Here are three things that will not add a heavy burden on your time in college but will set you up for successfully launching into the professional world:
1. Start Building Your Résumé & Online Presence
Everyone pretty much gets why résumés are important but employers are considering much more when they make their selections for interviews and job offers. Employers will look for you online. They want to see evidence that you are who you say you are and that there is information corroborating your pitch to them. Conflicting or lack of information will leave question marks in their mind so be proactive and get the information you want them to see online early. LinkedIn® is a great place for this information.
Perhaps you already have a résumé. If you do, I bet you have told someone at one time, “I have a really great résumé. I don’t need to go to the Career Center for help.” Nine times out of 10, you are sorely mistaken.
The name of the game is standing out among your peers, and unfortunately for your generation, standing out among professionals with a couple years of experience under their belt. Make sure you are going to stand out the way you want when it is launch time. In between knocking out mid-term exams, traveling for your tournament, attending the block party, and staying for the evening shift, spend time learning how to create résumés and build your online presence. Use your college Career Center and work with a career management specialist if you need additional assistance.
2. Manage Your Reputation
Employers often rely on past behavior as the indicator for future behavior. When they are talking to your references, evaluating information available about you online, and considering background check findings, they are asking themselves, “Is this person someone who aligns with our company culture? Is this person going to behave this way in the future?”
If they find photos from the wild frat party beer pong tournament, how are they going to answer their questions? What if they see your Facebook feed full of your friends badmouthing a fellow student or professor? Even though you were not the one spitting the words, your association may reflect poorly upon you. What if they find lot so misspellings or inaccuracies in your writing? … All of these play into your reputation.
Bottom line—if you are going to make choices that you do not want your future employers to know about, make sure they don’t end up online. If they do, you had better do everything you can to remove them or address them because they will surface at some point.
3. Create Your Professional Network
Remember, relationships take time. To ensure that you have a robust network by the time you graduate, you should use LinkedIn®, Google® contacts, a good old address book, or some other type of contact management tool to capture all of the great people you are meeting along the way. Jot down when and where you met them along with any other important notes about them to help jog your memory, especially if you met them briefly.
After you connect with them, a second and equally important step is to keep the connection alive. Building your network is not a numbers race; it is about building meaningful relationships with other people.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you don’t have anything to offer an experienced professional; college students are the living, breathing wave of the future. You offer something that professionals out in the workforce can’t—fresh, savvy, and uninfluenced perspectives and approaches. You also offer them an opportunity to mentor someone. Mentoring is rewarding and most people will actually feel honored to bestow their wisdom and advice on someone.
Don’t wait to create your network. You already have one started; your peers, professors, career fair contacts, and friends-of-friends are all key to opening doors for you down the road. Now you just need to make a concerted effort to build upon those relationships so there are benefits both directions.
Have a question about life after college? Send Michelle your questions and she may feature it in a future article.
Lead Career Management Consultant
Member of the National Résumé Writing Association and Career Thought Leaders
Michelle Aikman empowers and equips high-performing professionals to advance their career, make difficult transitions, and experience fulfilling careers. She is one of only 34 writers worldwide to hold the coveted Nationally Certified Résumé Writer certification.
Skilled Assets provides premium career management services for professionals who are ready to reach the next step in their career and set themselves up for success now and in the future. The team also works with businesses and organizations to improve the hiring and career advancement process.