1.1 Students: Graduating from School

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand exactly what you need to do to secure a full-time job, if you are a senior who either had or did not have a summer internship prior to graduation.
  2. Determine a potential career path if you are a senior with a liberal arts degree, or any type of degree, and you haven’t a clue as to what you want to do when you graduate.

Your ability to enjoy your senior year in college can be directly correlated to whether or not you have a full-time job waiting for you when you graduate. You will have four possible scenarios in your senior year:

Let’s explore each scenario to consider what your next steps should be.

Scenario 1: You Had a Summer Internship, and You Received a Full-Time Offer

If you had a summer internship and have received a full-time offer, you are in a great position. Hopefully, you enjoyed your summer internship and you will accept the offer you’ve received. If you will choose not to accept that offer, you’ll be in a great position to explore other options. But don’t waste time, as you’ll have a deadline to accept the first offer extended to you.

Next Steps

If you decide to accept your summer offer, your next steps will be to ensure that you complete all of your new hire paper work and that you have all the details necessary to begin working full time. In addition, you should continue to learn more about the company, the industry, the function, and the department in which you will work. Focus on increasing your network. Find other classmates at your school who might be involved in the same function and department as yours, and perhaps some who are joining the same industry. Join a LinkedInSocial media site that is designed to share your professional information. Group that focuses on your industry and your function and start a discussion. Conduct a Google Alert on your job, your industry, and your company so you are more knowledgeable about them.

Ask about entry-level trainingRepresents the coursework given to new hires. Some larger firms have extensive entry-level training that can last for two months. Others have perhaps just one week, and others provide no upfront training and only on-the-job training. if it is offered. If it is, perhaps you can prepare ahead of time for what you will be taught. Some companies not only administer entry-level training but also grade your performance and then share your grades with your manager. You will make the best impression possible if you are ranked at the very top of your class after training.

If you choose not to accept this offer, quickly launch into a search for a full-time job. Your summer internship should have let you know exactly what you liked and did not like about the company you worked with. Use that information to move your job search forward and find the company and industry you are most interested in.

It is rare that a student will decline an offer if they don’t have another, but that does happen. If that is the case, Table 1.3 "On-Campus Recruiting Calendar: Seniors and Advanced Degree Students" outlines the recruiting calendar for seniors and advanced-degree students in this position. Also make sure to consult career services or a trusted advisor, taking into account all potential next steps.

Table 1.3 On-Campus Recruiting Calendar: Seniors and Advanced Degree Students

School Calendar On-Campus Recruiting for Full-Time Opportunities: Seniors Only
Aug. School begins Seniors receive or do not receive a full-time offer from summer employers
Sept. Semester in full swing Seniors without offers participate in full-time marketing events
Oct. Midterms Seniors without offers participate in full-time interviewing
Nov. Preparation for end of semester; finals next month Seniors must accept or decline full-time offers
Dec. Semester ends; winter break begins
Jan. Winter break, classes begin mid- to late Jan. Interviewing for full-time positions begins
Feb. Semester in full swing Interviewing for full-time positions are in full swing
Mar. Midterms Some interviewing takes place
Apr. Semester winding down; finals next month New hire paper work sent to future employees
May Classes end; some internships begin New hire paper work due
June Summer internships begin and are soon in full swing
July Summer internships in full swing, ending early Aug. Full-time job begins
Note: Calendar includes general time frames. Consult with your career services office and employers regarding specific dates/months.

Scenario 2: You Had a Summer Internship, and You Have Not Received a Full-Time Offer

You’ve strengthened your résumé with a solid internship, but unfortunately, that internship did not convert to a full-time job. This is not necessarily a reflection of your internship performance. Many companies can’t predict hiring needs so far in advance that they can offer a job to a student who isn’t graduating until months or even a year into the future. It’s not the end of the world; you can still achieve your goal of receiving a full-time offer.

Next Steps

The most important thing to know at this point is why you did not receive an offer. Ask for feedback, and ask that it be specific. Recruiters and hiring managers rarely give you interview feedback because our society is litigiousProne to litigation. A society is litigious when its people are apt to sue quickly and often., but your past employer should give you very specific feedback. Perhaps you need to ramp up a particular skill. Perhaps you need to be more well read on a particular topic. Troubleshooting to address any feedback you receive will help in the long run.

Check with your career services office. Ensure you know exactly which companies are coming on campus during the year. Research those companies and attend their marketing events. Talk to everyone you can about opportunities and be focused on exactly what you want to do.

Conduct an off-campus job search. Conducting both an on-campus and off-campus job search ensures that you consider all of the companies in the employable universeA fun way of referring to every company who is hiring.. Remember, of course, to focus sharply on your target.

When you interview for a full-time position, the interviewer may ask about your prior summer and why you did not get an offer. While answering, always speak very positively about the experience and emphasize your contributions. Given that, you need to be honest about why you did not get an offer yet at the same time not harm your candidacy. Perhaps it was not the best fit because the company focuses on a market or product outside your areas of interest. For example, perhaps you were a research intern assigned to analyze the technology industry, but you now want to focus on health care. Perhaps your internship was in the right industry but you’d rather do something else within that interest. For example, you were a talent scout, and you now want to be more involved in the technology side of moviemaking. Think of something that enhances your candidacy with the organizations you are targeting now, especially if that something is not relevant to your summer employer.

If you get stuck on this issue, speak to career services or a professional career coach. This could be a tricky situation and you want to avoid losing an opportunity because you didn’t have a well-thought-out response.

Scenario 3: You Did Not Have a Summer Internship, and You Need a Full-Time Job

You didn’t have a summer internship, but did you do any of the following?

  • Did you have a job of any kind during the summer (painting houses, lawn care, working in a retail store, etc.)? Did you volunteer or do any unpaid work? If so, how did you help your employer or organization achieve their objectives? Were you recognized for special achievements, or did you reach any milestones?
  • Did you take an interesting class (that pertains to your major?) or did you work on learning another language?
  • Did you do an independent project for a professor?

Represent what you did do on your résumé, listing results-oriented achievements.

Next Steps

Determine what you want to do when you graduate. If you do not know, work with career services to identify potential careers.

If you are a liberal arts major, your area of concentration may not translate to a specific job (e.g., philosophy to philosopher), so you may not be sure about your next career step.

A liberal arts education offers much to employers, including communication, research, critical thinking skills, teamwork and leadership skills, flexibility, a global focus, and many, many other skills and strengths. All of these skills can be applied to industries such as advertising, education, health care, manufacturing, media and entertainment, even areas associated with the business majors (financial services, accounting, consulting, and so forth).

If you’ve studied English, history, religion, philosophy, or psychology, you have honed your critical thinking skills (for example, comparative literature), you have been innovative in your learning (for example, art history, East meets West), and your writing skills are advanced because many of these courses require extensive research reports.

If you’ve studied the arts, you could be innovative, have strong presentation skills, be flexible in your thinking, and have an eye for design and graphics.

If you’ve studied languages, political science, or international relations, your focus is global and you can appreciate the juxtapositionMeans the comparison or union of two opposing forces. and convergenceTo come together from opposite sides and meet or join. of the profit and nonprofit sectors.

Economics and technical sciences test your analytical and quantitative skills, in addition to teamwork because many of the courses require group projects.

Although they are not considered “majors,” extracurricular activities enhance many of the just-noted skills—creativity, communication and presentation, working with different people and cultures, and teamwork—along with a competitive winning spirit and drive, organization, and dedication.

Table 1.4 "Translating Your College Major to Potential Jobs" may help identify exactly what you want to do.

Table 1.4 Translating Your College Major to Potential Jobs

Major Your Strategy Your Ability and Your Focus
English, history, religion, philosophy, psychology Promote the soft skills and critical thinking that are the hallmark of liberal arts Research, communication skills, context, critical thinking
Dance, art, music, theater Demonstrate your creativity and the value of creativity in the workplace Innovation, flexibility, importance of design
Languages, political science, international relations Emphasize the value of global studies and cultural awareness Globalization, convergence of profit and nonprofit
Economics and the technical sciences Do not take for granted that recruiters know your value, so highlight your analytical skills and market knowledge Quantitative and analytical skills, business-specific projects and classes
Extracurricular activities Position competitive sports, student government, and special interest clubs as opportunities to develop teamwork, leadership, and a multidimensional background Teamwork, organizational skills, leadership, ancillary skills (fund-raising, budgeting, event planning)

Scenario 4: You Did Not Have a Summer Internship, and You Do Not Need a Full-Time Job

You might have many reasons for not having a summer internship and not needing a full-time job. Perhaps you are graduating college and you plan to go directly into graduate school. You may not need a full-time job; however, it would be worthwhile for an aspiring law student to have a summer internship in a law firm that specializes in an area of law you find especially interesting. Perhaps you want to know what it’s like to be a litigator, and eventually a judge, so working in the court system would be a tremendous learning opportunity for you, and a tremendous networking opportunity as well.

No matter what your plans are after school, internships can always help expose you to different opportunities. You may be surprised to discover an interest you didn’t think you had. They are certainly invaluable tools for networking. At the very least, you can earn some money, which is always helpful!

Key Takeaways

  • When you are graduating, you likely will have four different scenarios: you received a full-time offer from your summer employer, you did not receive an offer, you didn’t have a summer internship, and lastly, you didn’t have a summer internship and you are not looking for a full-time offer. No matter which is your situation, you can take follow-up steps to strengthen your position.
  • Business and technical majors may have a clearer idea of what career they want by virtue of having selected a major that translates into specific careers. Liberal arts majors may not have as clear an idea, but there are ways to leverage the strength of a liberal arts education.


  1. If you know exactly what industry you will enter, what “next steps” should you take to better position yourself?
  2. If you have a liberal arts education, pair up with another liberal arts major and brainstorm about what industries and jobs could use your strengths. Business majors should do the same.
  3. If you are a junior and you received a full-time offer from your summer employer, ensure you know what your next steps are.
  4. If you are looking for a summer internship, identify the top ten companies in which you are most interested and use the six-step job search process outlined in the remainder of this book to obtain an offer from your dream employer.