How to Kickstart Your Career While You’re Still in College

By Kelsey Fredricks

We’ve all heard that dreaded phrase: “You need experience to get experience.” While annoying, it’s important to acknowledge that this statement is a reality. Whether you’ve been rejected from a sought-after marketing firm due to a more skilled intern swooping in, or you’ve noticed that your resume is looking a little dry, becoming involved in your career as an undergrad will only benefit you post-grad. Take the time now to start building these steps towards success, while you’re still enrolled in classes and have the time to do so. Also, the more experience that you score for yourself, the better your chances will be for securing that dream job sooner than you think.

Create a professional LinkedIn profile

Don’t think about how much experience you have in your field right now. Create that LinkedIn account and start exploring job openings and networking with people –– because some connections could become your own employers or colleagues. While networking in and of itself is important, creating a professional portfolio online is a solid way to get yourself out there. According to Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a job recruiter of more than 20 years and contributing writer at Forbes, it is important to “maximize and maintain your LinkedIn profile.” This includes adding a photograph of yourself, selecting an industry, listing at least five skills and including volunteer work.

Credit: Absalom Robinson

Join a student club/organization

The Career Resource Center Director at SUNY New Paltz, Mark McFadden, advises students to get involved “from the moment they land on campus.” That’s why it’s highly recommended to join a club or organization. Not only are they fun, but they’re helpful and surefire ways to make friends and connections that will last a lifetime. Writing for your college newspaper will result in being published and joining a debate club will improve your public speaking and organizational skills.

Maybe you don’t get an internship on your first attempt, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed. Check into volunteer opportunities in your region so that you can immerse yourself into the field and add this experience to your LinkedIn profile. And, hey, the only major difference is that you won’t be getting paid, but this is bound to pay off in the grand scheme of things. “Employers want to hear not what you could do, but what you have done. When you tell an employer what you have done you tell them what you will do,” says McFadden.

Study abroad (and make international connections!)

Credit: Deidre Ortiz

Apply for internships (or even just volunteer)

Just as you should increase your involvement in your chosen field, you should also immerse yourself into a new culture and meet new mindsets. The best way to do this is to spend a semester studying abroad. It doesn’t matter which country or direction over the sea you choose, because employers will be impressed that you’ve taken a leap into unfamiliar territory and allowed your determination to overcome any fears or worries. According to Departments of Communication and Digital Media & Journalism Internship Coordinator at SUNY New Paltz Nancy Heiz, there are organizations “whose business is to coordinate internships for American students overseas.” Your campus study abroad office should have information on opportunities like this for you.

 Stay in contact with alumni and professionals

The people whom you meet during your time at college will not only create memories for you, but also possible career moves the further you delve into your field. Don’t wait for people to tell you about opportunities that are available for you as a student and post-grad. Become persistent and stay updated through your contacts to find them for yourself. Also, alongside utilizing your college’s resources, like advisors and online portals, you can make your interests in pursuing specific types of work known to your professors, friends and other college alumni. “Be memorable and be involved. Set yourself apart through your leadership and your eagerness to learn,” said Heiz.

Credit: iStock

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Kelsey Fredricks

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