I am not one who looks back at the past and wish I could do things over. I believe that we learn from every experience, and from these experiences there are chances to grow. However, for the sake of helping college students to get ahead I will discuss some things that I would do differently that could have made a big difference in my career. Being in career services for the past three years I see firsthand some of the mistakes that college students make, which impacts their chances of obtaining employment in their field of study.
Don’t Just Focus On Your Grades
During my college years I practically lived in the library studying at least 5-6 hours a day. I was consumed with doing well in my classes and completing my degree. I was under the impression that if I completed my degree, I was guaranteed to get a good high paying job. This message is prevalent in the U.S.; go to college get a good job. I really didn’t focus on much else other than getting good grades. While getting good grades and completing your degree should be your main focus, you should also take time to get to know more about yourself as well.
Gain New Experiences
I changed my major 4 times during my undergraduate years. I took classes and thought “I can’t see myself doing something like this for the next 40 years” and I would change my major. I saw that I really enjoyed the classes that focused on reading and memorization. I realized I wanted to teach and that I I had a passion for helping others, but I didn’t know what type of environment I would use these skills. If I had focused on gaining new experiences I would have had a better idea on what direction to pursue. I recommend volunteering to work on projects that you are interested in. Secure an internship, or travel on occasion if possible. The more you do things you have never done and get out of your comfort zone the more you will find out the things you like and don’t like. These experiences give you hands on experience that being in a classroom can’t provide.
Meet New People
I was so focused on school that I never took the time to meet new people. I had the luxury of rooming with my best friend from high school. Along with a few other friends, I pretty much stuck to one crowd. There is nothing wrong with having a small group of close knit friends, but you should be open to meeting acquaintances as well. One of the keys to finding employment is building relationships with people. You never know who you will meet while in college. Lifelong relationships are built on college campuses. Even if you are not building relationships with people who will be your best friend, it’s a good idea to be active on campus to form relationships. These relationships can lead to opportunities in the future. Some I went to college with actually obtained permanent jobs on campus due to the relationships that were formed and by being active on campus.
Utilize Career Services
Often time’s prospective students don’t pay as much attention to the career centers when choosing a college to attend. Most students are more concerned with housing, the programs of study, and even the opposite sex when deciding on a college. One of the main focuses should be on the placement rates and opportunities afforded by the career center on campus. When I was in college I did not even know we had a career services department on campus, I didn’t realize this until after graduation. They are in place to help you with opportunities to gain valuable experience that will lead to a career, so make them do their job. Many public universities take the approach of letting their students reach out to them for assistance. They have career fairs, employer spotlights, and many other resources to help students prepare for their career, but they are usually not a part of orientation. With all the focus on coursework you can easily look over valuable resources that can help you. Many college career centers expect you to take the initiative to utilize the services, if you don’t take advantage of the resources that are available, you can come to regret it after you graduate. Even after graduation it would be wise to reach out to career services for help.
Get Practical Experience While In School
If you wait until after you graduate to start thinking about getting practical related experience on your resume you are behind. Working in career services, I work with graduates that come to me for help in order to get entry-level jobs with no related experience on their resume other than their education. Your degree will make you more marketable but it is not a magic key that will all of a sudden open up the store for job openings. The employers that I work with want to see practical experience on your resume as well. This does not mean that you need to have 5-10 years of experience on your resume at graduation. However, they do like to see recent grads that were active and showed passion for the field outside of the classroom. Internships, volunteer experience, involvement with professional organizations, student groups, freelance work, and working on personal projects, all look good on your resume and count as practical experience even if you were not paid for it. Many colleges offer academic internships where you can experience an internship and actually get credit for it. It is easier to do an internship while you are still in college as opposed to when you have a full-time job, have bills to pay, and many more obligations that require your time. Sometimes students are even eligible for entry-level and comparable positions that they are unaware of when they are close to the end of their college career. Utilize the career services department to find out about opportunities like this. Getting this experience may require a lot of sacrifice on your part as you juggle studying and your class workload, but it will definitely pay off when you land your first job in your field of study.
Save Money for Future Endeavors
I remember eating Ramen Noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while staying on campus, so much so that I can’t stand to even see a package of Ramen Noodles. As a college student money is very hard to come by, but try and save money as much as you can. I can remember blowing money on things that I thought was important at the time, and when I look back I wish I had the money back. In general being fiscally responsible is a good practice and it will help you in the long run. Depending on the field you want to enter you may want to obtain certifications which can be very expensive having some money put a side to invest in your career can prove to be critical. You may have aspirations of starting your own business and without some extra funds it will be difficult to get things going.
College should not just be a time of learning and studying, it should also be a time where you experience new things outside of the classroom, find out what you are passionate about, and meet new people. Yes you want to make sure that you are focusing on completing your degree, but you should also make time to have fun, gain practical experience, and get out of your comfort zone. If you have other tips for college students that may benefit them in the future please share in the comments.
Thanks for reading my post! I am the owner of Career SkyRocket LLC a professional resume writing and career coaching service. I have also been published on CAREEREALISM as well. Follow my blog Career Thoughts. Let’s Connect! Follow me on Twitter, visit my Facebook page, or connect with me here on LinkedIn.