Preparing for your career path: Steps to take while still in school at Chatham University

Second in a three-part series about preparing for commencement


Graduation at Chatham University. Photo Credit: Chatham University

Alice Crow

“What should I do after I graduate?” Director of Career Development Kate Sheridan knows that students often worry about their answer to this question. 

“It can be really paralyzing if you don’t have a very clear path,” Sheridan said, “and for many people, we don’t.” 

Even though graduating can feel like a scary prospect, Sheridan advises students not to run away from finding their first career, but rather toward it. 

Students in their first two years of college should try to explore as much as possible. Focus on these objectives: 

  • Get to know yourself 
  • Adjust to your new environment as a college student
  • Volunteer, get a part-time job or apply to internships
  • Take classes that interest you 
  • Create a LinkedIn account and start connecting to people you meet
  • Visit the Career Development office or 

If you are worried you are behind on planning your life, Sheridan suggests trying out Stanford’s Life Design Lab, which is available online at This free program helps students apply design thinking to planning their career path and other important aspects of their lives. 

For students who have decided not to seek additional education after undergrad, senior year is a crucial time to start prepping for that first step in their career. Sheridan suggests seniors set aside a little bit of time each week to think and work on career development. This can include: 

  • Looking at job boards
  • Prepping your resume
  • Emailing former internship sites and supervisors
  • Updating your LinkedIn profile
  • Letting people know you are looking for work in the near future

On average, students should begin applying to jobs three months before they would like to start working. However, this advice can vary based on a student’s major or goals. Sheridan also warns students that the job they get right after college may not be all they dreamed about, and that’s OK. 

“You might think this first job is going to check all these boxes that you’ve been working toward through your academic journey,” Sheridan said. “The reality is that often the first and even the second job you get after you get out of an academic program is not going to meet all those needs.”

Instead, focus on your long-term goals. What do you want to be doing three jobs from now? Plan ahead and figure out what steps you need to take to get there. Starting today, even by taking a small step, can help ease your anxieties tomorrow. 

Pick up the next print issue of the Communiqué on Feb. 21 to read the final installment of this three-part series that offers some tips on how to psychologically prepare for graduating.