There’s never a better time than college to market yourself and get a head-start with employers. Why? Because a college graduate will never find such a rich mix of professional talent and opportunities throughout their career again.
A head-start can mean the difference between landing your dream job and spending months (or years!) after graduation looking for the right job. It all depends on how well you brand yourself. But how do you do that to get the best results possible?
You are your sales pitch. That is, you’re selling yourself. Work on developing this skill before you have your degree in hand, and you’re wading through the trial and error period with actual interviews.
Developing valuable skills before you graduate will give your resume an edge over your competitors. When you start to feel the responsibilities of adulthood, this may also help to fuel your cause. Use that determination to your advantage.
Start With Classes & Clubs
In college, the connections you need are closer than you think. There are many people just like you trying to make a name for themselves by making relevant professional connections.
Opportunities are in virtually every class you take – from classmates to professors. Gather information about other students, and your instructors. Introduce yourself.
Get involved in clubs and societies that are likely to attract professionals that are gatekeepers to the opportunities you need. Do more than just attend meetings. Be an active member. Leave a good impression.
Master a Skill
If you’ve taken a class that sparked your interest in a specialization you would love to pursue, build on that. Research it. Find practice sheets and worksheets in your textbooks or online. Turn that interest into a skill.
Experience is everything. Employers are looking for candidates with experience, and the more you practice, the more opportunities you have to develop a portfolio that proves it.
Depending on your personality, this may be the easiest or hardest recommendation to follow, but it’s definitely the most important one. For this reason, we’ll spend a bit more time on this.
If you’re an introvert or generally shy away from interaction, take heart. Practice makes perfect. Push yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and strike up conversations with complete strangers. The connections you make will be well worth it.
Here are some networking tips to get you started.
- Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues and classmates if they know someone who could help you further your career. The worst you can hear is “no”. The best thing about Ground Zero of the networking scale is that you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
- Look for business mixers for professionals in your field and attend them, even if you end up going by yourself and don’t know anyone. Talk to the people around you. Professionals will appreciate your efforts and will likely remember you as a go-getter when an opportunity arises that you would be suitable for.
- Print some business cards, and share them every chance you get. It’s one of the most traditional and easiest ways to share your contact information with others. Collect some from other professionals as well, and reach out to them after you leave. People will appreciate the fact that you took the time to email or call.
Building a successful career requires you to propel yourself forward through skill and creativity. Your career is waiting at the end of your comfort zone.
About the Author
Shandean Williams-Reid is a freelance Business Analyst from Kingston, Jamaica. She is passionate about reading, family life and her adventures as a new mom. She’s recently started blogging. Catch her on Instagram and Twitter.
This post is the second January submission for the Monthly College Mate Writing Contest.