Our college students are smarter than ever. They have access to more technology and information than the generation before them. So why are they struggling to be informed about what career to pursue or how to go about finding an internship or job?

Getting the answers to “Will I like this field?” or “Is this a good fit for me?” is not as simple as a Google search. The real answers come from reading relevant news, research and talking to people in that industry. Specifically, reading the news daily can help students on their path to self-discovery.

While advising students and graduates, no matter what the industry of interest whether it is fashion, chemistry or business, I always ask the same question, “Do you read the news or any publication related to your industry?”  Too often the answer is NO. Today, we are so inundated with social media, and the endless internet distractions and streaming services, that we fail to spend time staying informed by simply reading the paper. Reading the paper, online or hard copy, is the new MUST READ for college students.

Some think that this is for “adults” or takes too much time. Welcome to the real world. It’s easy.

Here are some tips on how to make your reading time valuable:

  1. What should I read? Pick a national paper. My favorite is The New York Times but you can pick any major national paper…Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, LA Times. Read a paper based on the job market that you want to pursue. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal offer a special student promotion of digital access for $1 a week. Most universities have free subscriptions while at school.  Google News, CNN, Forbes, Newsweek, and many others all have free online access to news.
  1. What if I want to learn about a specific area? Pick a trade journal or even a specific section of a paper. If you are interested in public relations or advertising, read PR Week or Advertising Age. If you like accounting, read Journal of Accountancy or Accounting Today. If you like environmental consulting, read the Journal of Environmental Engineering.

The NY Times has a Science section on Tuesday, Food on Wednesday and Fashion on Thursday. The list goes on. The point is that there is a trade journal or section for almost every area of expertise and many are online. This not only gives you a sense of the important issues facing the industry but names of companies to pursue.

  1. What if I don’t have time to read the whole paper? Most people do not have time to read the whole thing. Try to read it at least 3 days a week. The Sunday paper is great because it tends to recap and discuss more pressing issues.

Here is my cheat to the NY Times paper or online version:

  • Read the titles on the front page of the paper or Top Stories. If it’s of interest read the first paragraph. If you want more, then keep reading. If not, move on.
  • On page 2 of the NY Times paper version is Inside the Times. This has 10-12 mini paragraphs that summarize all the top stories in the entire paper for International, National, New York, Business, Sports and Arts – all the major news in the paper for that day. Scan that for anything of interest. You get the same briefs online.
  • Business Section – If you are looking to do anything in business – consulting, finance, marketing, logistics, technology, energy, entrepreneurship, engineering, or marketing, you must read this section. Same technique as above applies. Scan the front page of the business section and see if there are any topics of interest. Read the first paragraph of at least 2 articles.
  • My favorite article to read is in the Sunday Business Section called Corner Office. Different CEOs tell about their career path and how they hire candidates.
  • Opinion section – If you have extra time on a Sunday, this can be very insightful to read opinions about the issues facing us here and abroad.
  1. Can’t I just watch the news online or TV or just listen to the radio? Sure you can. However, the 30 second segment on the nightly news or radio is not deep enough to understand the real issues. It’s important to know what is happening and how it can impact us. However, to get the information you want to help you with your career, searching for industry specific information is best…and a time saver.
  2. Which sites are good to follow on social media? You can also subscribe to any major paper in your Twitter or Facebook feed and get the news for free. Best choices are Fortune, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, Ted Talks, and Google News. Be sure to also follow other sites specific to your industry.

Knowing about the companies you are meeting with and what is happening in the industry can be the difference between getting the job or not. Even when I meet students who are very focused and know what they want to pursue, they don’t really understand what the job is about or what the latest issues are facing that company. I asked a recent student who was interested in finance if he knew about the Wells Fargo scandal and he had no idea what I was talking about. (If you don’t know either, please go look it up.)

Reading the news aids in critical thinking skills, offers balanced viewpoints as well as exercises your cognitive abilities – all skills you will bring to a new job. It is an essential part of the job search – so get reading now!!!

If you want to learn more about how Next Great Step guides college students or recent grads to get smarter in pursuing their job search visit www.nextgreatstep.com.