How To Secure A Job Before Graduation

Securing a job before graduating college can feel like being on top of the world! It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have a new career waiting for you when you graduate. You don’t have to stress about job searching and interviewing on top of making sure you pass your classes. But how do you actually land a job before graduating from college?

In the summer before the last year of my computer science B.S. program, I was offered a full-time software developer position for a major company in the finance industry. They offered a great starting salary, benefits, and a sign-on bonus! Here’s how I got the offer.

  1. Network, network, network!

Networking is incredibly important when you’re searching for jobs. It can be the difference maker that takes you from applying to 100 different jobs online with no callback to not having to apply to a job because you know someone who works for a company you’re interested in, and they can connect you with someone in the hiring department.

Every opportunity I had to meet with representatives from different companies I treated as a chance to show my value to them. When you’re networking with companies, there’s a few key things you want to demonstrate:

  • You’re personable
  • You’re interested in the company
  • You’re eager to learn and develop
  • You have experiences in what they’re looking for

Give them a reason to remember you by expressing your interest in them, and showcase some of the experiences you have up to that point. A lot of companies look for leadership experiences through clubs and other extracurricular activities.

In the computer science field, many companies wanted to see that I had an interest in programming outside of the classroom. They would want to see any code that I’ve written and what languages I was comfortable with.

When I was networking with the company I’m currently with, I connected with an alumni from my school. They would reach out to the school a few times a year and gauge the interest of students wanting to participate in activities sponsored by the company. And you better believe I took part in every single one!

Tip: Don’t underestimate the power of alumni networks! Reach out to alumni from your school to see if they would be able to connect you to the right people. LinkedIn is a great resource.

2. Cast a wide net

It’s important to be open to different career possibilities. You don’t want to bottle neck yourself so much where you’re only interested in one role with one company. Although ambitious and admirable, to put yourself in the best position to be successful in your job hunt, you should be open to the many possibilities related to your degree.

Cast a wide net when you’re applying for positions with different companies. Take a chance on a company you may not have thought about interviewing with. The more opportunities you take in reaching out to companies and expressing interest in them, the better chance you’ll have at landing an interview that leads to a job, or even better, getting to choose between multiple job offers.

3. Follow up with your connections

After you’ve networked and expressed interest in a company, and you received their contact information, always make sure to follow up with them. Representatives go to many different colleges, so you want to keep the memory of meeting you fresh on their minds while they’re deciding who to push to their hiring teams.

Within the first few days of meeting with someone from a company you’re interested in, send them an email expressing appreciation and excitement for opportunities with the company. Mention something specific from the meeting, and be sincere. Here’s an example of what a follow up could look like the following:

Hello Jan,

It was great connecting with you this past week at Tennessee State! I am excited to learn more about the opportunities the company has for future graduates, and I hope you’ll keep me in consideration for any upcoming openings. I believe I would be a amazing fit based on our conversation about the company and the things I am looking for in a career! I loved the career training that the company has!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Tom

Making sure you follow up with the companies you network with can go a long way in getting opportunities to interview with them and securing a job.

4. Secure an internship with the company

Securing an internship with a company is a fantastic way to land a job before graduation. Many companies make an effort to hire from their internship pool.

My company, for example, hires over 50% of all new hires for the year from the intern pool. On top of that, most of the interns who satisfactorily complete their tasks, demonstrate a willingness to learn, and fit well with the company receive a job offer at the end of the internship.

Those are some pretty good odds. So, if you can secure an internship, you’ll be one step closer to landing a job before graduation!

If you’re interested in how to obtain an internship, read this article on how I received multiple internship offers as a computer science major, How I Got Multiple Internship Offers While In School. There are many strategies in that article to help you get the internship that leads to your career!

5. Continually find ways to show interest in the company

When a company has shown interest in you through networking events, follow ups, and interviews, be sure to continue to show interest in them. Here are a few ways you can show a company you’re interested in them:

  • Attend and participate in the events they have at your school
  • Wear their swag around campus
  • Keep the networking connections strong through email
  • Continue to work on the skills they’re looking for in a new hire

When a company is going through their hiring process, they’re more likely to give you consideration for a job if they know you’re interested, and you check off the boxes they’re looking for in a candidate.

Continue to participate in company sponsored events, maintain connections with the company, and work on the skills that they highlight as important for new hires to possess, and you should be a solid candidate for them to want to hire.

Summary

Securing a job before graduating is a great way to set the tone for the beginning of a wonderful career. Over the course of the article we dove into 5 strategies for landing a job while in school:

  1. Network, network, network!
  2. Cast a wide net
  3. Follow up with your connections
  4. Secure an internship with the company
  5. Continually find ways to show interest in the company

Even if you’ve already graduated college, these tips can still be incredibly useful in your job search. And don’t get discouraged if the job hunt hasn’t produced your dream job yet! Stay positive, and be open to the possibilities that come your way.

How’s your job search going? Reach out!

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, and share the article.

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4 Clues That Your Current Job May Not Be Right For You

Life is too short to spend time working in a job that you’re not passionate about. However, an overwhelmingly high number of reports suggests that many people who work are unhappy with their jobs in one way or another. Are you in the majority? If so, your current career may not be right for you! Here’s how you can tell.

  1. You’re not happy in your current role

Everyone has the occasional bad day at work. It happens. But, if you find yourself dreading the workday on a consistent basis to the point where you don’t want to be at work more often than you do, you may not be in the right job.

It’s important to take some time to figure out why you’re not happy with your job. Are the issues you come up with something that you have some control over?

If the issues are not in your control, how long do you think you can deal with them until something has to give? Think about the long-term picture here.

Also, take a look at your work environment. How is everyone else feeling about their jobs? Do they look unhappy as well? If you work with others who feel the same way, there may be a bigger issue that needs to be addressed by the higher ups. Having a whole team unhappy does not create a good work culture.

2. You feel unfulfilled

If your job leaves you feeling unfulfilled in what you’re doing with your life, you may not be in the right job.

I worked for a tobacco company one year while I was finishing up school for my second bachelor’s degree. As someone who grew up with asthma, I couldn’t get on board with their mission and their purpose.

I had absolutely no sense of fulfillment working there, and I definitely didn’t feel like I was making a positive impact on the world. On the flip side, there were many people who worked there that felt fulfilled to be helping distribute a product that they enjoyed using.

When you feel like you’re making an impact in the work you do, it can give you a great feeling of accomplishment and pride. It’s all a matter of making sure you know who you are and what gives you that sense of fulfillment. When you finally get that feeling of fulfillment in the job you do, it’s something you don’t want to lose.

3. You don’t feel appreciated

When you feel like you do a great job at work, and you put in a lot of effort because you care, it is the worst feeling to not receive any appreciation for it. You’re helping the company you work for be successful, but you don’t get the recognition you deserve. It can hurt your morale and drive to continue to do well.

Maybe you got overlooked for a promotion or raise. Maybe it’s happened on more than one occasion. If you don’t feel appreciated at work, it’s hard to be committed to doing your best.

If you’re not feeling appreciated at work, try bringing it up with your boss. It’s okay to be direct and highlight all the great work you’ve been doing. There’s a chance that they’ve been busy to the point that they haven’t noticed or it hasn’t been brought to their attention.

However, they may not give you the response you were expecting. The company may not be giving raises at that time, there may not be available positions to be promoted to, or it’s not in their management style to acknowledge great work.

If you’re feeling unappreciated at work, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change, you may not be in the right job.

4. You browse available job openings

On your down time you may find yourself browsing open jobs in your area. Sometimes the grass is 100% greener on the other side. You owe it to yourself to entertain the idea of what another job would look like for you. Take your job browsing a couple steps further.

Find opportunities to interview with other companies. The stakes would be a lower because you already have a job, so the stress levels shouldn’t be as high as if you didn’t have a job to begin with.

Look out for the things that would make you happy, fulfilled, and appreciated at the job, and ask questions about the things that have you looking at other jobs in the first place.

Ask to take a tour of where the new job is. Use this opportunity to gauge the mood of the room. Do people seem happy to be there? Ask if you could meet with someone who works there to get some inside information that you may not have gotten during the interview. These are all great ways to get yourself into a job that fits you best.

Summary

Many working individuals are not happy in their current jobs. It can be for a variety of reasons, but if you find yourself in the following situations for an extended period of time, your job may not be the right fit for you:

  1. You’re not happy in your current role
  2. You feel unfulfilled
  3. You don’t feel appreciated
  4. You browse available job openings

You should be in a job where you’re happy, fulfilled, appreciated, and you’re excited to be there. You owe it to yourself to find the job that’s right for you.

Are you in a job you don’t like? Or, do you have a job you love? I’d love to hear from you!

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, and share the article.

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Career Spotlight: Software Developer

In my Career Spotlight series, we dive into different careers by answering common questions people have about them.

This edition of Career Spotlight focuses on my current role as a software developer. A software developer is responsible for designing programs and applications within a software development life cycle.

But what does that mean? Let’s take our phones, for example. Just about all the applications, from the navigation app to your favorite games, were created by software developers. The same goes for most, if not all, of the programs on your computer.

Have you been asked to update any applications on your phone? Software developers are responsible for that as well. Not only do they create software, they also have a responsibility of maintaining it after it gets to the customer.

Depending on what job search site you use, the number of open software developer positions can vary from 50,000 to over 200,000 jobs. It is a career that is in high demand all around the world.

According to a U.S. News report, software developer ranks as the number one job for salary, jobs, future growth, salary, and work-life balance. All of these factors make software developer a highly rewarding and satisfying career to pursue.

Let’s get into some questions.

Q1. How did you get into software development?

It’s interesting how I ended up going down this path. My first career was in teaching. I loved it because I felt I could make a positive difference in my students’ lives.

There was one school I taught at that put an emphasis on the students learning computer concepts. So, every grade took at least one computer class throughout the year.

One day, I decided to spend some time with my students in their computer class as a way to bond with them. In the class, they were working on learning to build code through a game, and I instantly got sucked into it. It was so fascinating to think that what they’re working on could lead to creating so many things that I use daily.

From there, I took a few free coding classes online to see how I would like it, and I was hooked.

I considered going back to school to study something involving coding, but it was hard for me to commit to pursuing a different career when I already put so much time and effort into teaching. I was torn.

I had one of those light bulb type moments one day in the middle of the school year when I was sitting at home after teaching all week, and I felt mentally burned out from it. I couldn’t see myself being happy long term feeling this way. As much as it hurt to leave my students, I made it a goal to return to school to change my career path.

Q2. How did you get a software developer job?

I got into my current position by chance, really. I did an internship with a company over the summer between the first and second year of my program. I worked with a team that assigned me a task of automating an application to create less manual work for people using it. Through this task, I found that I really enjoyed the work.

At the end of the internship, I was presented with a job offer by the company, but I wasn’t informed on what my job would be. I ended up accepting the offer because I loved the company, and I felt that I could develop my career with them.

Fast forward to the next year where I’m about to begin my orientation, and I get an email saying what team I’ll be on and what my specific role would be. As luck would have it, I got placed into a software developer position. Some other areas I could have ended up in were information security, quality, or data science.

Q3. What did you study when you returned to school?

I studied computer science. The school I attended offered both computer science and computer engineering, but because there were more requirements to graduate for computer engineering, I opted for computer science.

I took many math courses like calculus and linear algebra, but most of my time in the program consisted of computer science courses. Some of the classes I took include java, data structures, algorithms, operating systems, and a yearlong senior project.

Q4. What is the difference between software development and software engineering?

This is one of those questions where the answer you get depends on who you ask. In my industry, both titles are used interchangeably, and that’s how I treat it.

If we’re looking for a difference, it would be in the engineering part of software engineer. software engineers use a set of engineering principles in problem solving and creating software just like other engineering professions, but a software developer may not necessarily use these same principles when creating software.

Because of this, it’s common to hear that a software engineer can do what a software developer does, but a software developer may not be able to do all of what a software engineer does.

Q5. What does a typical workday look like as a software developer?

One of the things I love most about my job is the variation of what I’ll do in a given day. One day I could be writing code for functions of an app that operate behind the scenes, and the next day I could be learning about user interface concepts.

My workday starts when I get into the office. The layout of the office is open with no assigned seats, so I can sit anywhere to work. Think cafeteria style, but with more defined spaces for people to work. I’ll spend some time checking my emails and seeing what meetings I have scheduled for the day. These meetings can vary from meeting with members of my team to taking time to learn something new through my company. I could be in meetings anywhere from 30 minutes to all day depending on the day and time of month.

When I’m not in meetings, I work on assignments that I am responsible for completing in a given time frame. As a software developer, usually this involves writing and updating code for the application I am responsible for. These assignments update every couple of weeks, so there’s always something to work on.

I work as part of a team, and we all have responsibilities that are geared towards completing goals that we set in increments. We meet daily to discuss what we’ve done for the day, what we plan to do the next day, and anything that may be holding us back from completing our work. There’s a lot of accountability and checks in place to ensure we are on track to reach our goals.

On the job, I am always learning. If I get stuck with my work, I have a mentor that I can reach out to for support. Compared to teaching, the stress level is very reasonable.

The work time is flexible as well. I can arrive anytime in the morning before my meetings and leave when I feel that I am at a good place with my work. I also have the flexibility to work from home, which is a huge benefit for me when my son has to stay home from daycare, or if I have other things to take care of outside of the office.

Conclusion

This was Career Spotlight, where we focused on common questions people have about software development.

If you have any other questions about the profession or want to learn more, leave a comment!

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for another Career Spotlight article!

How I Got Multiple Internship Offers While In School

Getting an internship is an important milestone in a student’s college career. Internships open the door for career opportunities by giving you a chance to show your employer that you’d be a great fit with the company after the internship ends.

If they like you, they’re likely to either offer you another internship if you’ll still be in school next year, or they’ll offer you a job for when you graduate. It’s an amazing feeling to have a job secured before you finish with school because it’s one less stress you have to worry about.

An internship also gives you highly valuable experience that you can put on your resume to show other companies that you’re serious about what you want to do when you get out of school.

When I went to school for my first bachelor’s, I didn’t bother getting an internship anywhere. I was confident that I was going to a health profession school after completing my bachelor’s, so my college career lacked any real-world experience outside of my part time job.

I didn’t make that same mistake during my second bachelor’s degree program. Through 5 key steps, I obtained multiple internship offers, and I interviewed with even more companies. Having multiple internship offers allowed me the opportunity to decide where I wanted to go as well as consider potential job offers after finishing the internship.

If you’re trying to obtain an internship while you’re in school, here are some things I did, and I hope you find them useful in your search.

  1. Utilize school resources

Most schools have a career center, or something similar, where you’re able to inquire about job opportunities, networking events, and professional development.

I utilized my career center frequently whenever they hosted events such as resume workshops or mock interviews. Their job is to be a resource for students, and they can provide a wealth of information to help you land the internship of your dreams.

They were also a lifesaver with regards to getting my resume presentable for companies. There are many people out there who charge for services like this, but your school more than likely offers this service for free.

Tip: If you haven’t already, check out your school’s career center and see how they can help you succeed.

2. Go to all company hosted events

Different companies often visited our school to meet with students and share information about the company.

I highly recommend attending as many of these company hosted events as possible. It was through one company meet and greet that I received an internship offer on the spot.

If you struggle with meeting new people or networking in general, I wrote a post addressing some things you can do in these situations called Networking As An Introvert.

3. Attend Career Fairs

Career fairs that are organized by your school are great opportunities to put yourself out there and network with other companies. Many times, companies are looking out for students graduating soon as well as those seeking internships.

Tip: Research what companies are going to be present and see what they’re looking for at the career fair. Look for companies you’re interested in networking with, and print enough resumes to cover those companies, plus a few more just in case! This will save you time on the day of the fair.

Make sure you do your research ahead of time on what each company does, so when you get asked why you want to work for that company, you’ll have a stellar answer ready to go!

Also, have your elevator pitch ready to present! This is a quick rundown of who you are, what your interests are, and what you bring to the table. It’s a way to spark interest in the people you’re networking with and a great jumping point to talk about why you’d be a great fit with the company.

4. Reach out to the department head of your college

The department head for my major was an incredibly valuable resource. Companies would email him job and internship opportunities, and he would send them to the students.

Try to set some time with your department head to talk about internships and see how they can help you. Or if they’re busy, you can always reach out by email to see what opportunities he’s come across.

It’s important to know that for every successful student that leaves the college with a job, that’s one more student that makes the college look good. So, it’s in their best interest to help you find success in your internship search.

5. Attend your classes and be engaged

This is an important part of how I got multiple internship offers. When you attend your classes, engage in what’s going on in the class, and show you care, the professors will see that. The professors themselves have valuable insight into opportunities for students.

I had a couple professors who would ask students who were doing well in their classes what their summer plans were. If they didn’t have any plans, the professors would provide themselves as a resource to obtaining one, if the students were interested.

Going to class and doing well also puts you in a great position to ask for a reference letter if a company requires it. The more time you spend with the professors in class and show you care, the better the letter will be. And, you’ll definitely want a stellar letter of recommendation.

6. Prepare for interviews

This is probably the single biggest factor in obtaining an internship. When you receive an opportunity to interview with companies for internships, it’s important to prepare for each interview.

To prepare for your interview, take the time to do background research on the company and figure out why you would want to work there. Look up reviews from other people who interviewed with them for the same position to get an idea of what questions you may be asked. The better prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be when you’re interviewing for the internship.

Summary

I went back to get my second bachelor’s degree in my late 20’s. As a nontraditional student, I was able to secure multiple internships by doing these 5 key things:

  1. Utilize school resources
  2. Go to all company hosted events
  3. Attend Career Fairs
  4. Reach out to the department head of your college
  5. Attend your classes and be engaged
  6. Prepare for interviews

I hope these tips help you in your internship search like they’ve helped me. Remember to like, subscribe, and share, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Networking As An Introvert

If dogs were all I needed to network with, I would be set. With their warm coats, lovable demeanor, and innate understanding of humans, it’s easy for me to run up to any dog I see while I’m out on the town and greet them as if I’ve known them all my life.

Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. In order to develop your inner circle, your professional contacts, as well as get ahead in your career, networking with others is a crucial, constant task to accomplish in your daily life.

As an introvert, it takes getting out of my comfort zone every time I try to get to know someone else. Whenever I see an opportunity to connect with someone, my palms start to sweat, my heart races, and my mouth gets dry. It never fails.

If you experience any of the things I just described, or something similar, it’s okay! You are not alone in this. The ability to network, like other skills, is something that can be developed. Here are some things you can do to improve your networking skills.

  1. Be aware of nonverbal communication

Whenever I get caught in my own thoughts, it’s so easy for me to forget my body language. Be aware of your nonverbal communication! People gather information about others in such a quick manner, and most of that information comes from nonverbal cues.

The way I address my nonverbal communication is to be actively aware of the message I am sending. Some questions I’ll ask myself would be:

  • What am I saying with my facial expressions?
  • Am I slouching?
  • Am I crossing my arms?

Addressing these questions will help with your nonverbal communication.

As an example, If I am new to a job, I’ll make sure to have a smile on my face, position myself so that I am not slouching (such as in a chair or standing) as well as not crossing my arms.

If I’m not paying attention to my facial expressions, sometimes I can come across as being not very approachable. This can hinder my networking opportunities, so I make time to be aware of the message I am sending in this way.

Slouching usually sends a message of not being interested in what’s going on, so watch out for it!

The reason you don’t want to cross your arms while networking is that it creates a perceived barrier between you and the person you’re talking to. We don’t want barriers when networking! It’s important to show that you’re open to communicating with others.

2. Look for the right moments to engage in a conversation

This is a huge networking problem for me. Imagine you’re joining a group mid conversation. The discussion interests you, and you want to contribute. Or, the conversation doesn’t interest you, but if you don’t contribute, then you’ll feel like the quiet person of the group who doesn’t add to the conversation.

In either case, finding the right time to jump into the conversation can be tricky as an introvert. For me, I always sit on the border of wanting to wait until an opening comes up, but also not wanting to miss out on giving my input. I’ve missed out on so many conversations in my life because I waited until it was too late.

Especially in a group setting where there’s obvious extroverts excited to share, how do you engage in the conversation?

  • Look out for side conversations

If you’re the kind of person that shutters when thinking about speaking up in a group conversation, look out for smaller side conversations within the group you’re with.

When you hear someone speaking up, but not quite loud enough that it gets picked up by the whole group, try to make eye contact with the person and build on what they were saying. The eye contact part is important here because it creates a connection between you and the other person to start talking. Throw in a smile and genuine interest, and you’re on your way to building your network!

On the flip side, it’s okay if you share your input out loud, and the whole group doesn’t hear it. It’s practice, and you’re actively working on networking! There’s a strong chance that someone will hear and engage in a side conversation with you.

  • Use a person’s name before sharing

This can be helpful if someone is taking control of the conversation. If you have something to add, say the person’s name and make eye contact with them before you talk. This can give you the space to contribute to the conversation.

3. Use your skills to your advantage

I haven’t always been very good at small talk. However, I’ve been a stellar listener for as long as I can remember. When networking, I always make it a point to remember something specific about the person I’m talking to, and I’ll try to incorporate it into a conversation we have later on.

A while back, a coworker and I were talking about vacation. He was telling me about his plans for his vacation. I made sure to ask questions to show I was interested, and it allowed him to talk in the conversation more than me, which is usually where I’m most comfortable.

Flash forward to when he returned from his vacation, and I made it a point to ask about it. I brought up specifics to show I was listening before, and he was happy to share. Now, we talk about things we want to do on our vacations all the time!

If talking is not your strong point, don’t worry! You have many other strengths that you can lean on when networking with others. Think about your skill set, and try to incorporate it into conversations with others. Skills like empathy, team work, positive attitude, trust, and creativity are just a few examples of skills you can use.

3. Preparation is key!

Like many things in life, preparation is a big component to networking success for introverts. If I didn’t prepare a few questions or have a goal in mind for when I was networking, I would stumble with my words, feel awkward, and not make a good impression.

Practice what you want to say in networking situations. Have questions ready in your head. Doing this will allow the conversation to take off, and you can guide the conversation based on the responses. Having that buffer of questions in your head ready to go can go a long way in developing your networking skills.

4. Send a follow up email

This is important in a work setting. If you successfully network with someone, and you get their contact information, send a follow up email thanking them for their time. Say something specific about the meeting and keep the line of communication open between the two of you. This can go a way in maintaining the connection for the next time you meet with them.

5. Be true to yourself

As an introvert, it’s exhausting to be the center of attention and talk for any extended period of time. I need a decompress day just to recover. This holds especially true for when I try to be someone else to build my network.

Conversations are so much easier when there’s things in common between the people talking, isn’t it? If you’re trying to network with someone, it can be so easy to jump on the first thing the reveal they’re interested in or like to talk about. If you do not share the same interest, it’s important to refrain from expressing interest in it as well.

For example, if your boss says to you that his favorite hobby is watching baseball games, but you have no interest in baseball, you wouldn’t want to tell him that baseball is your favorite sport and you’ve been playing it since you were a child.

Instead, having a follow up question ready for this situation would put you in a better position to build the relationship for the long term. Some follow up questions to something that doesn’t quite interest you would be:

  • I’m not very familiar with that. What would be some important things to know?
  • What’s your favorite thing about it?
  • How long have you been involved with it?

Having a follow up question ready will enable you to keep the conversation going, and it allows the person you’re with to talk about something they’re interested in.

Tip: It’s easier to talk about something you’re interested in as opposed to something you’re not. This holds true to the people you’re talking with as well.

You do not have to share all the same interests as the people you’re networking with, but chances are you have more in common than you think.

In being true to yourself, when you’re talking with others, you can casually add your interests into conversations to see if they have the same interests.

For example, if someone asks you what you did last weekend, that would be a perfect and low risk time to share an interest you have. If you went to a concert or festival you enjoyed, or even played video games, you can put that alongside other things such as relaxing or running errands.

If the other person shares a similar interest, they’ll keep the conversation going. If not, it’s okay! You’re being true to yourself, and you’re working on your networking skills.

Summary

Networking as an introvert can induce a lot of stress and cause anxiety. In this blog post we hit on 5 keys for introverts when working on your networking skills

  1. Be aware of nonverbal communication
  2. Look for the right moments to engage in a conversation
  3. Preparation is key
  4. Send a follow up email
  5. Be true to yourself

Working on these 5 things will put you well on your way to growing your network.

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Does Your Company Offer Tuition Assistance? 5 Things To Consider Before Taking It

With the increased concern of being able to pay off student loans affecting millions of people nationwide, companies are adding tuition assistance to their benefits package to attract and retain talent.

Whether it’s to help pay down student loans you already have or to help pay for any future classes you’re thinking about taking, tuition assistance is a great benefit to consider taking advantage of. But, should you accept the assistance if it becomes available to you? Here are some things to consider before signing on the dotted line.

  1. Is there a commitment to the company attached to the offer?

This is something everyone must ask their manager or human resources department before accepting tuition assistance from their company. Some companies require a signed statement saying that an employee will work for the company for x number of years in exchange for accepting the aid.

If you’re fully committed to the company and see your long-term future with them, then this isn’t so much of a problem. You can accept the tuition assistance and develop your skill set to reach your goals within the company.

If, however, you’re on the fence about your future with the company offering the assistance, then it’s important to find out if there is a time commitment attached to the offer. You wouldn’t want to be stuck repaying the assistance with your time if you find that you want to be somewhere else.

As an example, my wife accepted tuition assistance from a company she used to work for. She received $5000 to cover tuition costs, and in return, she had to commit to working for the company for 2 years. In the second year of the commitment, we started making plans to move because I received a job offer from a company out of state. We had to consider our options at that point because if she didn’t fulfill her obligations, she would have had to pay back the entire amount she received from the company. This brings me to my second consideration.

2. Would you have to pay the amount back for any reason?

It’s important to get a clear answer on this question before taking any assistance from your company. The reason being is that life happens. If you’re forced to drop out of a program that you’re getting assistance for, or you have to quit working, you want to make sure you’re not stuck with having to pay back what you took from the company.

My wife and I got lucky in our situation with her company. She was able to transfer to a remote position months before we were scheduled to move for my new job. Doing this allowed her to continue fulfilling her 2-year commitment to working for the company in exchange for the tuition assistance.

3. Is the assistance given before the semester starts or after you get your grades?

This point might be the biggest hurdle for anyone thinking about using their tuition assistance benefit at work.

If the assistance is given before the semester starts, then that’s great! You’ll want to make sure you work hard to meet any grade requirements set forth by the company. Grade requirements are normally attached to the deal in accepting tuition assistance to ensure you did well in your classes.

Many times, however, tuition assistance is only given after you get your grades for the semester. In this case, you’ll need to send a transcript or proof to your human resources department showing that you met the grade requirements before the company will pay anything.

When tuition assistance is given after grades are received, a potential problem is figuring out how to pay for the semester up front. You’re responsible for paying for your education in the beginning, and once you send your grades to the company, they’ll send you the money. There are many options to consider here, and it’s a story I’ll save for another day. However, it’s important to explore all available options to see how your education is going to be paid for before the company pays you.

4. Would you be limited to studying what the company wants you to learn?

If you’re interested in going back to school, and you want your company to help with the bill, they usually want you to study something that will benefit the company. It’s important to make sure that your manager and HR department are aware of the classes you’ll be taking and for what purpose before you enroll in any program.

If you tell them that you’re taking classes for your MBA, but you end up taking one finance course along with a couple astronomy and physics courses, they may not offer you the full tuition assistance amount for that semester. Stick with the side of caution here and ensure everyone is on the same page with the classes you’ll be taking as well as the program you’re wanting to get into.

5. Is the tuition assistance for student loans you already have, or is it for taking classes while working with the company?

This is something to consider before accepting a new position.

If you’re swamped with student loans and have no plans of going back to school anytime soon, then having tuition assistance for only future self-development wouldn’t be very helpful to you in paying back your current loans.

On the flip side, if you’re wanting to go back to school for an advanced degree while you’re in your current position, but your company only assists in paying for student loans you already have, then this may also not be helpful for you.

Tip: When a company says they have tuition assistance, make sure to understand what kind of assistance it is, whether it’s help paying down current loans, or it’s to help fund a future degree.

Depending on what situation you’re in, one of these tuition assistance benefits may be significantly more useful than the other.

Conclusion

If you’re thinking about taking advantage of your company’s tuition assistance benefit, take into account these 5 considerations before you accept it:

  1. Is there a commitment to the company attached to the offer?
  2. Would you have to pay the amount back for any reason?
  3. Is the assistance given before the semester starts or after you get your grades?
  4. Would you be limited to studying what the company wants you to learn?
  5. Is the tuition assistance for student loans you already have, or is it for taking classes while working with the company?

Having answers to these questions can save you a lot of time and money.

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for more ways to feel empowered and confident in your career and education goals!