Your career really begins even before you walk across the stage to accept your diploma. Start now, while you’re still a college student, and you’ll improve your chances of getting that first job—and save yourself a lot of anguish during your last semester on campus.
Take advantage of campus resources. If you haven’t discovered your campus career services office—or if you haven’t used it as much as you should have—get over there now. The free expertise you’ll find in preparing a resume, practicing job interviews, finding internship and job opportunities and generally finding great advice would cost you big bucks in the real world. You can find help for many other concerns you have, too, including courses or counseling about personal finance and handling the stress and uncertainty that can hit closer
Intern and work. Perhaps you’ve already completed an internship or had a summer or campus job. Now is the time to step it up: Keep looking for opportunities to add to your skill set, experiences and references. Search for internships online at indianaintern.net, visit your campus career office and ask professors for ideas. Even if you are not currently working in an internship, remember that any work experience can be parlayed into excellent, resume-building career skills. Focus on what you are learning and accomplishing in any part-time job situation, such as working as part of a team, meeting sales goals or providing customer service. And don’t forget to ask for a reference from the boss.
Network. Networking is easy for college students because many people—alumni from your college, family friends and professional organizations—want to help you. When you meet professionals, make it clear that you value the information and advice they can share. On campus, you can network with professionals at job fairs, conferences and alumni events or through volunteer work with campus chapters of national organizations like the CPA Society or the Society of Professional Journalists. Off campus, try to set up meetings during holiday and spring and summer breaks with professionals in your target industry. When you’ve met someone, follow up with a short email or note and make it a point to stay in touch.
- Don’t over-share on social media, even if you have privacy controls on. Word travels fast—anything you share is likely to travel back to colleagues, bosses, and other people in your network.
- Engage your network in meaningful ways. Blog, post articles, and engage in LinkedIn group discussions to create and promote your personal brand. Make certain your LinkedIn profile is geared toward your target audience and has a title and summary that will entice readers to want to know more about you.
- Social media should be a tool to enhance and supplement personal networking. It cannot replace the human connection. Use social media to research your network, make initial contacts, and stay in touch, Erwin says.
Make social media meaningful. Social media can aid your job search and career if used correctly, according to Erin Erwin, senior associate director of career and professional development at Indiana University Alumni Association. Her tips to keep social media in your corner:
Build a better resume. As a college student, you may not have career experience, so it’s smart to highlight what you do have. Study job ads on CareerBuilder or Monster.com and look to see what employers are looking for in your target industry. What experiences do you have from internships, part-time jobs or campus activities that have given you those skills that employers want? Lead off your resume with a summary of your qualifications that reflect your abilities and those most in demand. For best results, work with your campus career office to create a new resume, or fine-tune your current one.