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Making Your School Year Work For You

August 26, 2015

 It’s the time of year when students stock up on new supplies, load up the cars, and head back to school. Colleges are back in session and classes have either already started or will be starting in the next few weeks, and we want to make sure college students are prepared to make this year a successful and helpful one. Higher education is a great place to prepare for the working world, and we have gathered up our best suggestions for how to make it work for you.

Take time to get to know your professors and fellow students. You never know who might be able to help you in your job search during your time at college or even after. Many professors hire teaching assistants or are involved with organizations on campus, so establishing a relationship with them will help you learn about potential opportunities. Nobody will be able to help you if they don’t know who you are, so take the time to introduce yourself and schedule office hours time to build a solid and professional relationship.

Attend job and career fairs. Many colleges have recruiters and representatives from a variety of companies come to meet with students at job fairs, and they are a great way for you to get in front of people who could help hire you someday. John from Textron gives this advice: “First, dress professional. It is important that you give a strong first impression when you walk up to the company representatives. Next, do your homework. Before attending the career fair be sure to research the company(s) that you will be speaking with. You are showing you have an interest in the company and can have a much better conversation with the representative if you are aware of aspects of the company. In addition, have questions ready to ask to receive a better understanding of the company. Lastly, update your resume.”

Sign up for foreign language classes.  It’s great if you took a foreign language in high school, and even better if you continue taking those classes in college. Ellen from Hospira says: “You can carve out a niche in the market with language skills.  Knowing an additional language can be extremely valuable in conducting international business.  It is also a known fact that speaking a second language will boost wages over time.” More and more companies are looking for employees who they can send on business trips overseas, who can communicate with clients who speak other languages, or who can help them enter into the global economy, so help yourself stand out by learning languages!

Join clubs and organizations and apply for leadership positions, too. Joining clubs related to your interests is a great way to meet people, grow your network, pursue your passions, and enrich your college experience. Whether you get involved with a faith-based organization, an honor society, a community service club, a recreational sport, or Greek life, you’ll be building a strong network and filling your resume with great material. Megan from Cardinal Health says: “Getting involved in campus student groups, professional trade associations and volunteer organizations is a fantastic way to meet people with similar interests as well as build your network. Once you get involved, you’ll likely meet someone who knows someone else who has a role that is just what you are interested in pursuing. In addition, many campus groups have strong alumni bases that share opportunities within their industry with the students in the organizations that they were involved with in school.”

Diversify your studies. Take classes that will help teach you marketable job skills, such as a class on coding HTML or a class on management or leadership. Freshman year general education classes are a great way to be introduced to a variety of subjects that might not be in your major, and electives are a great way to keep that varied education going throughout your time as a student.

Take it all seriously.  While college is a fun environment with many activities and events going on at all times, your future in the working world depends on you doing well as a student. It’s important to have fun, but it’s also necessary to work toward a strong resume full of job experience, internships, and a solid education. Figure out what that balance looks like for you, and be sure to stay invested in the actual education part of college. Rachel from Eaton says: “While you are focusing on building your professional portfolio do not forget to keep a close watch on your academic studies.  A strong cumulative GPA, solid leadership experiences on and off campus, combined with your internships should position you to be very competitive for a successful transition to a full-time career of your choice.” 

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