The four years spent in college come and go in a flash. It starts off with the buzz and hype of freshman year, where your excitement to meet new people, attend on campus events, get involved in clubs, and live the full college experience is at an all time high. You set several goals for yourself and swear to be ambitious and go beyond your comfort zone because you're only in undergrad once, right? By the time you know it the 4 best years of your life will be over and then you have to enter the real world.
So, the question is: Do you have what is takes to land your dream career? Sure, having a good GPA is important, however, what many college students don't know is that there are several other things you can do in order to increase your chances of landing a great job post-graduation.
After speaking to some recent graduates and professionals in various fields (because, who am I to solely talk on this topic since I haven't graduated yet...), I have compiled a list of things they "wish [they] knew in college," which might be helpful to some current college students.
1. GET AN INTERNSHIP
This cannot be emphasized enough. Internships are crucial to landing a job in today's job market. An increasing number of employers are choosing entry-level employees from their pool of interns, meaning if you did not intern with them, you might not even be included in the initial scan of potential candidates. Recruiters are not only looking for recent-graduates, but search for interns as early as juniors in college. Besides being a great addition to your resume and a confidence booster, internships give you first-hand experience into what it's like to work for a company or industry of your interest (especially if you are unsure exactly what career you want to go into), they give you a glimpse of what it's like to work a full-time job, and they allow you the opportunity to network- which is extremely important and will be discussed in the next point. Start seeking out internships early! Visit your school's career center, or Google, to seek out potential internships employers have to offer. The experience is invaluable, whether the internship is paid or not. (Read more about my summer internship in D.C.)
2. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
I learned the importance of building and maintaining networks quite early in my college career, and I can attest to how beneficial it is. 'Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, your uniqueness, what you stand for,' Christine Lynch. In addition to marketing yourself, to network is to build relationships and contacts. It's not simply enough to have a ton of business cards in your wallet from a career expo you attended, and claim to have "grown your network."
Maintaining good networks is important. The fact is, you never know who might be able to help you. Especially job/internship seekers, having networks could lead to references, referrals, job leads and much more. It's never too early or too late to start building your network. Some people are natural "networkers" whilst others need a little more practice. In both cases, the more you network, the better. So meet new people, collect contact information in addition to giving out yours, and consciously make the effort to maintain the networks you have built.
3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES TO GO ABROAD
Whether it be a study abroad opportunity, student exchange program, Alternative breaks, or an internship abroad-if there is an opportunity for you to go abroad-take it! Not only is it a chance for you to step out your comfort zone, it is an experience that will open up your eyes to the rest of the world. You will build your network, learn about different cultures and regions, and immerse yourself in environments that will lead to your growth. I studied abroad in Paris & Berlin in March of this year and it is so hard to even briefly describe what an eye-opening and monumental experience it was for me. Out-of-country experiences differentiate you from the average Joe in the job market, so take advantage of your school's international opportunities.
4. LEARN ESSENTIAL SKILLS THAT EMPLOYERS ACTUALLY LOOK FOR
A survey from PayScale, a compensation data firm, found that even though nine in 10 recent college grads believe they're prepared for the workforce, only half the nation's employers actually agree.
It's sad, but employers don't think college graduates are ready for the workplace. Taking the time during your college career to find out what essential skills employers look for when choosing entry-level job candidates could help you be better suited to land a job in your dream career and be prepared for the workplace. Things like knowing how to analyze data, knowing your way around Microsoft Excel, being able to give presentations or having a particular certification apart from your college degree are some examples of skills that employers might look for. Do research on your particular field of interest or potential employers and start working on those skills before you graduate, making yourself even more marketable as a job seeker.
So, as opposed to starting off college on a high note and ending on a low when you realize you are not ready for the real world, use some of these tips to help you end on a high note too. It is never too early to start working on making yourself prepared for today's job market. Make your college degree worth something. Take some time to self-reflect and think "Am I prepared to land a job after I graduate?" If the answer is YES, then GO YOU! If your answer is NO, pull up your socks and let's get going. Make a checklist with these points and mark them off once they are done. You might not get to completing all of them, but completing some will already make you one notch higher in job-readiness.
You are more than capable of reaching your full potential as a college student and entry-level job candidate- it just takes going above and beyond the classroom. I believe that each of us has the potential to land a career in a field we're passionate about and one we will be content in.
"Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential."
If this post was helpful, share it with your fellow college students, or a college student that you know!