It’s never too early to start preparing for the future

Be proactive about building your professional presence

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It’s never too early to start preparing for the future

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Samantha Schultz, Collegian Contributor

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As I walked into the Campus Center, students holding folders and wearing nametags walked in the other direction. I donned the only pair of pants I own that are not jeans and held copies of my resumé that I had hastily typed out half an hour before.

I decided to attend the Life Sciences and Biotechnology Career Fair two hours before it began, thinking that as a sophomore, I could take a look at the various companies in attendance and maybe get some ideas for summer internships. I had skimmed over the few emails I had received about the career fair in advance, without giving it too much thought. I had in mind the high school college fairs with people casually meandering between tables and picking up a pamphlet or two.

When I descended the escalator into the Campus Center basement, however, I instantly knew I was woefully underprepared. Students in suits with lengthy resumés tucked carefully into folders stood in line, waiting for their few precious minutes to speak with representatives from organizations like the Boston Children’s Hospital. I felt underdressed and out of my element, as I hadn’t taken the time to research the companies that would be present there or prepare any specific questions to ask. In the end, I had short conversations with two different companies and left half an hour later, feeling overwhelmed by my unpreparedness.

My experience at the career fair made me realize that I had been neglecting a large part of what college is supposed to prepare you for: what you do after. As soon as classes start to pick up and midterms hit, I find myself saying things like, “I’ll think about internships after my assignments slow down.” But then there is always another test, or another essay, and I continue to push back the responsibilities that don’t immediately affect me.

In today’s job market, it seems like good grades aren’t enough to guarantee you a job. The number of college graduates in the country is steadily increasing, with 1.5 million first-time graduates under 25 in 2012-2013 and 1.6 million in 2015-2016. Having at least a bachelor’s degree is becoming the new norm, and students have started looking for other ways to set themselves apart from the many applicants. As a STEM major, I feel expected to seek out research opportunities both during the school year and over the summer to gain the all-important experience employers are looking for. I also want to be involved with extracurriculars related to my major to boost my resumé. On top of that, there are scholarship applications and study abroad opportunities to consider, adding to the seemingly never-ending list of responsibilities that we sometimes don’t think about until it’s too late.

Starting out as a freshman, four years can seem like more than enough time to think about the future, but setting yourself up for a good career takes a lot of time and planning. It is extremely overwhelming to think about all of the factors that go into a resumé: the grades, the extracurriculars, the internships and research opportunities. The only thing that will make the process of applying for jobs easier is to start thinking about these things early on. Get involved with clubs that relate to your major and provide opportunities to make important connections. If you’re a STEM majors, build relationships with your professors and ask about their research and how you can take part in it. Also, take advantage of the resources provided by UMass Career Services, including internship information sessions and resumé workshops. For more specific help, you can schedule a career advising appointment with the career center specific to your major through Handshake.

Trying to build an effective resumé while juggling clubs, classes and other opportunities is intimidating to take on by yourself. Giving yourself enough time to plan and seeking the help you need is crucial to feeling as prepared as possible when it comes time to join the workforce.

Samantha Schultz is a Collegian Contributor and can be reached at [email protected]