• Lynn Miner-Rosen

Start Planning for a Job as a College Freshman

Many students heading to college in the fall have no idea what they want to do AFTER college. That is understandable, however, actions could be taken early to plan for a job as soon as they graduate college.

College students with ADHD, ASD, EFD or other learning differences will most likely face unique challenges in college and not know the best route towards their career of choice. Those students will benefit the MOST from starting NOW to learn and practice ways to meet the general and specific qualifications of a job.

A 2010 study by the Kessler Foundation/National Organization on Disability (NOD) and the Harris Interactive, about 60% of college graduates with a disability are not employed. Students with a disability take twice as long to secure a job after graduation than their non-disabled counterparts.

Students, with or without disabilities, will need to demonstrate that they have some transferable skills – that can be acquired through education, practice and previous work experience. Those transferable skills are oral and written communication, leadership, teamwork, problem solving, trouble-shooting, decision making and critical thinking. These skills do not always come naturally and can be particularly challenging for students with ADHD, ASD, EFD and learning differences.

Students need to be as proactive as they can while they are in college to help them get a head start toward a job after college. These same students will need support from their teachers, friends, family and coaches for this process of career planning and career development during college. NOW, not later, is the time for students to get ahead of the game:

1. Join Clubs, Committees, Organizations or Student Government.

Adding clubs or teams to your resume signals to potential employers that you have experience with group dynamics, conflict resolution and communication. Joining clubs is a great way to make new friends and practice those transferable skills.

2. Utilize the Career Center and Disability Center Offices.

Career Centers have a huge amount of resources. Students can benefit from taking advantage of at least one, if not all, of the services offered. Some of those services are: assessment testing, resume development, training for interviews, career counseling, career fairs, internship connections, workshops, seminars and expert speakers.

3. Be a Star – Volunteer

Volunteering helps students learn about teamwork, compassion, face-to-face communication and leadership skills in a supportive environment. In addition, students can use this experience to explore their interests and abilities prior to paid employment. Volunteering looks great on a resume! Tip: Always make sure you get a written recommendation from a supervisor.

4. Update Your Digital Presence

Be mindful that colleges and potential employers might be looking at your digital profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram! Do what you can to delete or clean up your social presence and assume that everyone can see it. Consider if what you have posted is good enough to be on a job bulletin board.

5. Get to Know Your Professors

It is KEY for students to know the people in their school – professors, administrators, counselors. Professors are a huge resource in terms of advice and connection. A written recommendation from a professor can carry a lot of weight when looking for an internship or job.

6. Network and Stay In Touch

You never know who could be helpful to your career down the road. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a connection for career advice, introductions, job shadowing options, or potential opportunities. It is great practice talking to people and making face-to-face connections. The more you network the more comfortable you will be.

7. Do an Internship…or Two…or More

Internships give students practical experience before they get out into the working world. In addition, students can learn about a trade and vocational skills to prepare for the business world. All work experience looks great on a resume! There is competition for internships, so the early you start looking, the better!

8. Subscribe to a Daily National Newspaper (Paper Version)

Reading is good. Better readers are better writers. Reading and writing is a key transferable skill. It makes it easier to chat with people at networking events about current events. The skill of “small talk” and chit chat can be practiced. When browsing the newspaper, be aware of the information and articles that interest you and save them.

9. Get Organized

Students need to treat the process of getting a job after college or finding an internship as if they are taking a class on the subject. Use a 3-ring binder to keep track of thought, articles about companies, and internships. Have a place to store resumes, certificates, letters of recommendations and past achievement.

10. Practice the Art of Small Talk and Face-to-Face Conversations

There are soft skills that students should practice every day to help improve the very important first impression. Oral communication may be more important than having a second language. Communication skills get better with practice. Some ideas are to put your phone away during dinner and take classes in public speaking, drama, writing, performance, and business.

While a college education is a step in the right direction, that slip of paper with a fancy crest and signature isn’t the end-all-be-all. In addition to pursuing a college degree, students should use their formative college years to grow outside the classroom. From career development planning to internships, the focus should be on becoming a well-rounded person with an eye on the future.