If graduation looms in the relatively near future, you’re probably already thinking about that amazing job you plan to score when you’re done with college.
In case you haven’t heard, the job market is pretty competitive right now. You’ll be at a disadvantage almost immediately simply because you’re a recent grad with little work experience. Fortunately, there are things you can do right now to make yourself more hireable later.
Internships are one of the best ways to gain industry experience, meet the right people, and make a favorable impression at a company that could end up hiring you full time. Check with both your career center and degree program department to see if there are any local businesses who need someone to help out.
Don’t limit yourself to just interning. Volunteering or getting involved in community service can also help you bone up on skills you can then add to your resume. If you plan to work in PR, offer your services to a nonprofit that can use your press release writing and pitching skills. Be eager to help out, as the more you do, the more you learn.
3. Work at the Right Company
We’ve all heard the tales of the guy who rises up from being the mailroom delivery boy to an executive position at a company. It’s an extreme example, but there’s truth in it. I started my career in recruiting by accident. I had no idea what a recruiter did before I landed a job as a receptionist at a staffing agency. A year later I was working my own recruiting specialty in the firm and became a top producer in the company. I worked my way through college while recruiting and 15 years (ugh, 16) later I’m still at it. Even if you take on a part-time job in administration or in the warehouse at a company you’d like to work at after graduation, you can show your enthusiasm for the company, your willingness to learn, and network with people who can help the company.
4. Participate in College Organizations
In addition to providing you with the opportunity to make new friends, you can dive into an industry by joining industry organizations through your school like PRSSA. If the group regularly invites industry experts to speak, this is your chance to network with people who are out working in the field you want to work in.
5. Meet Alumni
At many universities, the alumni network is strong. Past graduates may attend events at the college, post job listings, or serve as mentors for students like you. Find these alumni and take advantage of them. Having a mentor who’s followed the path you want to take can provide you with shortcuts to success.
You don’t have to be a professional to attend local networking meetings. Find a group or two that caters to professionals in your field, and start attending. Introduce yourself as a college student and let people know you’re looking for advice on breaking into the field once you graduate. You can build relationships that will carry you into your first job.
7. Build a LinkedIn Profile
Even if you’re not ready to start working full time, you should still have a LinkedIn profile. Include your volunteer and internship experience, as well as any other relevant work history you have. Update it as you add new skills.
8. Take on Research Projects
If the head of your department is looking for assistance in a research project, sign up. The more you actively participate in academic pursuits, the more ingrained in your industry you’ll be, even before graduating. Getting a glowing recommendation from the department chair can’t hurt, either!