From the first day of freshman year, eager college students choose their classes, major and more in anticipation of their final goal – graduation. But many students don’t look past the commencement ceremony to see the real world, which is not defined by term papers and final exams.
To make their college experience count, students need to focus not only on earning their diploma, but also setting the stage for a career when they transition from student to alumni. Here are five ways to make the most of this unique time:
College may be your main focus now, but there is life (and lots of it) post-college to plan for. Enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime college experience but make sure you devote time and energy into professional organizations and activities that will serve you long after your days on campus.
Build your resume
Just because you’re bogged down with a full course load doesn’t mean that you can’t start investing time into opportunities that will build out your resume. Internships are a must for any student, but you can also use volunteer work to gain invaluable experience that will set you apart in the job market.
Set goals now
It’s never too early to set short- and long-term career goals. Make sure they’re SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) and posted somewhere that you see every day. By understanding where you want to go in the next year, five years and ten years, you can make choices that best position you to reach your goals.
Professional networking begins on the first day of class as you interact with other aspiring young professionals and faculty. Strike up thoughtful conversation where you share your career goals, and seek out professors with a business background that matches your interests. Build your network early, so you can also reap the benefits early.
Colleges recognize the need to prepare students for a career after college, so most schools provide valuable support services to set you up for success. Take advantage of these free opportunities – such as resume reviews, etiquette dinners and interview coaching – to bolster your real-world skills prior to graduation.
By setting your eyes on your future career while simultaneously working toward your degree, your college experience will lead to more than just a paper diploma. Use these four years to learn and grow in these key areas, and you will build a solid foundation for a successful professional life.