College can provide you with many opportunities to help start your professional career. During this time, it's important to focus on your career aspirations, plan for the future and consider any suggestions that can help propel your advancement in your chosen field. Doing this can help you better prepare and ensure you're ready for any professional opportunities post-graduation. In this article, we outline the importance of heeding career advice as a college student and provide you with 14 tips to help you prepare for your professional development.
Why is career advice important for college students?
Though college is a great opportunity to learn life skills, it's also a time when you're surrounded by several resources and individuals ready to help you advance in your field. As a college student, taking career advice in particular can help you feel more equipped upon graduation. It can also help you become more confident in your skills and ensure you've chosen the right field as well as guide you toward making helpful career decisions.
Career advice for college students
As you continue your college education, it's important to consider suggestions that can help you grow personally and professionally. Here are 14 tips to help you prepare for your future career while you're in college:
- Seek internship opportunities.
- Consider taking part in a work-study program.
- Grow your skills and knowledge.
- Get an early start.
- Keep your skills up-to-date.
- Stay focused.
- Find a balance with your personal life.
- Pursue your passion.
- Strive for excellence and stay motivated.
- Use your school's career services.
- Build your network.
- Actively seek opportunities.
- Create opportunities.
- Find companies on social media.
1. Seek internship opportunities
Internships are a great way to gain valuable, hands-on experience in your field. For your internship to be beneficial, it must apply to your career aspirations. For example, if you're interested in becoming a veterinarian, it may be beneficial to work at a kennel or animal shelter where you can learn proper animal care and handling.
There are a variety of internships available, including those at local businesses to larger corporations. Here are some ways to find an internship during college:
Ask your professors, classmates, family, friends and academic advisors if they know of any opportunities you'd be interested in. You can also contact your college's alumni to gain insightful information regarding internships you can pursue to start your entry-level career.
Attend career or internship fairs
Many companies use career fairs to recruit and hire candidates. These events are a great way to get face-to-face with prospective employers.
Do some internet research
Many companies post internship openings on internship or career websites. You can also check company websites for relevant opportunities.
Find a company that you'd be interested in interning for and contact their human resources department. They can let you know if they're seeking interns and what the qualifications are.
Related: Definitive Guide to Internships
2. Consider taking part in a work-study program
Outside of internship opportunities, you can also take part in a work-study program offered by federally accredited colleges and universities for students with financial needs. These programs provide you with a part-time job during your undergraduate or graduate studies. Essentially, you can earn money to use toward your educational expenses. These programs are also great opportunities to gain community service experience and knowledge in your field, as they promote work related to your course of study.
3. Grow your skills and knowledge
Employers want to hire candidates with a wide range of skills. Use your college years to expand your skills and overall knowledge. Consider elective courses relevant to your career aspirations. For example, if you're a photographer, taking an art class can help you expand your creativity. If your school doesn't offer classes in the skill you're hoping to grow, consider investing in relevant software.
4. Get an early start
To ensure you get the most out of your career, start looking for opportunities before you graduate. Find jobs relevant to your major. For example, if you're interested in becoming a graphic designer, consider working for a design agency. This opportunity can help you understand what daily life is like for fellow designers and help you better understand the industry. Similarly, if you're an art major, consider working for a local gallery to gain knowledge about the art industry. The sooner you look for opportunities, the greater chance you have of getting a job.
5. Keep your skills up-to-date
When you apply for a job or internship, you'll likely be competing with other candidates. Because of this, it's important to keep your skills current regardless of your industry. This means staying up-to-date with various technology and industry trends to help you gain an advantage over other candidates and make you stand out to hiring managers. Stay current by doing online research, reading professional journals or visiting your school's library.
6. Stay focused
It's important to stay focused on your career goals and aspirations. Let your experiences teach, guide and propel your future path. Your mistakes can provide you with valuable experience and knowledge in facing similar situations later on.
If you find yourself in a discouraging situation such as an unsatisfying job or a strict manager, focus on the positives. Know that these experiences can shape you to become a stronger-working professional in your field.
7. Find a balance with your personal life
As you begin your career, remember to find a healthy work-life or school-life balance. Spend time relaxing away from your career or schooling by pursuing a hobby, spending time with family and friends, traveling or getting out of your comfort zone. Though it's important to focus on your studies in college, it's important to leave time for the little things in your life, too. This can help you be happier overall and get you in the habit of continuing a healthy work-life balance throughout your future career.
8. Pursue your passion
The easiest way to find happiness in your career is to determine what you love doing. For example, if you enjoy woodworking or metalworking, consider becoming an engineer. This ensures you're doing something that makes you happy every day and will help your job feel less like work and more like fun. Following your dreams can also help increase your productivity because you'll likely be more excited about going back to work. This advice is crucial as you advance in your career because it ensures you stay encouraged and driven to be the best you can be in your industry.
9. Strive for excellence and stay motivated
Whether you're in your first job or an internship, it's important to aspire to be the best you can be. Recognize your own mistakes and believe in yourself and your abilities. This can help you stay vigilant in pursuing your dreams and give you the ability to advance in your career. Ultimately, striving for excellence can help you find success.
10. Use your school's career services
Before you graduate, take advantage of your school's career services to help you jump-start your career. This campus resource can provide you with a wealth of information, from crafting a resume to getting a job. Your school's career services can also put you in touch with alumni in your field. Your tuition also pays for these services.
11. Build your network
Throughout your collegiate career, it's important to engage with your school's faculty, recent graduates and other valuable contacts in your field. Networking is a great way to gain insight from other working professionals who have gone through the same process. The contacts you make can also serve as references later on or inform you of valuable opportunities in your field. Here are common ways to network:
Reach out to your school's faculty and staff
To best engage with your professors, be an active participant in the classroom. Ask questions, sit in the front of the classroom and attend office hours to help foster a positive and professional relationship you can build on. This is especially important if your professor teaches a course relevant to your career choice. For example, professors can put you in touch with their colleagues or former students who can provide you with valuable advice for your career. When they do this, it also serves as a recommendation and endorsement from your professor. Also, connecting with your school's faculty and staff can lead to a reference letter from them later on.
Contact recent graduates
Connecting with professionals who are just a few years into their career can help you gain insight regarding what you can expect during your job search. They can provide you with tips and strategies to consider and may even put you in touch with recruiters at their own company or other organizations.
Engage in online networking
Social media networking platforms are a great way to keep in touch with others in your field. Keep your profile up-to-date, use these social media platforms to contact alumni in your industry and join online networking groups where you can gain and share advice.
Attend networking events
Some colleges or towns offer networking events such as job fairs that can put you in touch with various professionals in your field. Attend as many events as you can to grow your network and learn important information. Wear business casual attire to dress the part and be sure to bring printed copies of your resume to share with company recruiters.
12. Actively seek opportunities
Throughout your college career, there are several ways to gain experience such as internships, jobs or volunteer opportunities. These are great ways to develop your skillset in your chosen field. Proactively seek opportunities that can benefit your future career, and use them to help you advance in a competitive workforce.
13. Create opportunities
Outside of seeking traditional opportunities, consider creating your own. For example, you can create a blog, a photography business or an online course that can help you gain experience and skills relevant to your field. These opportunities can also improve your soft skills, such as leadership skills or communication skills, which are beneficial in several industries.
14. Find companies on social media
Connecting with companies you're interested in via social media provides you with several benefits. Not only can it alert you to future job opportunities, but it can also help you better understand the company's culture and display your interest in working for them.