Remember prom? Those four hours that flashed in front of you like a speeding bullet train? All 4 years of high school and the final culminating event is over before you blinked. Now that you are in college, I’m sure you are wondering, “how is it already spring break? ” Even though the days of college seem long, the years are short. Four years of parties, friends and (sometimes) classes will pass in an instant- suddenly you will have 2.5 kids, a dog, and a mortgage. Although the future may seem so far away, start preparing for what happens after you remove the cap and gown TODAY with these easy steps.
Networking – The best tool/method to land a job always has been and continues to be networking. This is how the ancient Greeks found jobs, and this will be how your future great-grandchildren get work. Everyone you come in contact with is a potential employer or a link to an employer, so remember that and start connecting with people today.
By-pass FaceBook and head right to LinkedIn. Build a strong profile that showcases you as a student leader and visionary of tomorrow. Add everyone you meet to your network (reminder – this is NOT FaceBook, so it’s OK if you casually know them or are only affiliated by the same class, fraternity or extracurricular activity). Treat LinkedIn professionally and be kind to your connections, showing them only the professional side of you with proper profile photos, posts, and updates. Melonie Dodaro was kind enough to post an article on LinkedIn Etiquette, which you can find here.
Your parents and elders will regale you with stories of how people stayed in jobs for decades and had these things called “Business Cards” printed out that they kept in a contraption called a Rolodex. Now that people switch jobs every three years or less, consider LinkedIn to be your “Rolodex,” which updates automatically.
Networking isn’t only about being behind the scenes and sending out connection requests. You should be in front of your target audience constantly, by gaining visibility with others in the field. If you want to become a CPA someday, find your local AICPA chapter- join it and attend events. There is a group out there for every vocation. If you want a free one, head over to Meetup.com and take a look at their offerings. The key is to find a mentor, learn from others and ask questions. Seasoned professionals love answering questions from students, as it typically reignites the passion of their chosen career. And, every time you get one of those wacky, old-time business cards, bring it back to your dorm and invite that person make to become a connection on LinkedIn.
Internships – Have you ever tried a Scottish dish called Haggis? It’s a savory pudding made of a sheep’s internal organs encased in the sheep’s stomach. It is actually supposed to be quite tasty, but you’ll never know this if you don’t try it. The key to an internship is to “get a taste” of what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life. According to a Forbes survey, there is a 60% chance that your internship will get you a job. So, when you do land that dream internship, treat it like a real job and not like your summer employment at the ice cream parlor.
All of those senior managers, who you were making copies and picking up sandwiches for, may move upward and outward – climbing the corporate ladder and going to other firms. Make sure you stay in touch with them and keep them apprised of where you are in your career journey. Even that fellow intern you ran to Starbucks with ever day may be the one who gets you a first interview.
References – The key to references is asking for them. People in your life should be thrilled to help you out and to move up. I’ve always been told to approach someone with, “If I were to ask you for a reference, would you give me a good one?” This should apply for both verbal and written references. On LinkedIn, there are recommendations that co-workers and managers can leave for you- quickly and easily.
Extra Curricular – You’re an all-star student with high academic marks and a dorm room full of bowling trophies, but what about all those clubs and societies on campus you don’t belong to: the newspaper, yearbook, conservation society and dizzying amount of Greek-letter organizations. How will these all help your career? This is where networking comes back into play. Each one of these organizations is going to expose you to new people and ideas and get you out of your comfort circle. College should be about interacting, meeting new people and having life experiences -nothing is better for that than the student-run organizations on campus. Getting involved in Student Government is probably the best way to understand the varying groups and the most effective practices from an operational standpoint. Additionally, sharing life-experiences with classmates will give you anecdotes for when you reach out to them down the road to network.
Branding yourself – This is the big one- tied only with networking. Choose your career or it will certainly choose you. You have to believe in yourself and the brand that is you. Therefore, consider who you want to be from day one of college and write it out like a storyline, including the steps on how to get there.
Be cognizant of what you put out on social media and consider the consequences. Everything is getting uploaded to the web these days and this is what you will carry with you for the rest of your days. A scandal on Facebook, Twitter or a blog can be just as detrimental to you in your job search as a tattoo on your forehead, which oftentimes indicates to employers that you really don’t consider future consequences. If you wish to win someone over, ask them questions and listen intently. Be an active listener – repeating the key points of your conversation to prove you’re paying attention.
In summary: network, join LinkedIn, find an internship, join extra-curricular activities, and begin establishing the brand that is you. Ask your professors and/or supervisors from your internship to be a reference. If you have any questions or need some guidance, contact me at email@example.com.
David Blacker is a volunteer at TBJL and the Managing Principal at Venerate Media Group.
Photo credit by David Castillo Dominici | FreeDigitalPhotos.net