Senior Year: Preparing for the Workforce

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If you’re anything like me, the thought of graduating this year is scary. My parents have handed me opportunity on a silver platter for most of my life and I’m not sure I can be on my own. Not to mention, I love this school and all the people I’ve met here, and I genuinely like learning. Why do I have to leave?

But with CM’s tips for how to prepare to enter the workforce, you and I can both stop stressing about what’s to come after graduation.

What do “they” want?

“[GPA] can be important, but it’s typically less important to employers than it is to graduate schools,” said Marie Koko, a career consultant and government careers specialist at UW-Madison. “Having interned is definitely good, but I use the term ‘intern’ loosely; if it was volunteer experience and that experience was directly relevant to the job you’re trying to get, that’s what I care about as an employer.”

Employers are also looking for candidates that display a capability of leadership and involvement in extracurriculars. Basically, if it’s relevant, write it down.

When do “they” want me?

Not everyone will apply at the same time. “There’s no magical timeframe. Depending on what you’re interested in, it doesn’t hurt to start looking [fall semester of senior year],” said Pam Garcia-Rivera, a Media, Information & Communication Career Advisor at UW. “It’s good to keep your eyes open throughout the whole period.”

The short answer: If you’re looking to work in the private sector, start looking in the fall. If you’re thinking about the non-profit sector, you can likely wait until spring. “It really does depend on the type of industry you’re going into, which is why we encourage students to meet with us as early as sophomore or junior year,” Koko said.

How do we find “them?”

It’s a combination of many things, Garcia-Rivera said. She suggests having a list of companies or organizations you’d like to work for and keeping track of their openings online. However, finding a job in most industries is something you can do through networking, with the exception of the government and higher education, Koko said. “Looking [for a job] has a lot to do with talking to your parents’ friends, your uncles, cousins, people on Facebook that you sort of knew in high school who might know someone,” she said. “It’s really about getting out there and figuring out who knows what and who can connect you to what.”

Tip: you can also look to, which provides a list of organizations so you can find out who’s doing whatever it is that you want to do. You can also go to to see reviews, salaries and benefits from employees of a given company.

How do I make “them” want me?

First, tailor your resume to the job you’re applying to. “There is no such thing as a resume – there’s a resume for the job you’re applying for,” Koko said. “It’s a marketing document. If you want to sell me Tide and I don’t own a washing machine, your marketing campaign is not going to work.”

Most college campuses around the country have career centers, writing centers and workshops to attend for help with your resume and cover letter. If you’re pressed for time, here are a couple of online resources:

University of Wisconsin’s resume guide — or their writing guide. 

Harvard University’s resume and cover letter guide. 

Senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying journalism and environmental studies. Like the Lorax, I speak for the trees. Goals include owning a French Bulldog and living in Seattle.

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