5 Ways Undergrads Can Boost Their Job Hunt Chances

In a library, a young Asian woman uses a laptop

You would think that getting a college education and degree would be all you need to land a great job after graduation, right?

Eh, no.

In addition to years of grueling schoolwork, stressful all-nighters, and inhumane finals, there’s a long list of other activities that will boost your shot at securing a gig after school. Here are some smart ways any undergrad, from freshman to Spring semester senior, can boost their chances at having a successful job hunt.

1. Join a campus organization

The old cliché “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” while an overstatement, makes a valid point. What you know is absolutely important. Think of Billy Madison — you can't be a nincompoop and expect to get ahead soley on connections. But, at the same time, employers would be a lot happier hiring you if someone else they already know can vouch for you.

In most cases, you’d rather be a good student with lots of connections than a great student with hardly any.

Sports team, fraternity, sorority, honors society, student newspaper, club chess, anything. There are even co-ed business fraternities focused on careers. Joining a campus organization is one of the easiest and most effective ways to network with a big group of like-minded people. And those connections will matter in ways you can't always predict.

2. Make connections with professors

Believe it or not, your professors are actual humans who want to see you succeed. Think about it — if you go on to be uber-successful it reflects positively on them and your university. Take advantage! Whether you send them an email, visit during office hours or just walk up to them after class, ask your professors if they have any advice about finding a job in your field or what careers you should think about focusing on. At the very least, they can give you some veteran advice. In the best case scenario, they could actually point you to a job opportunity through their own connections in the industry.

3. Use your career center for all its worth

Here's another seemingly obvious piece of advice that too many undergrads take for granted: USE YOUR CAREER CENTER.

After you graduate, you won’t have easy access to a facility specifically designed to help you get a job. A lot of people don’t realize this until it’s too late, like when they’re sitting at their parent’s house three months after graduation, thinking, “Man, why didn’t I use that free resource right across campus?”

4. Get an internship or two

Internships are amazing for a couple reasons.

First, they give you a chance to evaluate whether the career you’re looking into is actually something you want to do. Plenty of people actually choose a different career after learning that they don’t actually like what they thought they did and are able to switch paths before it’s too late.

Second, if you do like the field you intern in, you will have a much better chance of getting a job in that field. For instance, more than a third of internships in the finance and insurance industry directly result in job offers, and 70 percent of people who intern in the finance sector get some kind of job offer before graduation. On the other end of the spectrum, less than a third of people without internships get an offer before commencement.

Translation: getting an internship is a no-brainer.

5. Research what careers are growing

Have you actually looked into whether the job you want has career potential? If your field has a lot of openings, it’s pretty obvious that you’ll have a much better chance of getting a better job. If the career you’re hoping to land is declining, you can expect an uphill battle.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the most respected and comprehensive source of job growth information. You can not only learn about how fast certain careers are growing, but you can also see what the median salaries are in those careers and exactly where most of those careers are located. Based on such supply and demand, it’s also fair to guess that jobs in high demand will generally lead to better salaries, benefits and other perks because employers will be doing everything they can to attract good employees to those positions.

Look at actuaries, for instance. These mathematical careers are growing much faster than average, and the median salary is near $94,000. That's about three times the median salary for all jobs combined. Needless to say, if you excel in math, you want to look at this career path.

The bottom line: If you look at college as a means to an end, i.e. getting a great job, rather than an end in and of itself, you’ll put yourself in a great place to have a successful job hunt. Good luck out there!