There’s a lot of anxiety involved when it comes time to actually get hired for an internship while still in college or your first job once you graduate. There’s a good reason for this too. This is what it’s all about, right? We go to college to land a career! I’m here to hopefully ease your anxiety by giving you some reasons that I’ve seen that hinder college student’s chances of getting hired and how to overcome them.
All of my career advice for college students hinges on one thing – a person’s initiative to make a difference. If you are sitting in neutral waiting for things to happen, I need to break this to you now…you won’t go anywhere! You must move to create energy and momentum, and this applies to career preparation as well. The following reasons why college students don’t get hired can all be overcome if you are willing to take the initiative and put forth the effort to stand above the rest of the crowd who are vying for the same positions.
1. You Just Randomly Chose a Major
How much thought did you put into choosing your major in college? Did you do your due diligence and research the career possibilities with that major and what type of commitment it will take on your part to land a career? Did you choose your college based on its strength in the major area of study you want to pursue? If not, you’re not alone. Many college students don’t take the necessary time they should in selecting their major.
Choosing a major in college is a critical decision you will make in determining the career you will pursue. The commitment you’re making with time and money by going to college all revolves around this decision Therefore, it’s kind of important that you don’t take choosing a major lightly, wouldn’t you agree?
If it becomes apparent in interviews that you didn’t put much thought into choosing a major, it can be a real turn off for employers. They want to hear the thought process around your decision. An all too common but awful response to why a student chose his or her major is because that is what your parents told you to do. Stop this thinking right now. This is your decision and you must make this clear when you are interviewing.
Don’t just randomly choose a major in college. Go through the proper steps of career preparation and guidance to make an informed decision.
2. You Don’t Have a Career Plan
I can tell you from my own personal experience of interviewing thousands of people, that those that have a career plan in place clearly stand out. And they stand out in a great way. This is because a career plan forces you to set goals for yourself and helps you to concentrate on areas you need to develop. Both of these are crucial to career success (really…life success in general).
If you don’t have a career plan, it’s time to build one now. Yes, it does take quite a bit of effort to do so, but it’s 100% worth every minute. Once you have your career plan in place, your confidence will begin to soar. This is because you now know specifically what you’re aiming for.
And this will come through when you begin to interview for internships and your first job out of college. Great companies seek greatness. And, greatness starts by having goals and achieving them.
3. You Have No Internships
In my experience with recruiting college students, one of the more frustrating things I face frequently is speaking with students who have no internships. I can’t fathom how anyone can think this is okay. There’s not one career field that I’m aware of that doesn’t offer some form of internship, co-op or apprenticeship opportunity. And yet, there are students who go through their entire college experience without an internship.
I think it’s pretty clear what my advice is here – get an internship! In fact, get two or three! But make sure they are quality internships and not just something you use to pad your resume. Employers will see right through that. There are plenty of opportunities to intern out there. Many are advertised, and many are not. I recommend leveraging a mentor to find the best internships.
If you are able to sit down with a potential employer and walk them through real world experience you’ve gained through internships that are related to the job your interviewing for, you are setting yourself up for a job offer.
4. You have Poor Basic Skills
If I asked you to rate yourself on the following basic skills, how would you rank?
- Critical Thinking
- Interpersonal Communications
- Written Communications
- Time Management
These are all must have skills to have when you enter a career. They can benefit you in any field. And, they are skills that a lot of students coming out of college lack. Why is this? I feel it’s because they place too much emphasis on their academic curriculum and completely ignore developing these essential career skills.
Many argue that kids these days are losing touch with reality and technology is to blame for not having these skills. That may be true for some, but certainly not for all. Every generation has had the challenge of developing these types of skills while in college. And what is the reality is that those that are strong in these areas blow away the competition when they interview.
I highly encourage you to start developing these essential career skills now. This is the X factor that will set you up for success. You can be a whiz in the classroom and ace all of your major courses, but if you can’t think critically, put two sentences together verbally or on paper, or come across as unprofessional, you’re making your chances of getting hired slimmer and slimmer.
5. You’re Not Focusing on Your Potential
Good employers hire for potential not what a person brings to the table now. And as a college student you most likely have a limited amount of skills and experience that you will be walking in the door with. This is why it’s critical that you showcase your potential to learn new skills and gain experience.
A great way to do this is to simply show what you’ve learned in college. And I would rather you focus on the career skills we just covered, not the applied knowledge you learned in the classroom. This is because studies show that employers value these skills over applied knowledge. If you’re able to give examples of how you developed these crucial skills while still in school, you will have hit a goldmine. Employers eat this up, and for good reason.
What you are doing is showcasing your potential to learn and learn fairly quickly. When hiring a fresh college graduate, this is essential for employers to nail. If they hire someone that is always stuck in neutral, they’ve made a bad hire. So, focus on your potential when you’re interviewing, and you will certainly gain more advantages over those who seem to have no potential at all.
6. You Have a Weak Resume
Be honest, how’s that resume looking so far? Are you struggling to find experiences and skills to add to it? If not, then you’re ahead of the pack for sure! If so, then it’s time to buckle down and polish that resume up. Because a weak resume is detrimental to landing a good job out of college.
In order to build a resume with little to no experience, you’ve got to start putting in the work to build up that experience. Many of you already have solid experience you can add, you may just not know it yet. And the same goes with skills. I promise you that you have some skills that you are good at that can be highlighted on your resume.
The earlier you start building a resume the better. I always coach students to start their Freshman year if they can. Look for the areas you need to develop in, put in the practice to develop in those areas, and add this to your resume. The formula is as simple as that. Then all you need to do is repeat it over and over throughout your college years.
Weak resumes are no excuse for college students. If I am looking to hire for an entry level position and interviewed 5 students, all of which had stellar academic records and the right major but only one had a strong resume showcasing their skills, experience and potential, guess who gets the offer?
7. You Don’t Take Career Fairs Seriously
It’s no secret that career fairs can open doors to career opportunities for college students. Yet, so many students don’t take them serious enough or wait until the last minute to attend one their senior year. This is a big mistake. That’s putting a lot of added pressure on yourself to find a job once you graduate. Why not take the approach of attending career fairs as early as your Freshman year?
When you show up to a career fair the Spring semester of your senior year with little experience, a weak resume and poor presentation skills, do you think you have a good chance of getting hired? No. The answer is no you don’t have a good chance of getting hired.
Properly planning for a career fair is critical. Take these events very seriously if you want to get hired. Go to one your Freshman year and scout the event out, speak with some recruiters to get some practice and good advice while you’re at it. If you don’t land an internship or co-op your Freshman year, that’s fine. You’ve still gained some experience and know what to expect the next career fair you attend. At some point, you will land your first internship, then your second or even third and eventually a career!
8. You Don’t Properly Prepare for Interviews
Attending a career fair is the first step. What comes next is even more important – the interview. I have personally interviewed hundreds if not thousands of college students in my career. Unfortunately, a large number of these students came to the interview completely unprepared. And guess what? I didn’t hire any of them.
Let me make this point clear. You can have the best grades of anyone on campus, be the president of every student chapter imaginable, have 12 internships and still blow an interview and not get the job. This is how important it is to put in some work before you sit down for any interview.
To properly prepare for an interview takes some work on your part. You’ll need to set aside time to research the company thoroughly, customize your resume to the job your interviewing for, do some homework on the people you’ll be interviewing with and practice as much as you can by doing mock interviews. This is how you’ll nail the interview. If you expect that you can just walk in to an interview and wing it, you’d better reset your expectations now.
9. You Don’t do Enough Outside of the Classroom
Getting stellar grades is vitally important in college. You’ll get no argument there. However, I would argue that the experience you gain outside of the classroom is just as important. The ability to break out of the four walls of the classroom and into the real world outside of it is a component of career preparation that I can’t encourage enough.
Not only will gaining experience outside of the classroom help you to hone in on what career to choose, it forces you to gain the experience you need to show employers you have what it takes to actually do the job. If you’re stuck online or in a textbook or even in a group project all the time, you aren’t gaining the valuable experience of putting all those theoretical learnings into action. This is where the rubber meets the road.
You can start by visiting you career services to locate any student chapters of organizations related to your major that you can join. You then have to actually attend the meetings and get involved. The more you engage, the more you will get out of the experience. You can then find a mentor and leverage their network to locate additional opportunities to gain experience outside of the classroom. You can also volunteer your time as much as you would like. Chances are that this experience will benefit your career pursuit as well even if it’s not directly related to your major.
10. You’re Not Making the Grade
I just mentioned the importance of getting stellar grades in college. This one should be the most obvious reason on this list, but maybe you’d be surprised how many students out there that think a 2.5 GPA will carry them into a great career. It may and certainly has for some, but I would attribute that to luck over planful preparation. Most of the standards I’ve seen set by employers today put a “good” GPA at a minimum of 3.0.
The key here is to stay ahead of the curve at all times. If you sense you’re GPA is heading in the wrong direction early on, say your Sophomore year, then you need to re-evaluate what major you’ve chosen (assuming you’ve chosen one at this point) and make sure you’re on the right path.
You will certainly have to take courses you’re not thrilled about taking. And in those individual courses you may not get a 3.0. But, you must balance out your course load with courses that you are thrilled about taking and will get a good grade in. And I’m not talking about ‘beer and basket weaving 101’, I’m still referring to relatable courses to your career pursuit.
Bottom line – grades matter. That GPA on your resume will open and close doors. Make sure you are opening doors.
Finding an internship or your first job after college is not at all a complicated process. The key to your success lies with how much extra work you are willing to put in to stand out. It’s this additional effort that will pay off time and time again. In my experience it is glaringly obvious when I’m sitting across from a college student who has taken their career preparation seriously. And, more times than not, that student is hired.
Anthony lives in Indiana with his wife and 3 daughters. His passions (besides his family) in no particular order are making and listening to music that pleases his ears, taking pictures (still & moving), avoiding crowded places and good writing. He also happens to be the Founder of Career Energy.