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Archive for the ‘College Grad’ Category

As a college and graduate school admissions consultant and career counselor, I work with young adults of all levels of motivation, many who amaze me with their talent, discipline and goal-orientation. Often, however, I find myself nudging clients along, usually at the request of their parents, hoping to breathe life into comfortable suburban twenty-somethings who are sadly lacking in passion and purpose.

I have frequently posted about the next generation’s need for meaning and purpose. Occasionally, I encounter a young person who seems to have found a rudder for the future.

Last night, I attended a reception for the children of family friends, a son graduating from Georgetown and a daughter finishing high school and headed for Elon. I had met their parents back in my corporate years. I had known the children since they were babies, but due to geographical moves had not seen them in recent years. The reception was held at the family’s close-knit African-American Baptist church in NJ, which had been a nurturing home base for them despite several relocations over the years.

Ross, a handsome, articulate and charismatic double major in philosophy and theology, spoke about his future, bringing many in the gathering (including myself) to tears. He talked about his extracurricular community service work with inner-city teens in Washington DC throughout his years of study at Georgetown.

Ross mentioned a special connection with a young man who wanted to drop out of high school, because none of his friends had lived to be twenty-one. With such a morbid perceived life expectancy, this disillusioned teenager did not want to spend his “last years” in school. After encountering such a heartbreaking situation, Ross decided to commit two years of his life to Teach for America.

Teach for America is a non-profit organization that aims to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting the nation’s most promising future leaders to teach for two or more years in low-income communities throughout the U.S. The organization was founded by Wendy Kopp after she developed the idea to help eliminate educational inequity in the U.S. for her senior thesis at Princeton in 1989–the year Ross was born.

Applying to Teach For America has become highly popular among seniors at America’s elite colleges. In its first year, TFA placed 500 teachers; in 2010, it received more than 46,000 applications resulting in 4,500 new corps members. These applicants included 20 percent of the senior class at Spelman, where Ross’s mom went to college; 12 percent of all Ivy League seniors; 7 percent of the graduating class at U Michigan-Ann Arbor; and 6 percent at UC-Berkeley.

Dismal job market news for 2011 graduates continue to fill the newspaper headlines, broadcast airwaves, and cyberspace. Recent examples: “Tight Job Market for Recent Grads” (UPI.com); “Class of 2011, Most Indebted Ever” (WSJ.com); “Jobs for College Grads Growing at a Snail’s Pace” (U.S. Chamber of Commerce).

Concerned parents are understandably encouraging their college students to pursue “practical” majors that will give them a good shot at employment. Their greatest fear is that after spending  (or borrowing) $200K for their kid’s education, he or she will have to move back in with Mom and Dad after college is over, with no job prospects. And their worst fears are oftentimes coming true.

Yet, here’s a young man who did not major in accounting or economics to hedge his bets. He followed his heart, studying philosophy and theology. He saw a desperate need in society, and took it upon himself to answer the call to meet that need. Pretty simple. And profound.

Many kids coming out of college these days do temporarily move back with Mom and Dad, to begin a job search, prepare for graduate school admissions tests, get a stop-gap job and save money, or try to otherwise find their way. And I understand that for many college grads, that is a necessary route to take. But it is also deceptively easy to waste several years in a state of suspended animation. Instead, what about changing the world?

I don’t know how much TFA teachers get paid, although I know graduate school partnerships offer benefits ranging from active recruitment of TFA alumni to tuition help. But most important, experiences like TFA change the person who joins forever, and change the young people that member influences.

Ross will be teaching 8th Graders in New Orleans. Can you imagine the impact this smart, centered, charismatic young teacher will have on disadvantaged teens, especially boys, who need a grounded role model?

I work with many college and graduate school applicants writing essays about how they want to improve society. I believe most are sincere. But very few applicants find a way, through their college majors, internships, entry level jobs, or long term career choices, to actually become agents of change. Most people, in the end, settle for survival and perpetuating the status quo. Once in a while, however, someone decides to really change the world.

Related reading: A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All by Wendy KoppStart Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie (founder of Toms Shoes, available September 2011); Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made It Her Business to Help Women in Poverty Worldwide by Stacey Edgar. Great summer reading for college students to help them incorporate entrepreneurial social action into their evolving life purpose.

Related posts: Liberal Arts and the Real World; Finding a Job in a Tough Economy; So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship…What To Do?

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Resources abound to help you create a resume for internships and your first job out of college. Your college career center is a great place to start, especially because your school may have a specific required template for its resume book and interview sign-up process.

The internet has plenty of great sites with resume templates, such as CollegeGrad.com and QuintCareers.com. And check out What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens Second Edition by Richard Nelson Bolles or Resume Magic Fourth Edition by Susan Britton Whitcomb.

So do you really need a resume post on my blog, too? Rather than repeat what every website says, I will offer you a few of my own macro perspectives on resumes.

1. One page for college students is enough. You may have gone to two pages on your high school resume for your college application, because you went into great detail about your extra-curricular activities. That was okay for admissions people reviewing your application, interested in all the ways in which you could potentially enrich campus life. But companies looking at internship and entry level resumes have hundreds, perhaps thousands, to review for a few positions, and they need to get a quick snapshot of you, that’s it.

2. Start with a combined objective and qualifications summary. What kind of position are you seeking? Who are you in a nutshell and what assets are you bringing to the table? Say it in one sentence, and spare the jargon. For example: “Junior undergraduate economics major with experience in independent research seeks management consulting summer internship position.”

3. Education comes first in the resume of a college student. Focus on academic achievements, such as GPA (or major GPA), Dean’s List, scholarships and honor societies. Mention special academic opportunities, such as assisting a professor’s research, tutoring students in your major, or presenting a paper at a consortium. Briefly include high school background, with academic attainments such as GPA, class rank, awards, honor societies, and test scores. This information is still relevant; it shows your smarts and hard work only a few years back.

4. For the experience section, place all experiences relevant to the position for which you are applying upfront. These experiences could be internships (paid or unpaid); directly related volunteer work, practica, research, student organization participation; or relevant study abroad. Experiences should be in reverse chronological order; that is, most recent first. The logic: It is not an autobiography, it is a management summary. Who you are today is more relevant to prospective employers than who you were years ago.

You may have worked for “big name” companies that instantly lend credibility. But if your organizations are not household words, give more explanation. Don’t create a laundry list of duties. Emphasize results accomplished, what you learned, and how the process skills you honed are transferable to the position you are now seeking. Did you solve a problem? Were you innovative or entrepreneurial?  Did you build rapport with customers? Think on your feet in a fast-paced environment? Gain exposure to how an organization works? All relevant!

5. Collapse high school and college sports, arts and community service accomplishments. The way to shorten your resume is by simplifying your athletic, artistic and volunteer achievements. Unless these activities are directly related to the position for which you are applying, they only make you “interesting” so they can be mentioned in a more broad brush manner than in your college application. These activities are “icing on the cake” now, not the main substance.

6. Go for clear, fresh communication, not overused clichés and technical jargon. Tired, hackneyed buzzwords make you sound banal, even insincere. They make a screener’s eyes glaze over, because he has read so many resumes with identical jargon that nothing signals him to pay special attention to yours. If he has to wade through techie BS and insider acronyms, he may not even be able to understand exactly what you did. Marketing 101: who is your target audience? Don’t make your reader work too hard. And remember the K.I.S.S. principle!

7. Whether you use bullet points or paragraphs, keep the communication simple and topline. The purpose of bullets is to streamline; to summarize key accomplishments. So should one job entry have 10-15 bullet points? That means the writer has not prioritized enough. A screener does not want to wade through a comprehensive list of every single thing you did at your job. They can grasp, digest and remember three things. What do you want those things to be? I like paragraphs myself, but again: short, user-friendly paragraphs that say only a few key things.

8. Make sure the employer can easily reach you. Your parents’ home telephone number is useless; make sure your cell and school email is on your resume. And check your emails constantly if you are looking for a job!

9. No need for references on your resume. References will only be needed if the employer is interested enough to contact you for an interview. And saying “references available upon request” is not necessary. Of course they will be.

10. White space is inviting. If you have to cram so much on a one page resume that you’ve created wall-to-wall text, stop and reconsider. You may be trying to give too much detail; another rewrite is needed, simplifying and collapsing your communication. If you still feel everything you have written is absolutely necessary, it is okay to break the one-page rule. It is better than having a one pager that looks formidable to read.

Related posts: Does Your College GPA Matter? Getting a Job with a Lackluster GPA, Your College’s Career Center, Liberal Arts and the Real World.

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You majored in medieval history, but you ended up in retail merchandising. You still love history, but management and marketing in the real world is actually quite fascinating. You’re better at it than you thought you would be, and judging from that recent promotion, your managers must have faith in you.

But your lack of business background may eventually hold you back. You would like to have more practical tools in accounting, statistics, operations and business law. If you want to advance within your organization, switch companies or industries, start your own business, or just make more money, you probably will want an MBA.

But you’ve never taken a business course. Doesn’t getting a Masters degree in a subject require some previous study of that discipline?

An MBA, or Masters of Business Administration, is a unique graduate degree. It is designed to give accomplished professionals, no matter what their previous background, a well-rounded exposure to core business disciplines. Such cross-functional exposure will either help them apply their former skill set to a business environment or enable them to supervise multiple business functions as a general manager.

Any major can be a good background for a business career, especially with the training of an MBA. Were you a theater major? Your ability to communicate dynamically with an audience could make you a powerful leader in sales or marketing. An art history major? Your visual orientation makes you a natural for advertising! Psychology? Market research is calling you. English? Every company needs managers who can write. Foreign language? One word: “global.”

Recently, I researched a sample of Class of 2012 profiles for full-time MBA programs at elite institutions, including Harvard (HBS), Stanford (GSB), U Penn (Wharton), Northwestern (Kellogg), NYU (Stern), U Virginia (Darden), and U Michigan (Ross). The results were generally consistent from school to school.

You quanti-phobes out there will be happy to learn that on average, only a quarter of incoming MBA students had been business majors in college. Undergraduate business majors ranged from a low of  17% at Stanford to a high of 31% at Kellogg. Another quarter of the incoming class had majored in engineering, mathematics or the natural sciences.

About half of the incoming class at these premier business schools had majored in the humanities, arts, social sciences and “other.” For those class profiles that broke out the economics major separately, economics majors represented an average of 20% of the incoming MBA class.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? The goal of MBA programs is to create rich, eclectic, stimulating dialogue among professionals from diverse backgrounds. Diversity does not just mean ethnic or racial heritage or an international upbringing. It also means the perspectives students bring from their previous education and work. All business majors or engineers would make for a boring conversation!

That said, if you are considering going back to school for an MBA, and you have no prior business training, many schools recommend a few courses to help you hit the ground running. Requirements vary, but most schools suggest a course in economics and statistics (which most college grads have taken anyway). A basic accounting course is always a plus, and will probably help you in your current job as well.

Is it intimidating for a “pure liberal arts type” to go back to business school? At first. As a psychology undergraduate from Penn, I found the introductory accounting course at Wharton to be rather frightening. Of course, I was (and will always be) the recovering child of a CPA.

But there was a familial sense of camaraderie among the case groups and project teams. The engineers helped the psych majors with the math, and the psych majors helped the engineers string a few multi-syllable words together to make sentences (only kidding!).

When it came to the Wharton Follies, our school’s annual musical theater revue and defining tradition now widely  (and hilariously) imitated, even accountants and engineers were known to sing and dance. Thank goodness they had us liberal arts types to teach them how!

Recommended reading: The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets: A Former Harvard Business School Admissions Board Member Reveals the Insider Keys to Getting In by Chioma Isiadinso. Related posts: Does Your College GPA Matter? Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Preparing for Business School: GMAT or GRE?, Time to Apply to B-School?,Getting a Job with a Lackluster GPA.

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Note: This is an update of my popular 11/09 post (where new data were available). Since last year, it is important to note that Sunbelt cities, especially in Texas, have peppered the top ten lists in greater numbers. Austin, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Atlanta are well worth considering.

Graduating from college in this economy! Finding a job in your field, in a stimulating city where you can survive the cost of living and have a social life.  What a complicated equation! So many “best cities” rankings! San Francisco is a cool place to live, but how can you can afford it right out of college? You can afford Omaha, and hey, Warren Buffet lives there, but what will you do on Saturday night?

For direction, I turned to Florida. Not the state. I mean the urban economist Richard Florida, best-selling author of The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life and the amazing Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where You Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life.

Florida posits that metro areas with high concentrations of high-tech knowledge workers, artists, musicians, LGBT, and “high bohemians” correlate with high economic development. Florida believes this “creative class” fosters an open, dynamic personal and professional atmosphere, which attracts more creative people, as well as businesses and capital.

Florida says living in the right place significantly affects happiness, as much as choosing a career or a spouse. All three choices are very individual. When choosing a city, Florida suggests matching one’s lifestage and personality with a city’s physical aesthetics, social networks, career opportunities and basic services. Before choosing your location, explore Florida’s “Who’s Your City?” website.  The maps are  particularly intriguing: Singles Map, Creative Class Map, Personality Maps, New Geography of Work, Real Estate Map, and Mega Regions of North America.

Gallup-Healthways’ Happiness-Stress Index emphasizes the role of time spent with friends/family for emotional well-being. “Happiness scores” for US Congressional districts were developed based on this index, which Florida presents on his post “Happy (and not so happy) places”.  Five “happiest districts”:  Silicon Valley, Atlanta’s Northern Suburbs, Orange County CA, Denver’s Southern Suburbs, Morris County NJ (where we live–now I know why I’m so happy!).

Next Generation Consulting has studied relocation of 20-40 years olds since 1998. Its indexing system evaluates a city based on priorities of “next gen” workers. NCG’s 7 indices of a “Next City”:  Earning, Learning, Vitality, Around Town, After Hours, Cost of Lifestyle, Social Capital. Top five hotspots by population category:

“Mighty Micros” (Pop. < 200K): Fort Collins CO, Charleston SC, Eugene OR, Cedar Rapids IA, Springfield IL. “Midsized Magnets”(200-500K): Madison WS, Minneapolis MN, Colorado Springs CO, Atlanta GA, St. Paul MN. “Super Cities” (Pop. > 500K):  San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC, Denver.

Forbes.com developed a list of “America’s Best Cities for Young Adults (2010)”, based on young adult salaries, unemployment rates, cost of living, median ages, the nightlife scenes and Harris Interactive’s ranking of the “coolest” metropolitan areas. Top Ten cities: Austin, Houston, NYC, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Seattle, Atlanta, San Antonio, Minneapolis-St. Paul.

SingleMindedWomen.com analyzed US cities’ job opportunities, cost of living, access to travel, entertainment options, social opportunities, ratio of women to men, singles population, and healthy lifestyle. The result: “2010: Top 10 Cities for Single Women”. And the winners were: Boston, Washington DC, NYC, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Denver, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Austin. Gradspot.com, a website dedicated to life after college, identified its “Top Ten Best Cities for Recent Grads (2010)”: Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, NYC, Boston, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta.

These same cities keep popping up, despite varied selection criteria. Paradigms described in this post explain why young professionals are drawn to these cities. These cities offer: ntellectual stimulation, prevalence of  young single professionals, social networking, knowledge  jobs, physical aesthetics, basic services, all attributes deemed important by Florida or NGC.

NYC, San Francisco, Boston, Washington DC or Chicago are not surprising for careers or coolness. Why didn’t cost of living knock them out of the top spots? I would guess it is because: knowledge workers make good incomes, twenty-somethings rent vs. own, often do not own cars, and have few expenses besides food, rent, wardrobe and entertainment.

When the focus is on jobs and cost of living, the rankings shift. Apartments.com and CareerRookie.com recently released “Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates (2010)”, ranking US cities with the highest concentration of young adults, inventory of jobs requiring less than one year of experience, and one bedroom apartment average rental cost. It turns up some Flordia or NGC cities, but less obvious ones pop up as well: Atlanta, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cinncinnati, Los Angeles.

Businessweek.com‘s recent ranking, “Top Cities for College Grads (2010)“, based on AfterCollege.com’s entry level job postings, turns up similar cities: Houston, Washington DC, Dallas, Atlanta, Austin, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ft. Worth. It is worth noting that four of the top ten are Texas cities. Could it be time to move to the Lone Star State?

The repeated appearance of Houston, Dallas, Denver, Austin, and Atlanta throughout many “best cities for young professionals” lists is worth noting. The Sunbelt, especially Texas, should be on new college grads’ radar screen. Minneapolis is another city worth considering. Checking beyond the top 5-10 will also uncover hidden gems. Worth studying for such an important life decision!

Relevant reading: Live First, Work Second by Rebecca Ryan,  How to Survive the Real World: Life After College Graduation: Advice from 774 Graduates Who Did by HOH Books, The Quarterlifer’s Companion: How to Get On the Right Career Path, Control Your Finances, and Find the Support Network You Need To Thrive by Abby Wilner, Ramen Noodles, Rent & Resumes: An After-College Guide to Life by Kirsten Fischer.

Related posts:  Finding a Job in a Tough Economy, From College…To the Real World, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart,Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?, and Best Wesbites for Careers in Finance.

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You’re a junior in college, beginning to sweat about getting a job after graduation, listening to all the horrifying urban legends about recent grads from elite colleges who are still unemployed. But there’s not much you can do yet about your future, except nailing a good GPA, posting your profile on LinkedIn, and checking in with your college’s career services office about summer internships.

Ok, so here’s a thought: take the GMAT (or the LSAT, or the GRE–or even all three, what Grad.spot calls the “unholy trinity of graduate school testing) while you’re “still smart.” Within the first three years out of college, you will probably want to apply to graduate school. Especially if the job you are able to get out of college is not what you want to be doing the rest of your life.

But once you get out in the young professional world, it will not be so easy to prepare for grad school. You’ll be getting up early, commuting, working long hours, perhaps with travel. At the end of the day, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is attending a prep class, doing a course online, or even practicing from a book.

Your test-taking chops will not be as sharp after a few years in the professional world. It’s hard to imagine now, because you take exams all the time. But remember doing a varsity sport in high school? In-season you were in great shape. Off-season, if you didn’t work out at the gym or go out for a daily run, you got rusty. If you didn’t continue to play the sport in college, you wouldn’t even think of walking in cold to a competition.

Testing is that way too. The farther you move away from an academic environment, the more rusty you become. So take the tests now. And if your’re not sure what kind of grad school you may be interested down the road, you might want to…take them all.

Related posts: Your College’s Career Center, Can I Get an MBA if I Wasn’t a Business Major in College? Preparing for Business School: GRE or GMAT?, Time to Apply to B-School?, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship…What To Do?

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Richard N. Bolles, author of  What Color Is Your Parachute? first coined the term Informational Interviewing.   Wikipedia defines it as “a meeting in which a job seeker asks for advice rather than employment. The job seeker uses the interview to gather information on the field, find employment leads and expand their professional network. This differs from a job interview because the job seeker asks the questions. There may or may not be employment opportunities available.”

This is a great approach for college students in the early stage of exploring careers. It is  low pressure for both parties. The student has to demonstrate interest, ask good questions, be a receptive listener, and exhibit a professional, respectful demeanor. An in-depth background is not required to simply explore a career alternative. The professional is not “on the spot” to identify a job opening for the student. He simply has to offer insights about his career path, biographical perspective, and answer the student’s questions about the field.

How do you identify professionals to interview? Unless you grew up under a rock, you know adults in careers that hold interest for you. Your parents, extended family,  historical friends from high school, church/synagogue/mosque or camp, college roommates, fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, professors, coaches, doctors: and people they know. Remember 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon?

Whether they are young professionals or high-powered veterans, they’re likely to agree, since you are not asking for a job. Ask about rewards and frustrations,  career path, and lifestyle. Remember, people love to share their bio and give advice, so let them! You’d  be surprised how many people out there are really nice, and find it rewarding to give helpful perspective to a young person. Consider asking to “shadow” an individual for a day and find out what “life in the trenches” is really like.


QuintCareers.com offers a comprehensive tutorial on informational interviewing that is well worth your time. A NY Times blog post by Marci Alboher called “Mastering the Informational Interview” also gives some great tips.

It is never too early to explore careers this way. You will not only gain knowledge of career paths within your major field, but you will gain confidence, polish one-to-one interviewing skills, expand your professional network, and make an impression that could potentially translate into a job later on.

I have been surprised at how many college students are unaware of this approach to career exploration and job search. But it is the perfect first step! On campus, you are primarily exposed to academic professionals, rather than adults who are using a background similar to yours in a business, medical or government setting. Expand your circle of advisors beyond professors to all kinds of practitioners in your field. You may discover an application of your training that you never knew existed!


File away everything you learn! Some career paths may not make sense right out of college, but may work for you later on. A new area you discover may inspire you to focus on getting an internship or job in that specialty immediately. Or you may hear cautionary tales about a career path you were previously excited about–such an interview may be disillusioning, but may prevent career disaster.

Relevant reading:You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career by Katharine Brooks, The Career Chronicles: An Insider’s Guide to What Careers Are Really Like–The Good, the Bad & the Ugly from Over 750 Professionals by Michael Gregory, How’d You Score That Gig?: A Guide to the Coolest Jobs and How To Get Them by Alexandra Leavit.

Related posts: Liberal Arts and the Real World, Your College’s Career Center, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship… What To Do?Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?.

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AT LAST!

You finished your summer internship and you’re back on campus. Time to dive into September frat parties, catch up with friends, make sure you’re enrolled in the right classes with the best professors from RateMyProfessors.com. Another college semester is underway!

Not quite. You’ve got a few things to do before your summer internship fades into history…

1. Update your resume. Describe what you accomplished in your summer job, before you forget. If it was an internship, what were your responsibilities, what did you initiate, what did you achieve? If you didn’t have great opportunities to change the world, you still may have gained exposure to how systems work in your field, and that is valuable too. Tweak it later, but at least write it down.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile. If you haven’t joined LinkedIn yet, now is the time: LinkedIn’09GradGuide. If you feel confident enough in your relationship with professionals you have met or worked for this summer, ask them to write you a LinkedIn recommendation. While you’re at it, join a few groups, like your high school and college alumni groups, and professional groups aligned with your field of study.

\3. Show appreciation for internship supervisors and colleagues. Send a thank you note to your boss for the learning opportunity you had this summer. In this economy, internships are hard to come by, and if you were fortunate enough to obtain one, show gratitude!

Stay connected with your supervisor and professionals you have met during your internship. If there is something that you can do for them (i.e., an introduction to a professor who does research in an area they are interested in, a sports event at your college they may enjoy attending, etc.), go out of your way to offer it. After all, they did you a big favor by hiring you and spending time training you this summer!

4. Get your updated resume to your school’s career service office. Before you know it, the recuriting process for next summer’s internships will be underway. So before you become immersed in your fall studies, get an updated resume over to career services. Then it’s on autopilot and you can relax for a few months.

5. File important stuff. A research study or regression you did, confidential information that shouldn’t be floating around your frat, whatever. Get organized. You never know when you might need this stuff.

Now you’re ready for September.

Relevant reading: Getting from College to Career : 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World by Lindsey Pollak,  From College to Career: Entry-Level Resumes for Any Major from Accounting to Zoology by Donald Asher.

Related posts: College Internship and Entry Level ResumesYour College’s Career Center, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart,Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?Best Wesbites for Careers in Finance.

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