College is the place where you begin to solidify ideas about your future career; who you are, what subjects you’re sincerely interested in learning, the kinds of people you mesh well with, and the list goes on. What you probably don’t realize during this pivotal stage in life is that your career is already being shaped now. Do you have a good relationship with your professors, or one at all? Are you a member of an association or club? Do you contribute to society? These are all factors that will determine whether or not you’ll land the ideal job after graduating. In order to help you get on the right track now, here are some ideas to consider:
Get to Know Your Profs
It’s important to develop a good relationship with a handful of professors. Many individuals attend classes with graduation constantly in mind, just hoping to land a steady income afterwards. What they don’t realize is that their career lives are already beginning to take form. The people you meet in college make an excellent academic network. Your professors are great references. The ones that know you better will invest more time in writing an excellent letter of recommendation for you. Also, since they’re hired to be experts in their fields, they know many people in high places where you might apply for work after graduation. Also, many professors hire on standout students as TA’s or Research assistants – experiences that look great on your resume.
Get to Know Your Classmates
Many of today’s top companies such as Facebook and Google began in college. Frederick W. Smith wrote a term paper on the idea of an overnight delivery service (FedEx) while he was attending Yale University. Napster was the brainchild of Northeastern student Shawn Fanning who simply wanted to exchange music with friends. You never know who will become the founder of a next multi-million dollar business. It might even be you, so make good use of assignments and projects as possible business ideas. Collaborate with classmates on group projects, and take on proactive roles.
College is also the perfect place and time to get a social network account through sites like LinkedIn and Google Circles. Get your classmates to endorse you on LinkedIn, especially if you’ve collaborated on projects. If you’ve already graduated, locate other alumni on LinkedIn and get connected. Returning the favor by endorsing others will do a lot for you as well.
Join Clubs and Associations
You’ll quickly realize the plethora of campus clubs and associations to choose from. Seek out co-curricular clubs that align with your field, such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Economics and Finance Society, Marketing Club, Psychology Club, and more. Although club membership usually requires extra time and effort, it is a great way to build your professional profile and network with others in your field of interest. Membership, active involvement, and especially leadership are all great on your resume. This is also a great way to make friends and socialize, so you have nothing to lose.
Do Valuable Volunteer Work
What most people don’t know is that many employers will actually scan your resume for meaningful volunteer experiences. This CNN article mentions that “some volunteer experience at well-known organizations can instantly signal your ability to follow through on a challenging goal.” Joining a club or association is a great way to get started, as many of them engage in group volunteer works. The best kind of volunteering you can do is one that directly aligns with your field. For example, if you're a medical or psychology student, seek out opportunities at clinics or hospitals. If you’re in education, strive to make yourself available at schools and libraries. If you’re in social work, many government agencies and nonprofit organizations gladly accept volunteers. Check out your city’s website, and this government site also lists a collection of opportunities by state.
Once an opportunity is secured, build quality relationships with the people around you and really invest in the mission of the organization. Your time and effort will be remembered, so strive to build a strong network of quality references.
Join the Alumni Association
Most importantly, don’t forget to join the alumni association once you graduate. Whether you’re in your first job or settling into a career, reconnecting with old classmates is as easy as joining an online forum. You never know when you might pick up a tip that old classmate’s firm is now hiring for a job you might be interested in. Not only are you now aware, but you also have an inside reference. Also, many college websites provide their alumni with access to exclusive job databases.
Whether you’ve just started or are near graduating – college is the perfect time to get a jumpstart on your career.
Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti is a leading thought leader on career development. She is the author of ten books, a regular media contributor, and global speaker. She is a key advisor for recruiting and outplacement firms. Her most recent book is Women Lead: Career Perspectives from Workplace Leaders. Tracey has recently served as a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Media X program, researching the impact of technology on future careers. Find Tracey on Twitter and Facebook.