The new school year is here – and for college students focused on re-acclimating to campus life, and re-engaging with their academic course-load, it’s easy to lose sight of their long-term professional goals. However, whether you’re a freshman or senior, the fall semester is a key time to position yourself to launch your career, and to land the summer internship or full-time job you want.
Here’s our Early Stage Careers To-Do checklist to make the most of the new college semester and year, whether you are a freshman or senior, to jumpstart that career path and refine your strategies to get hired:
Acquire skills that align with employers’ needs. Start to look for opportunities to acquire skills that employers are seeking today: problem resolution, collaboration; critical thinking; technical abilities (e.g. Microsoft excel, social media), and more. These can be accomplished via classwork, organization involvement, extracurricular activities, work and more.
Fully populate and/or update your LinkedIn profile. This is the largest professional network in the world; students should be able to be found here as early in their college years as possible. Fully complete your profile which is your virtual resume, and include a professional, approachable photo. And be sure to update and refine your profile periodically when you have additional new skills and experience.
Join clubs, volunteer, take on leadership roles. Join and do activities that interest you. These could be deepening your high school passions, or pursuing new interests that provoke curiosity. Look into joining a fraternity or sorority. While some students are not taken with Greek life, the inclusive community can be helpful in providing belongingness, and often can offer connecting opportunities for internships or first jobs via alumni. Look to take on increasing responsibility in leadership positions as you progress throughout college and your commitment deepens.
Take courses of value and substance; and achieve good grades. A strong GPA is expected as an initial requisite for internships (especially for students who lack experience). Challenge yourself, and broaden your horizon beyond required courses. Use coursework to acquire skills employers will find meaningful, and that you can use in internships and in jobs.
Attend information sessions to learn about internships and full time jobs. Attend on campus industry and recruiting events; often they are for internships, apprenticeships and full time jobs. By discovering career options and opportunities earlier in your college years, and learning what may be required to succeed, you can plan a clear path to getting hired. Follow up with real connections you make; use your networking skills to get your name and resume to the right people for future opportunities.
Build and leverage your network, by connecting more deeply with professors and mentors. Ask if you can assist them in their projects or practicums, demonstrating interest in their field; allowing you to build skills and experience employers may find appealing. Set up virtual or phone meetings (outside of social media) with alumni and key influencers to further build your network, learn about careers and trajectories, and put yourself in the running for meaningful internships and prospective entry level jobs.
Seek out practical experiences; through internships, virtual or local, or experiential opportunities. Make sure you have enough experience to appeal to prospective employers –get involved in meaningful activities on campus, work part time, take on an active role in an extracurricular, and build proficient office skills. Make use of school breaks; check in with your Career Services jobs website to learn when and how internships are posted.
Become a learning lover; build your curiosity. Not merely of academics, but current and business events, societal and global trends. Curiosity is one of the most important traits employers seek today. Read industry journals, articles and blogs. Develop opinions and knowledge.
Explore and refine majors. Explore majors early. Many have requirements that start as soon as freshman or sophomore year, and some are prerequisites for summer internships. Understand early on what courses are required; and make sure you are up to their challenge. Ask key questions: how difficult is it to get into these classes; will they preclude you from taking other interesting classes or studying abroad your junior year (if that is of interest)? To what career fields can the majors you are pondering lead you?
Start to learn about and assess ‘right fit’ potential career options. Oftentimes students do not understand the implications of the intersection of their personal interests; behavioral, cognitive and emotional assets; and the real world career opportunities these afford. Consider taking a professional assessment with a certified specialist who can administer a Fortune 500 tool, generate key reports and analysis, and tie the results to real jobs in career fields applicable today. Then research different fields, industries and job positions to learn where you can best thrive and contribute.
By mastering these important tasks, students can make the most of their college semester and year; with the goal of maximizing career opportunities for themselves along the way and upon graduation.