College can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. Many students embrace the newfound freedom, social life, and the challenges of academic endeavors.
However, few students understand how quickly the college experience will turn into a job hunt. Many students regret not using the college years to build the credentials needed for career success.
Here is a guide to making the most of college and to being poised to launch a career after graduation.
1. Get involved.
Club participation is an essential element of college. Not only will you make new friends, but social, student government, and professional campus organizations will enable you to build resume-friendly leadership and organizational skills. Most universities and academic departments have club fairs and information sessions early each semester. Seek out both “fun” clubs and clubs relevant to your discipline or interest area.
2. Get a job.
Financial need requires most college students to seek employment to help finance their education and expenses. Work/study on campus or outside employment during college is a great way to show future employers you are responsible. These contacts will also become great references for future professional opportunities.
3. Get to know your professors.
Participate in class, and visit them during office hours. Regardless of your major or the courses you take, professors want to help you succeed. Students who show intellectual curiosity and an eagerness to learn will gain the respect of their professors. Plus, many professors have had careers and have connections outside of academia. Take advantage of these underutilized professional resources.
4. Good grades matter, but don’t focus on your G.P.A.
Always attack school work as if you are presenting it to a CEO, not just your professor. Classroom experiences and projects are excellent professional portfolio materials. Save writing samples, plans, online projects, and presentations to show employers that you have skills applicable to your profession.
Most employers will not hire an entry-level employee who has not interned. Take advantage of department and university internship programs, career center training, and job fairs. Many star students who intern get hired by their host company upon graduation.
College is a challenging time of personal exploration and growth. Setting goals and pursuing an action plan beyond academics is essential to achieving professional success after you earn your diploma.
Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior-level positions at Ogilvy Public Relations and Weber Shandwick.
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