Yes, you read that right. Career advice from a soon-to-be college graduate who hasn’t even started her career yet, and yet I feel (somewhat) prepared and confident heading into the real world. These are things you should do throughout your four years in college to set you up for success years before you put on that cap and gown. The sooner you start, the better!
1. Make an effort to meet with your academic advisor. Don’t just do it when you have to.
When I arrived at UNH, I was an undeclared College of Liberal Arts (COLA) student as a lot of us were – maybe you still are. Fortunately, I was required to take a two credit, half-semester long class intended specifically for undeclared COLA students. It was through this class that I was introduced to my first academic advisor. I was probably more anxious than most other undeclared freshman because I had literally no idea what I wanted to do. Absolutely no clue. I didn’t figure it out during that half-semester course (I didn’t figure it out for two more years), but I did get to know my advisor well and found comfort in discussing future directions with her. Unfortunately, she left UNH. Was I mildly heartbroken? Yes. But, there are so many other helpful people and resources that universities provide.
2. Get to know your career advisors.
Enter a different advisor – this time from COLA’s Career and Professional Success (CaPS) office – that I coincidentally also met through a two credit, half-semester long class. Although instead of being mandatory, it was all about resume formatting, cover letter writing, how to follow up with hiring managers and how to create (or enhance) your LinkedIn. If you go to UNH or if your school offers a similar class, take it! I learned so much in just a few weeks, and it led me to other opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. In particular, the CaPS office hosted a day-long field trip to Manchester, New Hampshire where we visited three different companies, one of which was a digital marketing and advertising agency that I now intern at. Even after taking this class, I remained in contact with the advisor still talk to him about career advice almost two years later. These kinds of relationships and connections are amazing resources and references to have down the road when applying for undergrad internships or post-grad jobs!
3. Get involved.
I cannot say this enough. Get. Involved. Even if it’s just initially joining a club (like Her Campus) and being a member for a couple years, that’s getting involved. I think the phrase “get involved” intimidates people because it gives the impression that you have to run for president of an organization, but it doesn’t. You can take all the baby steps you need and gain confidence along the way. No matter what level of involvement you have within a club or organization, it’s a great resume builder and shows what you’re interested in. And no, the clubs you’re involved in don’t have to directly relate to what you think your career path may be.
4. If there’s a class you want to take that will be beneficial to your career, take initiative.
It took me a couple years to figure out what direction I wanted to go in, but when I settled on Communication, I was off to a late start, and then decided to complicate it further by doing a Business Administration minor. My registration times weren’t always ideal, and class spots filled up before I could get in. Sometimes it wasn’t a big deal and I took a backup class, other times I found a way in. It’s always worth it to reach out to the professor of the full class right away because they might be flexible or have extra spots than the registration system says, but they might not. In this case, they might tell you to check back at the beginning of the semester when the add/drop period begins, and it’s so important to actually follow through on this! Maybe even follow up on your follow up because professors are just as busy at the beginning of a new semesters as we are as students. They’ll appreciate your eagerness and persistence to be in the class and there’s a good chance you’ll get a spot!
5. Take your learning into your own hands.
When you begin to develop a sense of what you want to do in your career, you might realize that your university’s classes don’t offer everything you’re interested in learning about. There are tons of resources that you can buy unlimited access to that cover every imaginable topic. Spending a little extra time learning about your interests is a win-win: you gain knowledge on something you’re truly interested in and you get to demonstrate your interest on your resume, cover letters, and during interviews. Some of the topics that I have or eventually want to pursue are graphic design using Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign and coding and website development. I seriously recommend Udemy which has ton of instructors and courses to choose from.
6. If there’s an internship opportunity you want, be persistent.
Persistence doesn’t only apply to classes. If there’s an internship you’re dying to land at a company you love or you know it’ll provide you with extremely valuable experience, don’t be scared to really go after it. This means following up until you get an answer. It’s so common for companies to never actually respond to your application which is extremely frustrating, but it also gives you all the reason to follow up with them. Even among all the applicants with outstanding resumes and glowing cover letters, a follow up email after not hearing anything for a couple weeks can make you stand out even more. It can be easy to feel like you’re being annoying and overbearing, but it’s important to remember that they also have their own jobs to focus on so considering applicants isn’t always top of mind. To land my current internship, I was in contact with the agency off and on for about a year. I sent two emails each with no response, called and left a message, and I believe I emailed once more after that and then they got back to me. While I was unsure about following up so much, I also knew that I really wanted this, so I pursued it. The best part of this was that I got the internship, but also that both the head of HR and my department head told me that they appreciated my persistence.
While these steps might seem overwhelming laid out in a short article, they’re so simple to slowly work towards over the course of four, three, two, or even just one year. If you take anything away from this and if there’s one thing you do going forward it’s this: take initiative and be persistent.