Top 10 things college students should be doing today to prepare for tomorrow

I wish I had seen a list like this when I was in college. It’s not that the items on this to-do list did not occur to me whatsoever during college. I’m sure I did a few key things to prepare for my career; however, I can guarantee that I missed a few opportunities and that, although some of these ideas would have crossed my mind, I probably needed to have them drilled into my brain by multiple sources. Or maybe it would have only taken a top 10 list, who knows?

It seems that I underestimated the power I had at that time to start building a foundation for a solid career.

It’s easy to see these things when we glance in the rear-view mirror. We learn so much as we go.

But as I am all too familiar with now, career development and career planning is a lifelong process. We can always be chipping away at our plans and thinking of the next path, the new direction.

So it’s my duty to those following in my footsteps to share this top 10 list by U.S. News via the Aol jobs website. Here is my take on the top 10 list presented in the article…

  1. Get your feet wet. Get out there and start soaking in whatever career-related knowledge you can find. Start with your career / guidance counselor. Find out what internship opportunities or industry mentoring might be available in your chosen field. Sign up for blogs and newsletters. Join associations and networks. Get involved now.
  2. Build your online presence. First – google yourself. Do what you can to shape (or clean up) your online image. You’ve mastered facebook but there are other social media outlets that are equally, if not more, important in building a professional online reputation. Start building a powerful LinkedIn profile. Start thinking about your tweets and who you follow on Twitter. Make sure you keep it professional or separate your personal and professional social media accounts.
  3. Stand out from the crowd. One simple way to start showcasing your knowledge and skills is to start your own blog. Even if writing is not your thing, it is a good skill to develop, and you can host a blog on virtually any topic. You can feature your technical skills and use videos, or share your cooking skills and recipes. Whatever your passion is, start documenting it and it may turn into something useful one day. At the very least, it will highlight your personality and what makes you unique.
  4. Explore off-season opportunities. Use your time off from school wisely. Don’t let a moment (or opportunity) pass you by. Find an internship in your field and don’t discount seeking a new and different internship each summer. Start looking early – it’s competitive out there!
  5. Learn something new. Take some classes in an area outside of your specialty. Again, this builds your profile of skills and your profile as an interesting person. Courses related to business, finance, communications, and public speaking can equip you with marketable, and often essential, skills.
  6. Find a relevant part-time job. Find a job in the field you are planning to enter, or at least a job that can provide key transferable skills. Start looking early (think December, or earlier even). Turn down the fun job working with your friends, or the serving job that might make you tons of money, and look for something specific and relevant. This can be an important step in helping you determine whether the career that you are considering is right for you.
  7. Get to know people. Your network can be a powerful tool in helping you land a job. Realize this early, and you will be several steps ahead of your peers. Start building contacts now. Introduce yourself to people who can influence your path. They won’t just fall into your lap – you will have to seek them out or at least be observant and ready for the time when you cross paths.
  8. Prepare your pitch. It can be difficult for people to market themselves and their accomplishments. But it’s an art and a skill to be developed. You can start crafting it now. Answer the question: Who are you and what do you want to do? Practice out loud whenever you get the chance. Be specific, direct, and charming.
  9. Perfect your interview skills. Again, this is a skill to be honed and nurtured and developed over time. It comes with increased self-confidence and self-assurance. But again, it’s something you can always be working on. Find out what an exceptional interview looks like. Don’t just wait until you land an interview to practice. Yes, actual interviews can be the best form of practice, but you can also practice by doing a mock interview with a friend.
  10. Keep your eyes and ears open. Even if you have a job or field in mind, never close yourself off to other options. Learn what you can from various sources like websites, blogs, magazines, and other professionals. Get plugged in to your surroundings so that you don’t miss valuable job information or an opportunity to learn something new.
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