Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated September 2010
Spring is the perfect time to begin planning whatever your next move will be when it comes to looking for a post-graduate school job. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this time of year - the doldrums of winter are coming to an end, and with businesses recovering from the post-holiday slump and schools preparing to graduate that year's class, hiring season is about to go into full swing. It's never too early to start strategizing. So the question you should ask yourself is this: What can you do to maximize your chances of success when the next stage of your professional life begins?
The further along you are in your education, the more important this time of year becomes. So by the time you get to graduate school, time is of the essence when it comes to setting yourself up for post-education employment. Here, then, are a few ideas for how to make the most of this time of year. It may seem like a lot of effort, but if you do everything right, then by the time early summer rolls around, you'll be all ready to go.
360º of you
No matter what kind of job you're applying for, you should do everything you can to set yourself apart from the crowd. Remember, when companies are considering candidates for positions, they are not just looking at the grades and extra-curricular activities on your résumé - they're looking at each candidate as an individual, and that means that any kind of relevant experience you have will prove very advantageous.
When a company hires someone, there is a certain amount of training involved. And whether you're looking for work in a research laboratory, at a newspaper, or with an investment-banking firm, it is simply accepted that there will be some sort of learning curve at the beginning. Training new employees, however, costs companies a great deal of money, both in the resources needed in the training itself as well as in the lost revenue or productivity that results from the lag time inherent in newly hired employees.
Your responsibility, then, is to flatten out the learning curve. If you can amass a body of experience while you're still in school, before you're ready to even think about applying for a job, then once the time comes for your application for a position to be considered, you will be much more desirable, for the company will not have to devote as much time and money to bringing you up to speed. That is, if you already have a good idea of how work in that particular environment is handled. Which is exactly why you should get as many internships or co-ops under your belt while you're still in school. The rule of thumb here is this: The earlier the better.
I'll have my people call your people
Schools and companies receive hundreds - and often thousands - of applications every year. As a result, much of the selection process is fairly anonymous. How are these organizations, after all, supposed to see the minute differences between two applicants with the same stellar academic record and similar background experiences? This answer is simple: They can't. Unless, of course, you make them see the difference. And that's where a little bit of proactivity comes in.
No matter how computerized and automated and electronic our society becomes, it is still people who make the difference between success and failure, and between a great work environment and one from which classmates or co-workers want to run as soon as the day is over. So now is the perfect time to use all the natural charm and wit that has gotten you so far already to your advantage yet again.
Right now, as spring approaches, start looking at which specific companies you would like to consider later in the year. Find out as much as you can about them: What they do, how they do it, and what their philosophy is. Then research who the most relevant person in that company is to what you'd like to ultimately do, call them up, and see if you can set up a meeting. Or an information session. Or maybe a quick coffee for some helpful advice. Call it whatever you want-just so long as you make the call and set it all up.
You'd be amazed to see how willing people are to help. Because no matter how high up they are, no matter how prestigious their position, they were likely helped by someone along the way, and are more likely than not to help someone out who seems to have a genuine interest in what they do. By doing this, you set yourself apart from the crowd, and show them that you're serious about your future. You never know when you'll find a mentor.
Sell yourself on paper
Before you do anything, make sure all your self-promotional materials are in order. Frightening as it may sound, you are your résumé. And despite popular wisdom, fancy, thick, "résumé - grade" paper is not enough to cut it. It's what the résumé says that matters most. Make sure you clearly, concisely, and dynamically convey everything you have done and accomplished. A great résumé, after all, is one of the keys to success in the workforce.
But in this new world of Internet-based everything, that's sometimes not enough. Many people go the extra step and set up Web pages to supplement or compliment their paperwork. Think of this as halfway between a résumé and a personal meeting: It shows the people considering your application that you are a serious and competent person, but in a way that, by its very nature, affords you a greater opportunity to express who you really are. But don't just throw any old thing up there on the Web for all to see. As with everything else, you must put your best foot forward at all times. Get this done now, before the summertime rush hits and you get pushed to the back of the line.
The popular culture may push the idea that spring is the time for fun and games and freedom after all the oppression of the dark days of winter, but smart, successful people know that now is the time to really buckle down and get a head start on everyone else. Not only will this set you up for a great academic or professional experience in the coming months, but you'll be able to relax and enjoy yourself once summer rolls around-just in time to laugh at everyone else who finds themselves under the gun when it comes to deadlines for applications. And there's nothing better than that.
Except, of course, employment by a great company and a nice paycheck. That's always a good thing.
Looking for more info? Check out our articles about life after grad school.