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3 Tips to Prepare for Life After College

Career advisor Linda Spencer shares three mistakes that undergraduates commonly make.

7/31/2015 | College Prep | 3 minute read

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Arguably, the main purpose of college or university is to prepare yourself for a career. But sometimes undergraduates can stumble into some common pitfalls on their path to their chosen profession.

Linda Spencer, assistant director and coordinator of career advising at Harvard Extension School, shares three tips for avoiding the mistakes that undergraduates commonly make when preparing for life after college.

1. Understand that the first job isn't the most important one.

Many undergraduates believe that their first job out of college will determine their entire career path. Don’t fall for this misconception. If you make a choice you later regret, it’s not going to haunt you the rest of your life.

In today’s workplace, professionals have many job experiences and try out different careers. The career escalator at most organizations no longer exists.

Think about this: your first postgraduate position will probably only last 18 to 24 months.

2. Research your interests.

Many undergraduates don’t take time to research potential fields of interest. You absolutely should. Talk to people who are working in a field or at an organization that interests you.

Conduct informational meetings and possibly shadow a professional to explore your interests. Internships are also a great way to investigate different fields while gaining valuable experience.

Consider what you find attractive about the career paths you’re considering. Choosing a field solely based on salary, prestige, and pressure from others can lead to job dissatisfaction.

3. Think about the wide array of options related to your major.

Your major is not always directly related to a career field.

In fact, many employers do not hire based on majors. They are looking for young, bright, energetic new graduates with strong communication, critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership skills.

In the Wall Street Journal article Why Focusing Too Narrowly in College Could Backfire, employers were asked how much weight they gave certain credentials on a scale from one to 100. College majors only scored 13. Internships topped the list with a score of 23.

Don’t feel boxed in by your major, focus on enhancing hirable skills.

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