AIU Blog

The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.

When to Start Career Planning: 3 Steps for Students

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As a career coach, one of the most commonly asked questions I hear is, "When should I start my career planning?" The short answer is, now. Tomorrow is too late. Your career is like a competition, almost like a race.

The earlier you start making your career plan, the better off you will be. There are a variety of steps you can take as you progress through your degree program to put yourself in a good position for success after graduation.

When first starting off in school, plan ahead. Consider what potential career paths you may want to take. You do not need to know the exact job you want to pursue yet, but this is the time when you want to narrow down your options. Just remember, "business" in general is not a career field; it is a broad area that includes all kinds of different roles and opportunities. Start thinking about what aspects of business (or your broader program, such as information technology or healthcare management) interest you most. There is a reason you looked into pursuing your degree. What was it? Begin your research from there. Start with your ultimate goal and develop the necessary steps to get there.

Next, look to get hands on experience. Another commonly asked question is, "How am I supposed to gain experience if nobody will hire me?" Start while you are in school. Any opportunity you have to utilize and develop your skills, you should take. Start looking into internships. If you are not able to locate an internship, volunteer. All of this is valuable experience that can go on your resume and be considered by employers. Again, your search is like a competition. This is what your competitors are doing. Volunteer positions are generally not posted online, and often employers may not be actively looking. However, if you put in the time and effort and contact companies in your area, odds are that somebody will take the chance. It is a win-win. The company saves money, and most importantly, you gain that valuable hands-on experience.

Once you are near the end of your program, it is time to move career planning and job search into high gear. Generally, teaming up with your university's Career Services department prior to completing your program is beneficial. You want to make sure that your resume is marketable, that you are researching the industry needs so that you are able to show companies your value, and that you are truly preparing yourself for the search and interview.

Author Coleman Cox once wrote, "I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have." Your career search should be a culmination of your efforts that begin from the time you decide to go to earn your degree. Taking the time to plan ahead can often lead to greater success in the future.

Interested in more posts on job-search related topics? Check out our Career Development blog.

If you're a current AIU student or alumnus looking for more career advice, please contact the Career Services Department at 877-221-5800 Option 5 or at