Each year in December many of us begin to think about ways we can make the following year better. We may follow a very organized and methodical process by capturing our ideas and thoughts on paper; or we may just find ourselves reflecting and thinking about specific ways to improve our lives as we begin to approach a brand New Year.
As a college student, you may be thinking about ways you can leverage your academic achievements towards helping you land a professional job after graduation. Students who graduated over the course of the past couple of years found themselves happy to just find any job they could do until the economy rebounded.
Below I have included 10 things that college students can do to better prepare themselves for a future career. Due to the increased competition for new jobs, it’s critical that students begin preparing themselves early in their college career and begin understanding what employers look for when filling vacant positions with new college graduates.
Top 10 Tips for College Students:
- Create a List of Personal & Professional Goals & Objectives
Creating a list of goals will help you stay on target. Once you’ve established the top goals that you want to accomplish, be sure to write down three or four objectives on how you plan to meet those goals.
Example of Personal & Professional Goals & Objectives:
Goal #1 - Increase GPA to 3.4.
1. Stay after class to ask questions.
2. Spend more time studying.
3. Ensure that you eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep.
Goal #2– Gain relevant experience in a career field of interest
1. Begin to network and conduct informational interviews with several people working in a career of interest.
2. Draft a resume.
3. Find an internship for spring, summer, and/or fall.
4. Volunteer for a local organization.
5. Join a club at your college and take on a leadership role.
- Seek to Understand Your Individual Personality, Values, Interests, and Skills in addition to Identifying Your Personal Strengths and Weaknesses.
Doing a thorough self-assessment is the first step to the career planning process. Speaking with a career counselor at your college can help you uncover some of your personal attributes and begin to understand yourself a little bit better. There are also a number of assessments you can take to help guide you in the right direction.
Whether it is to actively research potential majors or career options, researching can help you further clarify your goals and assist you in the decision-making process. To gain relevant experience in the work force, you may begin by researching available job shadowing and internship opportunities.
- Create a Resume & Cover Letter
Initially you may want to create a general resume listing all of your skills and accomplishments. As you get ready to apply for internships and/or jobs, you will want to read over the qualifications of the position you are applying for and make sure your resume and cover letter are targeted to the specific position and organization.
- Develop a Professional Network
Reach out to people you know as well as alumni from your college for the purpose of discussing their individual career path, how they got to where they are today, and for recommendations on how you might break into the industry yourself.
- Conduct Informational Interviews
Contact friends, family, previous employers, alumni from your college to set up a 20 or 30 informational interview session over the phone. If they are nearby, you may ask to meet them for coffee or do a face-to-face interview at their office or organization. Job shadowing is a great way to learn more about a career field of interest by spending time with someone curently working in the field.
- Find an Internship
Professional networking and informational interviews are a great way to learn more about careers and potential career options. You may also be lucky and find internships available through your network.
Three Strategies for Finding an Internship:
- Checking out online databases for potential internships in your area of interest and location.
- Prospecting for employers offering internships in your career field of interest.
There are numerous volunteer organizations available. You can find one either at your college or in your college community or when you are home during break or over the summer.
- Participate in a Club and/or Sports Activity on Campus
There are usually numerous clubs that you can join on campus, find one and offer your services and take part in meetings that will help you to develop additional transferable skills that will make you a valuable asset in the job market. Taking on leadership roles on campus is something employers love to see on a resume.
- Get to Know Your Faculty
Assisting faculty in class or participating in some collaborative research will help you develop professional working relationships with faculty members at your campus. Not only will you learn a whole lot about what they do, you will also create the potential of getting some strong recommendations for future jobs or graduate programs you may be applying to.