"What are you waiting for?" Frequently, when I was an academic advisor, I would ask my students this question. My advisees were attending a quarter school. Instead of 2 semesters, we had 3 terms. For seniors who were graduating, the beginning of the spring term was generally their last term. Many students would wait until they were seniors in the spring term before they would begin their job search. That was, and is, too late. For readers of this blog who are currently participating in an online program or for those who are contemplating the journey, here is my advice: Your job search starts now.
I know it seems extreme to think about your job search before you have finished your program or even before you have begun. However, the nature of how we progress toward a career has shifted as of late. Competition for positions in an interconnected world means that there are steps to be taken far earlier in your academic journey.
As you already know, I am a big proponent of asking "why." Questions lead to answers which lead to information that can be used to build the structures necessary to find the job that you want. It is never easy to pick a major and then say that this will be the field from which your career will progress. Think of it as going up to a buffet and selecting a single item for the rest of your working life. The likelihood of that happening is quite slim. Interests come and go. Experience provides new insights and further deliberation. Searching for the "perfect job" means that you will progress through a series of positions.
So how do you begin your job search right now. Well, I always like to point students toward the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook website. The BLS is a fantastic resource for finding out about the future of jobs in the United States. Included in a BLS occupation profile are the following:
- Nature of the Work – Looking for information about a particular job and what most practitioners in that field do on a regular basis? This section is for you!
- Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement – What does it take to be qualified for the job that you are interested in? Do you need a bachelors, masters, additional credentialing? This area lets you know what you need to qualify.
- Employment – How many people are currently employed in this career? It is nice to see the total number.
- Job Outlook – Picking a job is sometimes dictated by the availability of positions. Will your area of study / career interest continue to grow? Are there enough positions for everyone? This information is crucial as you conduct your job search.
- Projections – Similar to the Job Outlook section, "Projections" shows you the raw data on where a particular career is going in terms of growth.
- Earnings – How much money will you earn? Median data is presented in this section. A helpful benchmark for sure!
- Wages – Similar to earnings. This section contains raw wages data.
- Related Occupations – Are there jobs that are similar to the one you are researching? Perhaps your search will lead you to something unexpected that will eventually turn out to be just the right fit for you.
- Sources of Additional Information – This section contains links to sets of information that resides off of the BLS website. Oftentimes, the additional information sources contain links to sites that have job postings for the job that you are researching.
It is never too soon to begin a job search. For online learners, timing is almost more critical than for their brick and mortar counterparts. The student services units at your school will either directly support you in your job search efforts and/or they will link you up with those at the institution who are dedicated to your career success. [image credit]