Education for its own sake is admirable. It can expand your worldview, enhance your perspective, and sharpen your mind. It can even make you a happier, more content person.
But will it land you a job?
As important as the college experience can be to developing skills necessary to kick off a successful career, an impressive GPA just isn’t enough to get you hired. You need experience – practical experience.
You want to get more out of your time at school than a diploma and a massive hangover.
Network to make those personal connections.
Experienced career-climbers aren’t lying when they say, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While I like to think that I’m an awesome and qualified person, the reality is that it doesn’t matter if others don’t know that you are. So many of the jobs I’ve gotten over the years have been due to a personal connection. Someone was willing to step up for me and tell their own peeps that I am awesome.
I wasn’t born knowing all the right people – I developed those ties over the years. I networked through my student newspaper, which brought in alumni to talk about their careers. When older students graduated, they became a new lifeline that we could use to find jobs.
That same wisdom applies to professors, who may have been leaders in their field at one time. A few friends of mine got their first jobs out of college because a professor recommended them to former colleagues.
Talk to career services.
Most colleges have a career services department designed to help you find internships and secure employment. Some have email lists where they send out potential opportunities. Others can sit with you personally to determine the best path.
Remember, these people are typically very busy. They have an obligation to help, but you may need to prod them a bit to find the opportunities you’re looking for.
Don’t give up. Be persistent. Career services have an interest in helping you receive placement, so they’ll be a good resource.
Get resume and interview help.
While you’re at career services, check in and get a little resume and interview help. Most schools offer these services and you should take advantage of them. Your fees pay for it anyway.
A poor resume can doom your chances at finding a job, even if you have great credentials. Shaky interview skills will do the same – even if your resume is a work of art. As someone who’s hired interns and conducted interviews, I’ve seen how a stand-out candidate can lose all validity over the course of an interview.
Learning great interview skills in college is more important than acing your econ final, so work hard to develop that skill. You can also practice with your friends and use common interview questions as your guide.
Shop your resume around and gather feedback from as many people as possible. You never know who might catch the one typo you missed.
I’m not sure where I would be in my career if it weren’t for all the internships I had during college. Internships are part of the journalism culture, but they’re available in almost any discipline. Some are paid, but many are done just for college credit.
While it sucks to work for free, don’t let that discourage you. Consider it an investment in your future career. Just a week ago, I was talking to a prospective client about a summer internship I had. Coincidentally, he had been one of the top editors when I was there. That common ground proved my credibility, even though it’s been six years since the internship concluded.
You can find internship listings online, but it never hurts to talk to a company that you admire. Even if they don’t have a formal internship program, they may be willing to make an exception for a passionate young professional.
College isn’t just about book learning and boozing it up on the weekends. It’s also about developing practical skills and connections that can help you with a solid start in life.