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How to Start Your College Career in a Way That Ensures Success

Updated on March 6, 2016
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So you’re just starting college and you want to know how to “make it.” You refuse to be another faceless, jobless ex-college student struggling to pay off those hefty student loans.

This guide is for you.

It was crafted from expert advice, but it was also taken from my own early failure to recognize that what works in high school does not always translate to real world success. Here are the steps you can take to make yourself the “stand out” job candidate you need to be by the time you graduate.

Prepare a Plan

Of course, you can’t enter college without some kind of plan in mind, but those plans can be too vague. Mine certainly were. Do you know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life? Even within a major, there can be separate specializations to choose from. For example: In a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree you can specialize in finance, accounting, marketing, and other areas. If you’re still unsure exactly where your career path lies, you should make it your constant mission to narrow it down. Do this as soon as possible and keep rechecking yourself until you’re certain you know yourself as well as you can. After all, no one else can know you well enough to make the choices for you.

Speak with your Advisors

It should be obvious, but your advisors are there to help you. Use them. Don’t stop at asking them which courses to take, instead involve them in your career path. Get them invested in helping you personally. Ask them about internships and request their advice about the steps you should take to meet your chosen career head on. Some academic advisors will be wonderful, while others won’t want to give you the time of day. You should make as many appointments as you need to when it comes to advisors from the second category. If they finish selecting your classes’ during one appointment, then the next appointment they’ll be free for you to field any questions you still need answered.

Join a Club or Affiliation

College isn’t high school. The clubs here aren’t all fun time-wasters. On the contrary, they are steps on a ladder to victory. The affiliations created for specific professions usually have higher standards that they expect their members to maintain than those of normal fraternities and sororities.

The key to utilizing any of these clubs is to attend meetings and socialize with other members. The main thing to remember about sororities and fraternities is to avoid the ones with hazing practices and bad reputations. Those clubs aren’t worth being humiliated over and you have more importance than that. In the end, members of the more respectable organizations can tell you what’s currently happening in your chosen career and can introduce you to influential professionals. This leads me to my next topic.

Examples of Organizations
 
Alpha Kappa Psi
Fraternity for students in the business profession
Gamma Epsilon Tau
Co-ed fraternity for graphic artists
Beta Alpha Psi
Organization for finance students
Networking is an important part of the college experience
Networking is an important part of the college experience | Source

Network and Market Yourself

“But I’m not a business major!” You protest. Well, it doesn’t matter. Whether you study music or finance, you still need to network and you still need to be prepared to market yourself. These two acts are the most important steps in the college process. Networking is the act of interacting with other people so as to develop contacts. Those contacts are the people who will help you further your career. Think of it as politics and think of it as a game, if you need to. But this game could result in your being hired over the seven hundred other qualified candidates who apply for the job. After college, networking has been shown to help with performance reviews and promotions.

Marketing is slightly different. To market yourself is to promote, or “sell yourself.” If that sounds dirty, well, that explains why many people find themselves shying away from the act. In reality, all it entails is in making yourself look better than the other candidates look. You can market yourself by listing accomplishments on your resume, joining organizations, volunteering, becoming an intern, and even by dressing in a suit and tie. Professional advice on the subject says that you should always carry your resume and always have a one to two-minute speech handy. That speech should list exactly why you are the perfect candidate for your chosen career. Practice that speech until you have it, and the convincing way you say it, memorized.

Participate in Mock Interviews

Interviews are nerve-wracking. Even the most extroverted person can freeze up when an interviewer asks them how their skill sets relate to the position at hand. Skill sets? Position? When your mind goes utterly blank anything can seem like a tough question. Being prepared, then, is essential. Colleges usually offer mock interviews specifically for this purpose. The feedback from the experience can provide confidence and knowledge to the uninitiated, as well as experience to those who want to keep their skills up-to-date. Interview methods are changing all the time, so keeping skills sharp is not a bad idea at all. For instance, behavioral interviews are the hottest, new thing. Instead of asking questions like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” you may be asked, “Have you ever had to deal with a tough customer? Tell us how that experience went.” These new questions focus on how an employee has handled past experiences and tries to see if they can relate those experiences to the position being offered.

Conclusion

Success is an ongoing quest and it is one that shouldn’t end with registration or graduation. If you’re feeling unsure about your college career, these tips can help you bring the focus back to what matters. Good grades simply won’t cut it anymore. You need a plan, you need politics, and you need practice if you’re going to nab that dream job out from under your competitors. So don’t wait until it’s time to start your job search. Employ these tips today.

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