With high school completed, you are suddenly gifted with newfound independence and freedom in college. Now, you can take the classes you want, spend your time how you want, and hang out with who you want. Freedom is a great thing, but when responsibility is sacrificed, there can be a problem. College eventually leads to a career, so it is important to remain career-oriented during your time in school. Here are a few ways to help you be career-oriented in college and keep your eye on the prize.
1. Use your time wisely
Yes, this is the age-old cliche, but with complete freedom to do whatever you want whenever you want, self-discipline is imperative. Between classes, studying, and a social life, it can be difficult to devote enough time to everything. At the end of the day, you must put your academics ahead of your social life—to a certain extent, at least. Use a planner, your phone calendar app, or even a routine to be sure that you are carving out a sufficient amount of time each day to study. Getting good grades is the key to earning a degree one day and being successful in your chosen career field. But don’t just carve out time to study, make sure you are scheduling leisure/social time, preferably each day. Having downtime is crucial to long-term mental health, and will also lead to better academic performance. These two tasks do not need to be scheduled at separate times. Find a good group of friends to study with, and you can accomplish socializing and studying at the same time. Ultimately, using your time wisely will lead to great academic performance and self-discipline, all of which are key to being successful in your career.
2. Network constantly
Everyone in college is in the same boat. Everyone is studying to get a degree to one day have a career. Your classmates will soon become your colleagues. As a result, forming relationships in college is a sure-fire way to build connections that will serve you well in the job market. Getting involved in Greek life and clubs are a great way to build relationships with those who will be in the same area of your job market in the future. Also, don’t be afraid to make friends with your professors. Attend their office hours to introduce yourself and build a relationship. The more they know your face and name, the more likely they are to put in a good word for you in the form of a reference letter or word of mouth. Remember, professors have great connections within your chosen career field. Ultimately, everyone at your college could someday serve as a connection in the real world. Having plenty of connections will likely lead to a job. Remember, it’s not always about what you know, but who you know.
3. Always be looking for opportunities
Just because you are a freshman in college does not mean you can’t begin getting a head start on your career. One way of gaining experience is an internship. Often unpaid, an internship is a great way to gain experience in the real world. The classroom can only teach you so much, and the quicker you are gaining real-world experience, the bigger leg up you will have over your competition. Not only do internships look great on your resume, they are another great way to network. A way to score an internship to is be active on LinkedIn and Indeed. Build a profile, and start hunting for a job or internship. You may get rejected plenty of times, but there is always at least one opportunity out there. It may seem difficult to juggle academic life and an internship, but this will prepare you for the real world where you will likely juggle a relationship, family, and your job. Ultimately, being proactive about getting opportunities early in college is a great way to remain career-oriented and gain experience that you would likely not gain in a classroom.
4. Create a professional online presence
Having an online presence that depicts you in a professional light is something an employer will always be happy to see. As previously mentioned, LinkedIn and Indeed are a great place to start. These websites will allow you to post your resume and make connections. However, don’t be afraid to branch out. Having an Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and a website are great ways to showcase who you are as a person and do some branding. Your resume can only show so much about who you are. It’s up to you to let employers know who you are as a person and why you are unique. Using the aforementioned social media platforms can showcase your personality, creativity, and humanity. Getting your online presence out there as early as possible is crucial in being career-oriented. This will allow you to gain a following and showcase your accomplishments and creations as they pertain to your career field. Employers love to see a person behind an expansive resume so that they can better see who will be representing their company/brand. Ultimately, having an online presence is a great way to set yourself up to get hired.
5. Be kind
This may seem like an odd way to remain career-oriented, but how people perceive you is EVERYTHING. Of course, you should always be kind by virtue of it being the right thing to do. But being kind and an overall likable person is crucial to staying in good standing within the job market. Word gets around, and if everyone at your college thinks that you are mean or ingenuine, no one is going to want to work with you. As previously mentioned, maintaining a good relationship with your peers is a great way to make connections, and by being an unpleasant person, you effectively sever that entire network. Being kind, like-able, and pleasant will make people want to work with or hire you. Ultimately, you should be kind because it’s right, but being kind will allow people to remember you in a good light, which will always help you in future career endeavors.