How to Prepare for Your Future When it's Your Last Back-to-School

Starting your last year of school can be frightening because for 18 straight years you had a roadmap laid out for you, and now you're expected to set out on your own path. If you plan ahead, you'll be on your way to success.
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Embarking on a new school year is always an exciting time for students and parents. Not only do kids get to hang out with their friends, but also they're presented with more opportunities to learn, and are able to take another step forward in the game of life. The Back to School theme takes on a whole different meaning, as our kids get older. When they're young, you're only concerned with what folders and map pencils to buy, and they're more worried about which of their friends they get to sit next to in class. As they enter high school and college, you're both faced with much bigger decisions that could inevitably change their life.

I was in college before the Google era so it wasn't as easy to find helpful information on internships, resume writing, expectations, or timelines for new grads to follow. Now, however, there's almost too much information out there.The advice can be conflicting and it's hard to navigate through all the available resources.

As someone who is a mom, a mentor, and who worked in corporate America for over 12 years with a last-say in the hiring process, here are tips your grads can use when preparing for their dream role in the workforce:

Start early. Don't wait until you've already graduated to start researching role prerequisites and company profiles. Find out how far in advance they take interns, and then see if you can set up an interview. The more you know, the more you'll know if the role or company is right for you.

Find a mentor. With LinkedIn and other social media outlets, you can connect with people in your desired arena very easily. Ask them for advice. See if they'll meet you for coffee, or allow you a few minutes on the phone so you can pick their brain.

Research. Look up leaders in your desired industry, or research your favorite entrepreneur or business icon. Most have written books that give you a blueprint for success. One of my favorite books with invaluable advice for high school or college students about to launch their careers is The Coffee Run, by Sydney N. Fulkerson. It's a quick read detailing out a what-to-do and how-to-do-it guide for acquiring internships. It should be a mandatory read for all upper class-men.

Set realistic expectations. The job market is very competitive and chances are if you love an industry enough to chase a role, so do hundreds of others. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Have several options laid out and don't get discouraged if something doesn't work out right away. Start your search a year early so you're prepared when an opportunity opens up. Remember, persistence pays off and the right opportunity will come at the right time.

Communicate your goals. Why is this so important? Because you're telling others what you want so it creates a sense of accountability to follow through, and you never know if the person you're telling knows someone -- who knows someone. Connections can play a big role in landing you a spot in an interview chair.

Work hard. I shouldn't have to write this, but I will. Hard work pays off. Skip a weekend out with friends to focus on writing resumes and cover letters. When you do land a role, don't wait to be told what to do - ask what you can do. Don't limit yourself to intern assigned tasks either; ask if you can sit in on a marketing meeting or a sales meeting to learn more. If you're still a student and can't apply for any full-time positions or internships yet, ask to come in and shadow someone in your desired role for a day. Always be eager to learn and to work hard. This will get you noticed over anything else.

Starting your last year of school can be frightening because for 18 straight years you had a roadmap laid out for you, and now you're expected to set out on your own path. If you plan ahead, ask for help, and follow those who have conquered the terrain before you - you'll be on your way to success.

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