.
  3. Research typical entry-level positions, salaries and best geographic locations for career(s) that interest you.
  4. Attend internship and career fairs.
  5. Consider completing a second internship or, if you didn’t complete one junior year, make sure you do during your senior year.
  6. Complete job applications.

The above list is a guide, according to Tillapaugh, but every student is unique. Use this action plan as a starting point on your career journey. For more information about career resources at Syracuse University, visit Career Services, which includes links to Career Centers in the individual school/colleges in which you are enrolled.

Kerri Howell

Kerri is director of communications and media relations for the Whitman School. She is responsible for managing all internal and external communications with students, faculty, staff, alumni, members of the business community and other key stakeholders.After receiving her B.A. from State University of New York at Geneseo, she went on to earn her M.S. in communications management from Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she has served as an adjunct professor in the public relations department since 2004.
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