For many students, coming into college means they have four years of worry-free education and fun.  After all, college is all about discovering who you are, isn’t it? 

Well, yes, it is, but there is far more to your bachelor’s degree than just “discovering you” and “having fun.”  In fact, college is meant to prepare you for the real world—that place we decided to skip when we came to Bellarmine. 

As you progress through your education, there comes a point when you must decide what to do after graduation.  When asked “When the best time to start thinking about your career or graduation,” I would have to say, yesterday.

Yes, yesterday.  I do not mean that to scare, but to encourage.  Graduation only gives you four years until the next phase.  That does not mean you have to decide your entire life, but it does mean you are laying a very—hopefully—solid foundation for the next step.  When it comes to graduation, I would encourage you to look at the plan that Dr. Aaron Hoffman summarizes for all of his Political Science Advisees.

1)    Freshman year—explore.  Get to know your major and take your gen eds.  Is this what you want to do?  Can you picture yourself in a career related to this field of study?

2)    Sophomore year—begin to get to know your major.  Dive into some upper level classes and begin to finalize if this is right.  It’s not too late to change majors if you aren’t comfortable in this field.

3)    Junior Year—real world application.  Begin applying for (and getting accepted to, with the help of the Career Center and Career Peer Advisors [CPAs]) internships.  This is the time to get the “real world” application part of your career.  Begin looking into grad schools, law school, med school, or entering the work force. 

4)    Senior Year—the transition.  You should be finishing up your degree, applying to grad schools or jobs, and looking forward to graduation.  If this scares you or frightens you, know that you are not alone, just don’t be stagnant.  Decide something. This does not have to be the “be all, end all” job choice.  Remember, individuals change careers 5-7 times on average.  (Reminder, you apply for Graduation the Spring Semester before your graduation year).

Just to drive home a point, you can never begin preparing for your career or graduation too early.  The more experience you have, the more diverse your resume is, the more attractive you are to employers.  We no longer live in an age where one job and one skill will keep you financially sound and happy for the rest of your life. 

Another quick note:  the vast majority of hirings take place from with-in an organization.  That means you need an inside scoop.  (Code for network!). With greater involvement comes a greater network.  The more people you know, the better your chances of being recommended for a position or an internship.  It is never too early to start networking (and feel free to contact the Career Center or your friendly CPAs for more advice!).  You never know when that job opportunity may just pop up!

In summary, the best time to start preparing for the future is NOW.  Do not wait until tomorrow to work on you resume, to apply for that internship, or to talk to the Career Center or your professor.  Take the initiative NOW.  It is never too early to be thinking about the next step.  Yes, be sure to enjoy the present, but keep in mind, the future is coming.  Utilize the present to make the most of the future!