Okay, so you’ve just started college. If you’re like most kids, you’re probably hearing questions like, “What’s your major? Do you know what you want to do after college?” Whatever you end up choosing as your primary focus of study, you’ll be competing in a workforce against millions of other students with the same degree as you.
So what sets you apart? As you progress through your college career, you should do more than complete all your homework assignments if you want to stand out to employers. Actually, the vast majority of business professionals I’ve spoken with say that they were never asked about their GPA during an interview process. In my opinion, it’s more about what you do outside the classroom that separates you from all the other college grads.
Here are 5 things to do during collegeto make yourself stand out to employers:
You’ll hear the word “internship” throughout college more times than I have time to write down. The term internship alludes to the idea that the work you’re doing is aligned with your field of study. Are you undeclared? Then choose a job that has something to do with the classes you are taking. That way you’ll know for sure if you’re actually interested in the course topic. What better way to test your interest level on a course topic than to implement that knowledge first hand?
I was a social media intern at a company that printed t-shirts for various Vermont-based clients such as UVM, Champlain College, J-Skis, and Jerry of the Day. I haven’t taken any college art or design courses, but the product of the business didn’t matter. For me, it was about gaining experience in managing the online presence of a brand – something that I was learning about in my classes.
Both schools and companies nowadays are increasing their efforts to give students a taste of the “real world” before they graduate. It’s a great way for schools to showcase their educational effects and improvement of the workforce. Many full-time positions begin with a preliminary internship period, so it’s better to have that not be your first rodeo.
The bottom line is that having “real world” work experience is attractive to first time employers seeking college grads. Don’t ignore all the resources that colleges offer at your disposal. Hop on your computer and start searching for opportunities to get a head start on your professional career.
It’s very easy to tell yourself you’re going to study abroad, and then end up getting “so caught up” in the swing of things in the homeland that you forgot to follow through. The fact of the matter is: studying abroad could very well be the best decision you ever made.
It exposes you to a whole new world of opportunity outside of the one you already know about. A student who previously attended my school went abroad, interned at a company, incorporated them into his senior capstone project, and now he’s working there full-time.
Just like internship programs, colleges and universities around the world are making a push toward sending their students abroad in order to release globally competent individuals into the workforce. Take advantage of the resources they provide you because there won’t be a better chance after your senior year.
Build your professional network
“It’s all about who you know” – you’ve heard that before. It’s a popular saying because it’s true. When you increase your connections, you increase the chances of finding opportunity (Linkedin is a great way to do this).
Reach out to graduates who are now working and ask them for advice. Go to different networking events or meet up with the manager of a local company you like. Don’t worry about acting like a perfect businessperson when talking to someone more seasoned – they know you’re a student. Just be cool, explain where you’re at, what your goals are, and ask them questions about what they do. Don’t forget a grab a business card and/or follow up afterwards if you’re interested in keeping that connection.
While your experience and performance outside the classroom are what set you apart from other college grads, you still need to be able to maintain your grades. After all, your school doesn’t provide any of its resources to students who don’t pass their classes. I got a healthy dose of this insight last year when I dedicated too much time to leisure and my grades suffered.
Some people do their homework the moment it is assigned, while others wait until the last minute. Don’t fall into the latter category and do your best to keep a consistent work schedule. Oh, and don’t shy away from designating catch-up work for the weekends. You’d be surprised at how much you can get done if you dedicate an entire Saturday to work.
Strengthen your online presence
Online plays a larger role today than it ever has. That trend isn’t going anywhere, so establishing a strong digital identity that represents your professional self is key. Delete those Facebook pictures from your first time drinking in high school. Start tweeting worthwhile articles, or writing Linkedin articles. Write thoughtful comments on notable blogs, or put together an online portfolio of project you’ve done for businesses or in class.
These 5 things to keep in mind all go along with one another. A strong online presence can help build your professional network, which can help you land an internship. On the flip side, interning at a company will help further expand your network while contributing to your online presence. It’s an ongoing cycle – as long as you stay on top of it (time management).
If you still don’t know what you want to do after all your time in school, that’s okay! You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do after college in order to take advantage of opportunities – all you have to do is recognize them. I’m graduating as a digital marketing major and am interested in working for an agency, but hell I could end up somewhere completely different in 10 years.