College isn’t always going to teach you everything you need to know about getting a job, about finding your place in the adult world when you finish. That somehow this magic piece of paper is going to open all the doors and land you your dream job on a silver platter. Until you realize that it’s just a piece of paper unless you’ve worked up some kind of employable skill set to go with it.
1. Find a professor that you like (and who likes you)
Take all of their classes, or as many as you possibly can. Participate, get them to notice you (in the good kind of way). Down the line, you are going to need references for an internship, or a master’s program, and the best way to get a genuinely good reference is by earning it.
2. Volunteer, intern, or get a part time job in the field you are interested in
Unfortunately these days in order to land even an entry-level job you need experience (oxymoron, I know!). But these things are much easier to do while you are still a student. If you work over the summer, try and take jobs that will look good on a resume, or make them appear that way! For example, jobs like “camp counselor” mean you are responsible and have leadership skills.
3. Do a ton of extracurricular stuff!
Debate, Model UN, campus newspaper or radio station, student union and so on. It may seem silly to you, or a waste of time, but beyond being enriching and fun, and a great way to build up a resume and connections, it will also give you skills that employers may be looking for like research ability, teamwork, and leadership.
4. Yes, you should goo to all those career weeks, mixers, workshops and lectures on finding a job
I promise you that some of the advice they give can be invaluable for you later. If the communications department is offering a free seminar on internet marketing, be the first to sign up!
5. Learn to write and research!
Your degree will get you through the door for a job interview, but it isn’t going to ensure you get it if you don’t have the skills to match. Attend the writing labs, ask for help, and outline all of your papers. You’d be surprised at how far having a basic grasp of sentence structure will get you.
6. Learn to do all kinds of other fun things that always show up in the “a plus/an advantage” section of job ads
You know, all of those things that aren’t absolutely necessary for the role, such as WordPress, Photoshop, a second language, HTML, and so on. A prospective employer will hire someone who doesn’t have all the extra skills, but would rather give the job to someone who has them. Because at the end of the day, that’s going to set you apart from other applicants. Use your collage downtime to hone all these skills, I promise it will pay off later!
7. Make friends with people a few years above you who are planning to go into the same field as you
Their advice and connections may be able to help you out in the future. You don’t need to know off the bat what you want to be when you’re done, your game plan does not need to be fully formulated! But you should have the foresight to pick up some extra skills on your way that will help you land a job, internship or MA/Ph.D program, and even if you’re picking someone else’s brain as to why they’re going into that field, at least you’ll know what to expect.