Recently, Bryant & Stratton College Online interviewed Kim Dority, president of Dority & Associates and a frequent presenter and writer on career topics, on what students should keep in mind while in school to boost their job prospects when they graduate. She offered the following tips (in addition, of course, to staying in regular contact with your Bryant & Stratton Career Services Department!)
B&SC: What’s the most important thing for students to start doing now to improve their career options?
KD: Realize that every day, you’re in charge of building your career opportunities. It’s easy to become completely focused on classes and assignments and studies – in fact, it’s a good sign that you’re working hard to achieve your dreams. But at the same time, you also want to keep in mind the reason why you’re in school: to create a career path that will pay you well and grow with you.
B&SC: What steps should students take to start building their career opportunities?
KD: First, you need to decide what you hope to accomplish related to your career goals while you’re at Bryant & Stratton College, in addition to completing your programs. For example, you might decide you wanted to learn more about the top healthcare employers in your area, you wanted to find out more about salaries in your field, and you wanted to practice taking on a leadership role in a safe environment.
In that case, you might interview the HR heads of those healthcare employers for a class assignment, might work with the campus librarian to research salary information, and might seek out opportunities to lead group projects.
The important thing is to determine what career goals you want to focus on, what actions you can take before you graduate to accomplish those goals, and then work with your instructors and school administrators to do those things.
B&SC: What else can students do to start focusing on their careers while still in school?
KD: Focus on the “Big 3” of career-building: networking, professional branding, and getting work-related experience.
Networking involves building positive professional relationships with as many people as possible, including classmates, teachers, administrators, and class guest speakers. It’s important to keep in mind that these relationships are built by offering to help as often as you’re asking for help. So whenever you ask someone, for example, to write a job letter of recommendation for you, you not only send them a hand-written thank-you note and let them know the outcome of the interview, you also offer to help them in any way you can.
Another way to build your professional network is by joining the professional association in your field, and taking an active role in the local chapter. (Tip: volunteering for the membership committee means you get to meet everyone in the group!)
B&SC: What about building your professional brand?
KD: Building a professional brand means finding multiple ways to showcase your professional strengths. This can be both face-to-face and online. So, for example, you have an opportunity to build a positive professional brand through your actions and behaviors every day with classmates, co-workers, and your teachers and administrators. These are all people who may be in a position to recommend you for jobs someday – but only if you have built positive relationships with and demonstrated your professional strengths to them.
In the online world, you have an opportunity to build a positive brand or reputation through a blog, a personal website, and of course the social tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Just make sure you’d be happy to have a potential employer see what you’ve posted!
B&SC: And work-related experience?
KD: Having work-related experience will give you a competitive edge when it comes to landing a job in your field for two reasons. First, it tells potential employers that you not only have the classroom knowledge about a given topic, but you also know how to apply it. Basically, you’ve got proof of your ability to contribute. Second, you build connections in your field – connections who can recommend you, let you know about potential job openings, and counsel you about what to expect in an interview, how to conduct yourself when you’re new on the job, etc.
Internships work great for getting work-related experience, but if your degree program doesn’t require an internship, you may need to do some volunteering for a local organization in your field. But you definitely want to make sure that by the time you graduate and are looking for that first job, you’ve gotten some solid work experience in the profession.
B&SC: Anything else students should do to build their career options?
KD: I would say to simply recognize how much you are already achieving in your lives, and to understand how valuable that will make you as potential employees. Going to school as an adult is not easy: you may be working part-time or full-time, you may have family obligations, but still you manage to succeed every day to do the work necessary to achieve your goals.
You’re already building a professional brand as a self-motivated, independent, hard-working individual who has what it takes to see things through. That’s quite an accomplishment, and the mark of someone who will be a strong professional contributor.
For more information about the upcoming career webinar, “Building a Resilient Career,” presented by Kim Dority or to view archived webinars from this series, visit http://online.bryantstratton.edu/webinar/.