Now that you’ve finished half of your degree, you’re probably starting to wonder about what comes next. There are so many options to you after graduation, and it’s never too early to start exploring your options. Here are a few things you can do to jump-start that process:
Finding a mentor — somebody a bit older and more experienced — can be inspiring. They’ve been through it before, so they’ll have tips to share, stories to tell and advice to give. U of T has many mentorship programs, including some that connect undergraduate students with alumni working in an industry they’re interested in. Consider signing up for one of these programs in third or fourth year, and keep looking for mentors to connect with as you move up the career ladder.
Your dream job could end up being entirely different in reality than it is in your head. You might as well find out if your prospective career path is everything you imagine now (instead of after you’ve signed the employment offer!). The Career Centre offers a number of job shadowing programs that can give you taste of what it’s really like out there, including the Extern Job Shadowing program and In the Field. Explore something new — you might just find the job that’s perfect for you!
Networking can sound like a scary, businessy term, but it’s a lot easier than you might think. You’re already networking when you make friends in class or join a new club. That’s because networking is meeting people and making connections. So join a professional organization, take a continuing education course or participate in a Twitter chat related to your industry. You’ll meet like-minded people that you can talk about the industry with, share advice and help each other find jobs.
Looking for a more traditional networking experience? Conferences and formal networking events are still a great way to meet other professionals who are interested in connecting. Bring a business card — you can make one with just your name and contact information on it — and push yourself to talk to a few new people each time you go. Make sure to send a follow-up email to anyone you’d like to keep in touch with soon!
If mingling in a large room sounds intimidating, consider setting up informational interviews instead. These informal meetings are great if you’d like to learn about a new industry or want advice on how to break in (which applies to almost all senior students and recent graduates!). Use company websites or LinkedIn to identify professionals to talk to. It might be useful to pick someone who has been in the field for only a few years, so they will have up-to-date information on what it’s like to get a job in the industry.
Send them an email explaining who you are and asking if they’d be willing to answer a few questions about their job. Don’t worry if some people you contact don’t respond — they’re busy professionals, after all! Go to each informational interview armed with some questions (like how they got started on their career path, what industry publications to read or what advice they have for landing an entry-level job). Don’t ask them directly for a job — this is just the research stage, and you don’t want to burn any bridges.
When many people hear the word “career,” they imagine working from 9-5 in an office. But there are so many more options out there! Do you have an idea for a business you’d like to start? Does being your own boss sound rewarding? Consider starting your own business. You don’t even have to wait until after you graduate; if you work on your time management skills, you can get started in between classes.
U of T has a lot of entrepreneurship resources for students interested in starting something of their own.