Later this month, thousands of incoming freshmen will flood the campus of Towson University and in so doing forever alter the course of their lives. They’ll make new friends, join student groups, gain knowledge and self-sufficiency, and graduate ready to enter the workforce and better the world.
But will there be jobs for them? What can they do right now, in college, to graduate with a job?
The first step is something you’ll probably do a lot of your freshman year, anyway: introspection. Spend some serious time thinking about how you’re wired, what you enjoy and what sorts of jobs might allow you to follow your interests and get paid in the process.
“The general advice we give students is, first and foremost, look at themselves,” says Lorie Logan-Bennett, director of the career center at Towson University in Maryland. Her team asks students: What are you good at? What are your values? “The earlier they can start thinking about it and start taking some action that would be targeted and focused, the better,” she says.
This process of self-reflection will also help students to choose a major, a crucial first step at Towson which offers 60-plus major programs in a wide range of industries, from education to nursing, STEM fields to the arts, business to humanities, and more.
But at Towson, education is not just limited to the classroom. Student participation in extracurricular activities, service learning and, of course, internships is equally important to both their development as a person and their appeal to employers.
If there is one thing every career development official in college stresses, again and again, it’s how much work outside the classroom, particularly an internship or eight, can help students find jobs after graduation. Many officials call this “applied experience,” and they say employers demand it more and more every year. “We have seen the conversation change from desirable to expected, almost,” says Logan-Bennett, of Towson. “If you’re graduating without applied experience in some way, shape or form, you really are at a disadvantage.”