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What to Do During College to Ensure a Successful Future Career

Careful career preparation is the key to your future success. Here’s what you should do during college to get ready for the postgraduate job search.

Finding a relevant job after college can be a challenge, especially in an ongoing global pandemic. A report from 2021 indicates that 53% of college graduates were unemployed or working in a job not relevant to their degree. While hearing this information can be disheartening, it's an excellent reminder that work won't just be handed to you; you must go out and get it. Here are some practical tips on what to do during college to improve your chances of landing a job in your preferred field after graduation.

Develop time management routines

Time management is considered a soft skill on a résumé. However, it's a foundational skill for success in your future career and all areas of life after graduation. Creating structure around how you use your time can help you become more aware of activities that don't serve your long-term goals and help you hit deadlines without crumbling under pressure. Start by auditing your existing schedule and use a time-tracking app as appropriate. Determine where your time is being wasted and set small improvement goals. For example, if you spend an average of two hours a day on social media, set an initial goal of cutting it back to one. Investigate some time management strategies like time blocking, the Pomodoro technique for focus, and the Eisenhower Matrix. Try these different practices to see which works best for you.

Related: 4 Techniques to Improve Your Time Management

Refresh your résumé

The idea of what the perfect résumé entails has evolved over the past decade. Having a simple CV that you used to get a job in high school is no longer sufficient. Your résumé should outline your education, job experience, soft skills, proficiency with various systems, and professional summary. It's also beneficial to add quantifiable skills on a résumé to highlight the tangible benefits of hiring you: dollar figures, percentages, timelines, etc. For example, if you've worked a restaurant job to put yourself through college and created an initiative to increase upsells by 20%, include this information. You may not aspire to work in the restaurant industry, but it's the initiative and innovation with tangible results that attract recruiters. Create a résumé skeleton, then make small adjustments as you start applying for jobs in your chosen field. Use keywords from the job posting to appeal to AI-driven applicant tracking systems (ATS) too.

Start networking

It's never too soon to start networking. Take some time to audit your social media and remove anything that could deter recruiters and hiring managers from wanting you on their team. It's also beneficial to adjust your tag settings on social platforms so you have to approve posts before they're displayed in connection with your profiles. Optimize your LinkedIn profile so you have a professional platform to connect. Consider setting a weekly goal of spending 10–15 minutes going through LinkedIn and commenting on relevant posts your contacts have shared. Volunteering and attending local networking events will help you make more connections. Remember that networking to build a career is a marathon, not a sprint. Consider yourself a salesperson working to develop trusting customer relationships, with you being the product.

Related: How to Build a Great Presence on LinkedIn to Grow Your Network

Use available resources

Most colleges and universities have resources to assist you with finding a relevant job after graduation, like a campus career center. They can help you find an entry-level job to start building your résumé for a more permanent position you’d like to achieve as a long-term goal. It's also worth looking into mentorship programs or discussing this option with your professors or network contacts to leverage the experts in your industry.

Start building a portfolio

Consider reaching out to local businesses or programs to volunteer your time in return for a testimonial and portfolio entry. Be transparent about your experience level and let them know what you're trying to accomplish, what your career goals are, and how you think portfolio experience from their company could help you. Taking a few unpaid or low-paying freelance jobs can help you establish yourself in the industry, build your résumé, and create valuable network connections.

Related: 5 Secrets to Landing Your Dream Job After College

The earlier you start thinking about your postgrad career and taking steps to set yourself up for the job search, the more successful you'll be. Use this practical guide to started building important skills and making crucial connections that could land you a great position in the field of your choice.

Speaking of college career prep, you should also be taking on internships during college! Find out how to land them with Our Best Advice on How to Find and Rock Internships. 

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