First-year college students should already be thinking about the jobs they want when they graduate. That’s because the best job offers earned are when students select their targets early on and spend the next few years doing everything they can to impress the employers that have those jobs.

Of course, some students will not be clear about their career direction during the first year of college. For them, it will take more time and a strong effort to research the possibilities. However, that does not mean that these students should take their time. The sooner they select a general career direction; they can choose a major and begin to develop a plan that will move them closer to their goals in a step by step fashion.

Students should think about the circles of a target. The “bull’s eye” is the group of jobs they would consider the most desirable or ideal. The next ring is of related tasks that are also highly desirable. The third circle is jobs that would also be of great interest. The fourth circle would be good jobs that may not be as closely related to their personal preferences. Opportunities outside of the target become less desirable, the further away they get.

With a target, students can develop a plan of activities and performance that is most likely to lead them to the target area. Their plan should include their majors, the courses they choose, their classroom performance, their campus activities, work experiences, community activities, and leisure activities. By building a list of accomplishments and expertise in these areas, they will have the components of a strong resumé and some excellent job-related skills.

Students without a target and a plan are taking their chances with their career outcomes. If they don’t know where they want to go, their chases of going someplace where they don’t want to go will increase dramatically. That’s why students should think about their strengths, capabilities, past performance, and the things they enjoy. Using that information, students can research career directions that will utilize their characteristics. They can change directions if necessary.

Other things are just as important as grades. Employers love to learn about student performance in their campus activities, part-time, and summer jobs, and anyways, they can demonstrate their capabilities to get things done well. By participating, leading, succeeding, and accomplishing, students set themselves apart and give employers good reasons to want to learn more.

Students who fail to put themselves out there and get involved both on and off-campus will severely limit the number of employers that take an interest in them. Employers prefer candidates who are active, committed, and productive. It is a lesson that too many students seem to miss while they are still in college.

Students who ignore this advice and fail to participate, work or volunteer will have little chance of accomplishing the things that the best employers want, need, and expect. Since the best job offers earned are from their activities and performance during the sophomore, junior, and senior years, no student will receive an exceptional job offer by sitting back and ignoring the expectations of their target employers.