Take it from Oprah: another year, another chance for us to get it right. There's no time to stare wistfully at those tall office buildings in New York City or scroll endlessly through your dream company’s website—2015 is the year to take major steps toward realizing your career dreams! First things first: Check out these nine career resolutions to make for the New Year so you can start it off right.
1. Have a heart-to-heart with your career counselor
The career center is quite possibly one of the most underutilized resources on campus. Some students don't step a single foot through the doors during their four years at college, let alone have an actual conversation with their career counselors. They're definitely missing out on some great words of wisdom!
Take initiative this year by setting a goal to get to know your counselor at the career center. If you ever find yourself with nothing to do during a break you or have 10 minutes to spare, consider swinging by your counselor's office for a quick chat about everything from his or her career path to advice for your internship search. Trust us—it'll be worth it.
"Career development and job searching doesn't come naturally to anyone, so it's so important [for students] to get connected with their career centers because we have all this knowledge and experience and advice to give," says Whitney Moore, a career counselor at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
From a casual visit to start your career exploration to a scheduled mock interview, your career counselor has you covered. And the invaluable advice comes without a cost! You won't be able to come by this kind of free counseling so easily after you graduate.
"It's important to tap into those resources while you have them for free, and I think most career counselors in a college campus setting nowadays are really focused on helping students develop skills to be able to do these things on their own once they graduate," Moore says.
So what are you waiting for? Keep this resolution and you'll be on your way to becoming fast friends with an amazing career guru right on your college campus.
2. Add 10 contacts to your professional network
Ever wonder how people earn those engraved, shiny nameplates on their swanky office doors? It probably has a little bit to do with the people they know. You can start reaching for your own dream job by expanding your professional network, and there's no better time to start than now. Shoot to make 10 new professional contacts by the end of the year.
"Go to any event for alums and students on campus and do some intentional networking," says Rachel Cirelli, director of career development at Manhattan College. "Even call your alumni office and see what events are on the calendar for both alums and students. Think about going to these events and maybe talking to a handful of alums and getting their business cards."
Try to learn as much as you can at these events. Who knows, maybe you'll meet people who have your dream careers and you’ll be able to get some great advice from them! One-on-one networking at career fairs isn't just beneficial to upperclassmen, either. Everyone from first-years to soon-to-be-graduates can up their career game through networking.
"It's a great opportunity to ask, 'I might not be ready to intern right now, but I want to in the future with your company; what will you be looking for?'" Moore says.
Instead of just daydreaming about that nameplate, get networking!
3. Do a formal mock interview
Suit up! Another year means more time to perfect your interviewing skills. If you haven't done so already, set up a time to do a formal mock interview with your career counselor, a professor or a career mentor. It'll do wonders for your confidence once a job or internship is actually on the line.
"Go online and find an internship that looks interesting, and utilize someone you trust professionally and … sit with them, get dressed up for the interview and have them ask you some basic interview questions and assess where you're at," Cirelli says.
Whether you plan to interview at the career center or with a friend or family member, practicing your interviewing skills will help you get that much closer to landing your dream internship or job.
"For that first time interviewing, it is really nice to do a practice interview because there's no pressure of a real job or internship on the line and [you] can practice responding to questions," Moore says.
Practice makes perfect, so doing a practice interview is the first step toward nailing a real one.
4. Identify three potential career options that are perfect for you
When people ask you what you want to do after graduation, are you tired of responding with, "I'm not quite sure yet"? Well, 2015 could be the year you finally figure out what you really want to do with your life—with the help of lots of research, of course! Shoot for finding three potential career options you'd like to pursue by the end of the year.
"I find that a lot of students, even after they pick their majors, don't necessarily know how to apply to that major," Moore says. "It's important for students to start doing some research on what companies or industries they might have interest in."
Moore suggests using online resources like Wetfeet, an award-winning website that offers a career test, company research and other career-related information to start exploring your career options. Most career centers also have their own resources tailored to students on campus, like information on what alums with the same major as you have gone on to do.
5. Rock five informational interviews
Become a more knowledgeable you this year by conducting five informational interviews. An informational interview is a meeting in which you seek career advice from someone who works in an industry or has a job that you're interested in. Informational meetings are a great way to learn more about a company or industry and network with experts in a more casual setting.
"If there's a specific industry or company that [students are] interested in, it's great to be able to find someone in that job or working in that company for them to learn more about how they can set themselves up to be good candidates for those positions, what types of experiences they should be gaining and the person's career path, just to gain deeper insight and get firsthand suggestions," Moore says.
Use resources like LinkedIn and your college's alumni database to reach out to people whose work interests you, preferably someone you have a connection to, like a friend of a friend. Once you’ve reached out to that person, check out these great potential questions to ask during your informational interview.
"Talk to the person about their everyday job and see if it's something you would be interested in," Cirelli says. "Do more than just Google and read stuff—go actually speak with someone. Get out of your comfort zone."
6. Create your elevator pitch
A brand new year, a brand new you—which also means creating a new-and-improved elevator pitch, which is a 30-second introduction to yourself and your qualifications that you can give to potential employers and networking contacts. By making a resolution to think through an elevator pitch for yourself, you'll be ready to impress employers in no time.
"I have a 30-second introduction of myself: What do I want employers to know upfront?" Moore says. "Obviously their name, their education, their interests, what skills they may have to offer and always ending that with a question. It's important to make sure that the conversation can be reciprocal."
Your 30-second elevator pitch should aim to leave an impactful impression on potential employers by promoting your strengths, experiences and why you’re a good fit for a position. Besides covering the basic information, make sure to practice, practice, practice! Make your pitch memorable by customizing it to different industries and truly expressing your passion and interests—say your pitch like you mean it!
You'll be thankful you made this resolution when you find yourself having to respond to “Tell me about yourself” at an interview or a career fair.
7. Become a LinkedIn celebrity
This is your year to shine on LinkedIn! Have you been putting off filling out detailed descriptions of your jobs? How about asking former employers for LinkedIn recommendations? When was the last time you updated your profile, anyway? Now’s the time to make your LinkedIn profile stand out.
LinkedIn is a powerful networking and job-searching tool, so put in the effort to keep your profile in tip-top shape at all times. Connect with classmates and professors and really take the time to fill out those work descriptions. Try your best to keep updating your LinkedIn profile with new activities throughout the year, maybe every time you update your resume, so you're always on top of your game.
"Once [students are] thinking about what they want to [add to] their resume, that's a really good thing to then translate to a LinkedIn profile," Moore says. "Once you establish what key experiences you want to highlight on your resume, it helps you think through what you want on your LinkedIn profile. Make sure you're giving off the professional image and communicating the skills and attributes that you have to offer in a professional manner."
Catch the attention of employers on LinkedIn with your rock-star profile!
8. Join a new, career-related extracurricular activity
Getting ahead on your career goals doesn't have to mean being cooped up for hours with your laptop as your only companion. Set yourself a goal to be social and productive by getting involved outside the classroom while gaining valuable career experience!
"So many campuses have student groups now that are related to a field or a major, which can be an added bonus," Moore says. "And a lot of the time those student groups do projects that are related to the student's field of interest. It's just another great way to gain experience outside of the classroom related to what they want to do in the future."
Volunteering is also a great way to gain hands-on experience, especially if you’re able to find volunteering opportunities related to your field of interest. Extracurricular activities can be great experiences to apply to future internships or jobs.
9. Apply to one internship a week
Wait, say that again? Every single week? It seems like a huge commitment, but that's what New Year's resolutions are for. Plus, following through with the other resolutions mentioned above will make achieving this one so much easier.
"If a student is at the point where they're ready to do an internship, take steps to getting that internship," Moore says. "Visit the career center to help them get started."
One campus-specific resource to help you get started on your internship search is your college's job-search database. Other than that, you've already got the first steps covered, from networking at career fairs to practicing your interviewing skills.
Once you've compiled a list of internships you'd like to apply to, make an Excel sheet to order them by application deadline. Then, it's time to start applying! If you make applying to internships part of your weekly routine and treat it like required homework, there's no doubt you'll be making huge headway in your career path this year.
The New Year is a fresh start, and the career-related possibilities are endless! With these practical career goals on your list of New Year's resolutions, this year will be your time to shine.