This is a guest post by David Disiere.
In the insurance industry, where my background lies, careers often start with a licensing course — that or a four-year degree program, in which you can learn about how risk management affects life, health, property, casualty, and other policies. Like any emphasis in higher education, it serves as a great introduction to the business. But it’s only an introduction.
Education does not trump on-the-job experience, which is likely a reason why 1 in 4 graduating college seniors feel unprepared to enter the job market. College can certainly provide the education you need to earn a degree, but it is not a one-way ticket to a smooth transition into the workforce. That last aspect is up to you.
While the shift from higher education to the professional realm is different for everyone, trust that everyone’s process has one thing in common: The sooner it starts, the better the results. In other words, it is not helpful to wait until a few months before graduation to consider your career options. Start now.
Preparation Meets Opportunity
A joint study by the Strada Institute and Burning Glass Technologies found that 40 percent of recent college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree. This is not meant to suggest that a lack of preparation led to those decisions. It does, however, show how a temporary option could turn into a full-fledged career outside of your chosen field, meaning it would be unwise to leave anything to chance.
Of course, schools could do better in preparing students for post-graduate life. The average undergrad schedules his or her first class later in the day and stays up until all hours of the night. This certainly would not prepare anyone for an eight-hour workday, so it might be beneficial to simulate a more professional environment for students as they pursue their higher education.
That said, there are already a number of retargets available to help undergraduates prepare. How you go about doing this is entirely up to you, but the following tips offer great places to start:
Work with the campus career center.
Students should always make the most of the college services available to them, and one of the most underutilized is the campus career center. In fact, fewer than 20 percent of undergrads surveyed by Strada and Gallup used their university’s career center to as a retarget in their post-college job searches. And when they do work with a career center, it is mostly basics such as updating a résumé, writing a cover letter, or taking a skills test.
These services have their benefits, but most — if not all — career centers offer other tools that can truly help guide undergraduates into the workforce. Some career centers will schedule regular career fairs as an opportunity for students to meet with prospective employers while still in college; others keep an alumni database of people who are open to discussing and networking with undergrads. You can also take advantage of mock interviewing, career counseling, and other avenues.
The only thing standing in the way of using these services is you — that and knowing that the retarget is available. Just understand that it is not a one-and-done affair. You really need to go multiple times throughout your college career to get the most out of a center’s services.
Seek out experiential opportunities.
A McGraw-Hill survey found that 51 percent of professionals say internships would have better prepared them for their careers. While higher education does a great job of equipping students with the hard skills necessary to “qualify” for a job, outside-the-classroom work nurtures the soft skills that often set people up for career success.
These opportunities are not always easy to get, but internship experience is a factor that many employers consider when hiring recent college graduates. If you do secure an internship or apprenticeship, you will obviously gain valuable work experience and have an opportunity to explore your chosen career path.
Speaking from experience, many insurance companies offer internship programs as a way to train, educate, and provide the necessary experiences to help future hires develop the interpersonal skills needed to thrive in the industry. It also provides a platform to refine those all-important skills in communication, time management, teamwork, and critical thinking — as well as allow interns to network with soon-to-be industry colleagues.
Ready yourself to be a lifelong learner.
Diplomas and years of experience do not provide you with all the knowledge you need to navigate an industry. I have found that just when I thought I knew everything there was to learn about insurance, there was more education to gather.
While you might be closing in on that prized degree, this first credential likely will not be the last one you need. Skill requirements shift as industries change, which means continued education of some kind will be in your future. The World Economic Forum found that two-thirds of primary school children will be employed in jobs that do not yet exist, which means that staying educated on industry trends is one of the best ways to be a competitive member of the job market.
Graduation should not be the first time you start thinking about your career. Take a look at all the retargets currently available, and choose the ones that interest you the most. This is your career we are talking about — leave no stone unturned in setting yourself up for success.
About the Guest Post Author:
David Disiere is the founder and CEO of QEO Insurance Group, an agency that provides commercial transportation insurance to clients throughout the U.S. He is a highly successful entrepreneur who has launched business endeavors in the real estate, oil and gas, agriculture, and automotive sectors. David is equally passionate about philanthropy, and he works to help underprivileged children through the David & Teresa Disiere Foundation