Entering the workforce is never easy, but it’s almost impossible if you don’t know where and when to start laying the groundwork for your future career. Going to college is a great start – there you will learn the skills you need to continue to grow through your career for the rest of your working life. But just getting a degree is not enough. You also have to work on building a network, get your LinkedIn profile together, work a few internships, and more. Getting started in your career starts long before college graduation.
First, when choosing a major, it helps to understand how that will impact your career in the future. You don’t always have to choose a major related to the field you want to work in. Having a liberal arts major can help you lay the foundation for a lifetime of creative, out-of-the-box thinking coupled with the framework needed to seek out new information when needed. The creativity and critical thinking skills that come along with a liberal arts education can serve you extremely well over the lifespan of your career.
During your college career, start working to lay the foundation for your future career. Secure letters of reference from professors and academic advisors with whom you have the strongest relationships. Visit job fairs early and often so you can get a good idea what types of jobs are available and what you might need to do to qualify for them. See a career counselor if you aren’t sure which direction to go — they often know about job paths you haven’t even heard of. Start keeping an online portfolio so that when a prospective employer asks to see some examples of your work you don’t have to tell them you’ll get back to them.
Most importantly, though, work to build your professional network and your LinkedIn profile long before you will need to leverage either. The people you go to school with will often be the people you will encounter in the business world a few years down the line, so be sure to keep in touch. And building your online reputation through LinkedIn can show that you are serious about your professional image and about your career. These are not the things you want to put off until the last minute.
When it comes time to look for internships, the career fair isn’t your only option. Many employers advertise their internships on places like Indeed, WayUp, and Handshake. There you won’t be limited to internships from the major corporations that can afford a table at your university’s career fair. Try to complete at least two internships during your college career, because that will give you a better idea of the kind of work you will be doing and what type of working environment you might thrive in.
When it comes to the career that will sustain you for the rest of your life, it is never too early to start laying the groundwork. Learn more about making the transition from college to career below!