You’re a freshman, just getting used to the college life. No need to think about your career now, right? Wrong! I don’t mean that you have to get worried and consumed with your degree and exactly what you’re going to do with it, but resist the urge to put your career plans off until later. Dive in right away.
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One of the first, and most important, things you can do when you first go to college is to join student organizations. Lots of them. Join anything and everything. This is the way you are going to figure out what you are, and are not, interested in. And, in my opinion, it’s easier to join organizations at first, even if you have the smallest bit of curiosity, and then decide whether or not you are interested in them. If you wait to join, you’ll be less likely to join because your schedule fills up with other things, and you’ll also miss some basic information that is usually given in the first few meetings.
Going along with this, give organizations a chance before opting out of them. Since you’ll get a lot of “boring information” and may be challenged with things you haven’t done in the beginning, you may be tempted to quit right away. Push past this and attend at least a few meetings to really test the waters. If journalism sounds interesting to you, why not write for your school newspaper? You’ll also see that there are many different possibilities within each group. For example, if design is more your thing, you could work on layout for the newspaper, or for a different publication altogether.
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Organizations are also going to look awesome on your résumè. It’ll show that you were interested in things other than academics while in school, and will show your ability to balance multiple projects at once. Companies are always looking for people who are driven and who don’t have an issue with multi-tasking, as it is rare that you will be focused on only one task each day while at work. You will have many different things coming at you and you must be able to show that you can handle it.
You also gain invaluable experience from being in organizations. Student groups are often about teamwork and undoubtedly you will have gained some important knowledge about working with different types of personalities.
It’s important to stick with the organizations that you particularly enjoy because it will demonstrate commitment to future employers. Also, as you become more familiar with the organization, you can apply to take on a leadership role. This will demonstrate, even more, how much you value the organization and that you are capable of leading others.
Another added bonus of joining groups is that you’ll meet people who share the same interests you do. These people could become some of your closest friends. People who are interested in the same activities as you are will also likely be interested in the same career path you are, so you are building a great social network.
Being in these groups is a great opportunity to network. In this day and age, you need all the connections you can get—people who will vouch for you and think of you when positions arise at their companies. For example, someone who is a senior now will be looking for a job upon graduation. As a freshman, keep track of where that person looks for work. He or she can be a mentor to you, someone who will show you the ropes and grant you some insight about what he or she has learned in the job process. Stay in touch with this person to show him or her that he or she is important in your life and also to keep the connection. Then, when you are a senior and looking to start your career, you can ask this person to refer you for a position in his or her company, for advice about being a young professional, or to connect you with friends in the same field.