Whether you are entering your freshmen year or returning for your senior year, this checklist is mandatory reading and essential to your career development. As you know, competition for jobs after college is fierce, and a college degree no longer differentiates you like it used to. This list of seven action items will help you build the reputation necessary to stand out:
1. Inventory and document summer work experience and skills. No matter what your job was this summer, take time now to update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Be sure to quantify the results of what you accomplished during the projects you worked on. For example, instead of saying "Responsible for cataloging inventory," say "Accurately recorded and documented inventory easily accessible by all staff and saved hundreds of hours each month." If you don't know who benefited from your work and how, find out now, before too much time passes.
2. Add valuable connections to your network. Who were the people you met this summer? Think about managers, directors, key customers or clients, colleagues, and vendors/suppliers. Collect their contact information and add them to your LinkedIn network whenever possible. Once you are connected, it is much easier to stay in contact with these people, who could prove valuable to your future.
3. Professors are teachers. Learn from them. Do more than just show up for class. Get to know your professors by learning about their interests and accomplishments. They are much more likely to help students who show interest beyond the classroom. And keep in mind that they have contacts in the world outside your college or university. Consider who they may be able to introduce you to.
4. Get a job. What job will you hold during the school year? Think carefully about this and whenever possible, try and select something that will add to your tool kit of experiences and skills. Have you lined up an internship? Either with the support of your school or your own initiative, get experience in the real world. There is nothing more desirable to employers than having tangible experience to support your studies.
5. Pack extracurricular activities in, too. Getting good grades is, of course, important. But developing leadership skills is also a smart idea. Align your interests with extracurricular activities or volunteer work that will round out your academic studies. Begin learning today how to balance your time by becoming involved with events and activities.
6. Hang with alumni. Whenever you have a chance to meet alumni, do it. Meet alumni and learn about their career paths. By learning about what they did and where they ended up, you may be able to begin mapping a plan yourself. And be sure to ask for their advice and suggestions to help guide you. Connecting with alumni now is one way to get a jumpstart on the competition.
7. Meet the parents. As the year progresses, learn about what the parents of your friends and roommates do for work. As with hanging with alumni, meeting parents is another way to build a valuable network of people who may be able to help you find a summer job or a position when you graduate. Start building this network now.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.