This next post is one that I have wanted to write for a very long time! I basically began deciding how to prepare for life after college two years before I would graduate. Once I decided to switch majors my Freshman year of college, I really knew I had to go full-force at fashion if I wanted to create a career path for myself.
I was at a smaller, virtually unknown, university called Georgia Southern and I knew to compete with students at SCAD, FIT, and FIDM I would have to really prove myself. This wasn’t too hard for me since I have an insane work ethic (most days). It really only proved challenging while working with insanely large groups in my major classes!
In this post, I really wanted to highlight what I did while IN college that helped me towards my occupational goals after graduation. These tips will really show you how to focus on your personal and professional development! I really started preparing my junior year of college and everything really exploded once January 2018 began.
How to Prepare for Life After College
For this post I want to list out the 10 most relevant ways that I prepared for life after college! This was a long and stressful process, but insanely worth it. If you really want to succeed after you graduate, this post is honestly the place to go for literally all of the tips I have! I’ll share more about LinkedIn tips for college students, job interview tips for college students, and even tips on getting a job after college with no experience!
1. Apply for Internships your Junior Year of College
When I started my internship search, I began by looking for summer fashion internships for college students! I mentioned above that I was a Fashion Merchandising major, and so that is why I started off so specific. Now hear me out, you’re a junior in college. You’re trying to relax and not think about the fact that you’ll be leaving college in a year.
Well, I’m here to tell you that this is not a good idea! One of my biggest career tips for college students is that you need to really start thinking about what you want to do after graduation now. I’m not saying this to scare you, but it’s really the one thing that will help you when it comes to starting your career.
When January 2018 came around, I was in my second semester of my junior year of college. I knew that I wanted to work in fashion (even though I wasn’t sure where), but I KNEW I needed experience before I graduated. For my major in particular, an internship for 12 credit hours was required, but I knew I wouldn’t get a reputable one unless I already had worked in the industry.
I applied to internships for probably 4-5 hours a day for around 2-3 months. You’re probably like “girl are you insane??” Maybe I was! That being said, I ended up applying to internships with Ascena Retail because I had worked at LOFT for about two years prior. After two months of interviews, I was offered a position as a Sourcing/Product Development Intern!
This is a GREAT tip. Start working part-time in ANY job that can apply to what you want to do. Want to work in music? Apply to your local church. Want to work in film? Try to work at a local news station. Tech? Youtube how to create an app. Fashion? Start a blog like I did! Any experience is good experience and it also shows that even if you’re at a smaller school, you still have a great work ethic.
2. Get to Know Your Professors & Help Eachother
This is a big one honestly. I’ve always been deemed a “teacher’s pet,” but as a college student that was like a badge of honor. Why would you NOT get to know your professors? Aside from the fact that they’re probably awesome people, they have actual industry experience and can at the LEAST give you advice on how to prepare for where you’re going.
My professors in college were my favorites ever if we’re being honest. I would go talk to them after classes to just discuss life, to talk about upcoming events, and help them set up presentations! It’s important to show them that you care, that you have a strong work ethic. It’s also good for them to know that you do things outside of class as well!
This tip is a very important one. Most jobs/internships require letters of recommendation. Ascena required TWO with a two day turnaround. I started to freak out, but immediately emailed my manager at LOFT and one of my professors. They had them submitted by EOD. If you help your leaders, they will help you!
3. Create a Side Hustle Pertaining to Your Degree
Now I know this isn’t feasible for most people and some of you are like “but I’m broke?” Okay well so was I! I was working part-time at my apartment complex (cheap rent and close to campus) and had bills. IT DOESN’T MATTER. I started my blog on a free version of WordPress and just created content that put my thoughts out there. If you want to learn How to Create a Blog for Free and Make Money, click (here)!
If writing isn’t your thing, find something in your job niche that will help YOU to succeed. My boyfriend’s degree is in musical production and engineering. He would work on creating beats in his spare time and would sell them to people he knew. If you like photography but can’t afford a camera, try to rent one from school or just use your smartphone to start out!
I never thought I would end up monetizing my blog in less than a year, but I ended up being able to use it as my part-time job the first semester of my senior year. This was GREAT because I could make my own hours and apply to a trillion various jobs whenever I had free time. Not only are you able to show to jobs that you keep yourself busy, it’s also a great way to make money in college!
4. Accumulate Work for a Portfolio
If you’ve been needing to create a professional portfolio for an interview, then this section is for you! This step is tailored more towards people in creative fields; however, Merchandising isn’t a very creative field. I still was able to create a stunning Wix site for and a gorgeous printed portfolio that I took to job interviews! If nothing else, it shows that you know how to create a cohesive book of your work.
It also shows that you at least completed something of substance while in school! I have heard through multiple seminars and interviews that your work is only 20% of what they’re looking for. Recruiters want 80% of it to be your actual personality! How you can adapt to different people, how you can react under pressure, and how you can work in a team is all more important than what you can do!
If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to portfolios, I suggest checking out Wix.com! I would only ever use WordPress for my blog, but Wix allows some crazy transitions and such for free. You can showcase whatever you want in a unique way and it’s a little easier for beginners to learn to use. No HTML involved! Check out my personal portfolio website (here).
5. Figure Out Where You Want to Live
If you’re worried about how to decide where to live after college, this section will help you immensely. This is a VERY important aspect. Do you value family over everything? If so, look for places closer to home! I love my family and friends (and boyfriend). They’re all currently in Georgia for the most part, and I love the city, that’s why I really wanted a job in Atlanta!
Maybe you crave people and working in a city. That may cause you to choose NYC! However, NYC is insanely expensive and most places don’t have in-unit anything (i.e. washer, dryer, dishwasher, A/C, etc.). For someone who is always hot (me), this was not the city for me. You have to look into these things before figuring out where you’d like to work!
If you have a pet, this is also a very important decision for you and them for various laws and rules. If you don’t have any pets or no preference, start branching out more! A lot of companies pay relocation fees to help with your move as well. Once you figure out where you want to live, start applying for jobs in that location!
6. Spend Time on LinkedIn/Stalk the Internet for Jobs
Another huge tip right here! I wouldn’t be where I was right now if it hadn’t been for LinkedIn. This is an amazing way to put yourself in front of employers! I would say any company of substance (that has been around for a while) has a LinkedIn. If you’re looking for a job after graduation, make sure to utilize LinkedIn like it’s nobody’s business and STALK the internet for jobs.
When I was trying to get an internship with Disney, I went on the Disney Careers page every single day. This was from the first day of August (to see when the first application would drop) through the end of October when I got my offer. It was exhausting and stressful, but it ended up working out for me! I also looked at other career websites like Internships.com, Monster.com, and more daily as well.
Use LinkedIn too for job/internship postings as well! I have a friend who literally got an interview because she reached out to an HR representative on LinkedIn and ended up getting an interview! Now I’m not saying relentlessly message them, but just introduce yourself, say you have applied (always apply first), and that you really want to work for *insert company here*!
In my post, I’ll share how to create a LinkedIn profile for fresh graduates and all my LinkedIn tips for 2020! These are tips that I have used while job searching and things that still allow my profile to get visits. I really think LinkedIn is important (especially for networking) and suggest it for everyone in college, and who has graduated! LinkedIn also offers development opportunities and courses for premium users. If you want to give your resume an extra oomph, this is a great option!
7. Spend HOURS and WEEKS Applying to Jobs
This is really one of my best professional tips for college students. I kid you not, I spent hours and weeks applying to jobs! I know it’s annoying when you submit your resume and then have to re-type the whole thing; nobody likes that. Imagine though, if someone gets annoyed with that and exits out/doesn’t end up completing an application, and you do….WHO IS GETTING THE INTERVIEW?!
No matter how annoying an application is, how many cover letters you’re sick of writing, how burnt out you get, KEEP GOING. It’s really hard especially after you get rejected a lot to keep pushing. Let me tell you though, during the two years I was applying for jobs and internships I was rejected for AT LEAST 150 jobs. Guess what though? I got three of my dream internships/jobs in a year. Persistence is completely key!
I actually have a ton of tips on how to apply to jobs/internships and how to best prepare for them. I’ll link a couple blog posts I have pertaining to that below:
8. Practice Interviewing at Home and/or On Campus
You probably wouldn’t believe how many times I have practiced interviewing. I have done it in the shower, in front of my webcam, had my boyfriend practice with me, etc.! I was already pretty confident in my skills, but you can honestly never be over prepared for an interview (unless you try to memorize things to say because that’s an awful idea).
You never want to try and rehearse your answers because it’ll never turn out well. You’ll end up sounding robotic and/or like you’re reading from a script. Be yourself, know your experience, know how to answer some generally asked questions, and move on with your day! I talk more about this in my blog post about How to Ace Your Interview and Get the Job linked (here). This post has everything from job and internship phone interview tips to what to wear during your interview!
If you don’t feel like you’re prepared enough still, have someone you know ask you interview questions and practice answering them! Most school campuses have resources for you too where they have mock interview days or places where you can practice FaceTime/video interviews. (Hint: USE THEM. For Disney & Ascena, I had to have multiple FaceTime/phone interviews for both)
Ever since I was a Disney Professional Intern, I have had people ask me what my best tips and tricks are for the application process! I feel like the main trick with professional internships at Disney is that THEY WANT EXPERIENCE. Even though my summer internship didn’t count for school credit, I was still able to gain experience that got me my job with Disney. If you’re interested in learning more, click here to read my post on the Disney Professional Internship Application and Interview Process (here).
In this post, I’ll share the entire process I went through when applying to my role! It was a four month process from start to finish, so you’ll get an inside look at all the steps. This post shares Disney phone interview tips, Disney Professional Internships faq, Disney Professional Internships pay, and so much more! I wrote everything out so I can help YOU get an internship too.
9. Network, network, network!
I used to be like “what does networking even mean?” Everyone says you need to do it to be successful, but no one really tells you what it is or how to do it. I used to think that it meant only going to conferences and meeting new people, but that’s so wrong! It’s LITERALLY interacting with anyone in your field. Below are a few of my networking tips for college students that will bring you success while you’re in school.
Working in group projects is the #1 way to network in college. If you work well in a group project, people will recommend you if their job is looking for someone to hire (I have done this with multiple companies now)! I have literally been asked by an employer to recommend new interns, and you can best bet the people who showed up late/did not work were not on my list.
Conferences/symposiums are also great ways to meet people! I had two projects end up getting accepted to three symposiums my junior year of college. I got to meet other people in my “college” (The College of Human Ecology) on campus and see what they studied! I was able to show them that Fashion Merchandising was much more than “playing with clothes” (which I have had multiple tell me that’s what they thought my major was).
Conferences are also great and are an amazing experience because you get actual tips from successful people in every industry! I have been to HerConference two years in a row now and it has been a fantastic experience. I met women from all over the country and was able to get so much knowledge! These are just a few networking ideas, but they are tried and true ones!
10. Figure Out Your Financials
This is always the hardest one to wrap your head around. Being an adult is so many bills. If you had parents that couldn’t shell out 3K-10K a semester for your college, you’ll also have loans. Before you get a job, make sure you know what the cost of living is in the area you’ll be in!
If I lived in New York right now I would have to have at least one roommate, have a 45 min to 1 hour commute to and from work every day, and wouldn’t be saving a cent. Atlanta is a pretty affordable city, but after having a 40 minute commute in Orlando with the worst drivers on the planet, I wanted convenience over price. I made sure I would still have enough for bills and loans, but I knew I wanted proximity over price.
Some people might just want to pay the least amount and don’t mind a commute! Decide on how much you want/have to put towards everything you need and create an Excel sheet (or a mental breakdown of everything). Since I have a pretty consistent paycheck, I started an Excel sheet with my income and expenses to see where I can save! I have a separate chart for my blogging income and expenses as well.
This post contains all of my advice to college students on careers and how to start your own! If you’re a student who sort of knows what they want to do, but aren’t 100% positive, try things out! I had never worked in Sourcing/Buying before my internship with Ascena Retail, but I KNEW no matter where I ended up that this knowledge would be important.
It also helped me to get a Costume Buying Professional Internship with Disney just 6 months later! They wanted someone with prior procurement knowledge. College is what trying things out is for! I know now that I’m not really keen on actually moving to NYC and I wouldn’t have known that prior to my summer internship.
These were all college tips that I used in order to prepare for life after I graduated! I was able to score two amazing, once in a lifetime positions and a job afterwards. All of these accomplishments are a little sweeter because I know I worked SO HARD for every single one I got.
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