Upping Your Game in the Professional World

Going to college is all about personal growth, especially in the professional realm. After all, your overall goal with that (expensive!) degree is to get that amazing dream job after college that makes all the late nights, group projects, studying and final exams worth it. However, you can't do that if there's no professional development happening throughout your time in college. If you're feeling a little behind, here are a few simple but effective steps to take to up your game in the professional world while you're still working on getting that degree. 

1. Make a LinkedIn Profile 

If you take away one thing from this article, this is the key idea to pay attention to! Something I've found to be significantly important in college is having a LinkedIn profile. Not only is it super easy to fill out and complete, but it can also make networking and finding internships easier, too. This is a great first step toward getting your foot in the door of the professional world, which you'll no-doubt be a part of at some point after college. Completing a LinkedIn profile with your strengths and skills, previous work experience, relevant industry experience and campus activities makes it much easier for an employer to get to know you if they do their homework on their applicants before an interview. Having something to reference other than just your resume shows you're committed to your work and want to gain experience in your field of study. Be sure to include important information in each experience you include - this is your chance to expand more on what you do since a resume is fairly concise and usually confined to a single page. LinkedIn is essentially the Facebook of the working world, and that's something you want to be a part of throughout your college years and beyond. 

2. Update Your Resume 

You know that resume you've had saved on your laptop since high school that may not have been touched in a while? That should probably have some editing done to it! You definitely have more experiences, activities and skills to add to it now that you're in college. List the most important and relevant experiences you've had thus far. Are you an engineering major and have had two or three on campus or summer internships already? Those are likely more important than the retail job you held in high school, so these are what you should include and expand upon on your resume. Try to keep it fairly recent (ie. a timeline that starts when you started college and beyond) and include your most relevant experiences that you can speak on well in an interview. Don't forget - just because there may be past work experiences you no longer include on your resume doesn't mean they're totally irrelevant! These can be great talking points in interviews, especially in situations where they may ask questions that involve desrcibing a time you overcame an obstacle or worked successfully on a team. 

3. Intern During the Year 

*If you can.* Everyone's schedules and fields of study are different, so this may not be possible for everyone - and that's okay! However, if you're able to, look around on campus or online for internship positions either on campus or close to your campustown. Especially if you're an underclassmen that may not have had the chance to be hired for a summer internship yet, these opportunties and experiences are irreplaceable. It shows your committment to both your academics and your professional development and displays time management skills, as well as responsibility. Go after these opportunities as they come up! Keep up with your school's online job and internship board and look for opportunities around campus as well. You never know what might fall into your lap if you never even go looking for it. In my experience, applying for a few field-related positions relevant to my major and seeking out opportunities with campus departments I had no idea even existed is the reason I found the opportunities I did at my school. Another plus about working for your University? You get to learn so much more about the logisitics of the unit your work for and the school in general, which brings much more value to your overall experience with attending the school. 

4. Attend Networking Events 

Some people read this tip and get excited. Others (like me and my somewhat introverted self) just cringed at the thought of it. For some, networking is easy, exciting, and comes naturally to them. For those that may be a little more shy or introverted, it's not all that simple. Regardless, networking and making connections with others in the professional world is a necessary evil - and can sometimes even be the key to your success. Something I've grown to realize since I first started working when I was 15 is that it pays to know people. Making connections and cultivating professional relationships could be the reason you land your next internship or get connected to the right person when you're on the job hunt for your first entry-level position after college. It's all in who you know! So attend that networking event your specific college is offering and go to the career fair at your school offered once a semester. These are invaluable experiences that help you grow your network and will at least get your name and face in front of recruiters and professionals in the working world. Even if these efforts don't end in you scoring your next internship on the spot, reaching out to those you spoke with and thanking them for their time (and connecting with them on LinkedIn!) can speak volumes about your character and work ethic. Even simply asking someone you meet to review your resume or keeping in contact with them after the event will help them keep you in mind for future opportunities... all because you went to that networking event you may have been dreading! 

Stepping into the professional world can be intimidating, but doing so while you're still in college will not only grow your network and increase your connections, but allows you to develop skills and have experiences before leaving your University. Make a goal in the new year to take a leap of faith and attend a networking event at your school or go after that internship! The best opportunities are the ones you don't see coming. 

Photo 1 | Photo 2 | Photo 3