Career Advice for College Students: 5 Tips to Build a Strong Foundation was originally published on Firsthand.
College years are all about that hustle and bustle. From attending classes and parties to tackling exams and social life, there’s little spare time on your hands.
Even so, college years are crucial for career building. It’s the right time to not just think about your career aspirations but also to take action. In this post, we share some actionable advice and experience-backed tips to build a solid base for your career. Let’s dive in.
Find your true passion.
What you’re studying in college may interest you, but is it your true passion? Say, you’re majoring in computer science—do you see yourself building a lifelong career in that field?
Don’t disregard the cliché quote, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” just because you’re tired of hearing it. Picking a career path is a long-term decision, and college years are the perfect time to ponder what profession floats your boat. Whatever you pick as your career, aim to be better than the best in your field. And that’s only possible if you’re truly passionate about what you do, as doing what you love means you’re motivated to give your best each day.
So, strive to find your true passion. Think about the subjects you love in your major and excel at. Think about luminaries you admire. Many college graduates ultimately end up doing something completely different from what they studied, and that’s okay. It’s all about finding and doing what you love, and the money will eventually follow.
Proactively seek opportunities.
College is a time for fun, but also a time to gain some valuable, hands-on experience in your field. One of the most important and effective ways to do that is by getting internships.
Internships allow you to try out different fields you’re interested in. You get to learn new skills and gain real-world exposure without the pressure and commitment that comes with a full-time job. You might even get paid! Professional experience—even if it’s unrelated to the career you ultimately land in—will better prepare you for the real world and narrow down what you love. Besides, getting a foot in the door while you’re still in college will make the eventual job hunt a bit less stressful.
Volunteering is another great way to gain valuable experience and show future employers that you’re serious about the things that matter to you. And to find internship and volunteering opportunities, you need to…
Build your network.
To a large extent, it’s true that “your network is your net worth” (this is the title of a book by Porter Gale). Your college days are ideal to start sowing the seeds of professional relationships that:
- In the short term, help you land internships and freelance work.
- In the long run, help you land job offers and business opportunities.
There are plenty of ways to start building your professional network:
- Start with your professors, peers, and family. Ask them to let you know if they come across any opportunities in your areas of interest.
- Get (and keep) in touch with your college alumni to learn about internship opportunities at their companies.
- Use social media platforms, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn, to post your college learning experiences, connect with professionals in your field, join networking groups, and look for opportunities.
- Attend career fairs and similar events to get in front of potential employers.
Learn financial prudence.
You may not be earning just yet, but the earlier you learn the basics of building wealth, the better.
Whether or not you have a source of income, the first step to financial prudence is making a habit to spend wisely. Of course, the occasional indulgence is fine, but avoid impulse shopping or spending on things you don’t really need. After all, money saved is money earned, and that money can help you better manage your monthly college expenses and debt.
Oh, and if you have spare funds, learn how you can start investing. You can also consider P2P lending or, if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, crypto trading.
Start a creative side hustle.
While tackling college academic work is often a tall order in itself, carving out time for a creative side hustle is almost always possible and potentially very rewarding.
So if you have an entrepreneurial drive to start something of your own—be it a blog, a simple online store, a YouTube channel, etc.—do it. Don’t put it off and binge-watch Netflix instead. Starting your side venture during college gives you an amazing head start, and who knows what good things it might lead you to.
Freelancing in your free time isn’t a bad idea either. Love web design, coding, or writing and are good at it? Why not leverage and hone your skills by taking on real-world projects, while getting paid for your work? Not to mention freelancing will also help in your network- and resume-building efforts, and (at least to some extent) finance your college expenses.
Like it or not, college time flies fast. Before you know it, you’re reminiscing about your college days—wanting to relive fond memories but being grateful for not having the stress of exams and assignment deadlines—while worrying about some project’s deadline at work.
Make the most of this time. In the long run, your college grades may not matter much, but how you spend your college years matters a lot.
Lucy Manole is a creative content writer and strategist at Marketing Digest. She specializes in writing about digital marketing, technology, entrepreneurship, and education. When she is not writing or editing, she spends time reading books, cooking and traveling.