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7 Tips on Transitioning to Corporate America from College

Updated on November 15, 2015
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How do you integrate into Corporate America from college?

You do not need to have a business background as a college entrant but you do need to get started if transitioning to Corporate America is your goal.

1. Join a business organization and be involved

There were primarily two types of student-led business organizations on my college campus: professional business associations and honor business fraternities. I opted for the business association which provided insight into networking, interviewing, resume building, branding yourself, dinner etiquette and more via corporate-sponsored events and internal meetings. During the corporate-sponsored events, we learned a lot about building our professional development skills from professionals in different industries who typically presented content on PowerPoint followed by Q&A and networking. Many of them were alumni from my college. Also, we would typically get free dinner during these events which was an added bonus.

If you really want to shine, I would suggest taking initiative and expressing interest in a role within the organization for the upcoming semester or year. This will put you in the front seat of your professional development. Keep in mind the time commitment of the role(s) you are interested in and your course load as you don’t want to spread yourself too thin.

2. Network with professionals

Does your college have a career center? If so, research the calendar of events and see what recruiting events are coming up. Dress for the event (the career center will typically tell you the dress code, but if you are not sure opt for business professional) perform any due diligence on companies that you are interested in, print copies of your resume and business cards (if any), and attend the event when it comes with a welcoming smile.

Gain an understanding of what the professionals do for a living and see if you can picture yourself doing that in the future if you haven’t already. It is your time to get know the company’s culture, work/life balance programs, and incentive designs as well. Ask questions about the professional’s experiences, such as corporate training, transitioning to the workplace from college, career advice, and so on. One thing I typically did after asking for a business card was take notes on the back of the person’s business card after leaving the company’s booth to remember what we talked about. When sending follow up e-mails, it helped the professional remember who I am and what we talked about. Build a positive rapport with these professionals as you may bump into them in the future. You will develop your own approach after attending a few networking events. I would encourage you to do what works best for you.

Ask the career center if they have internship listings, a resume book, career advisors and access to company review websites like www.vault.com. They are there to help you!

3. Land an internship

Hands-on experience, such as an internship, is invaluable to a college student seeking to transition to Corporate America. Even if it is un-paid internship, you will learn a lot getting to know and working with professionals who have been in their respective industries for years. It will also help you determine if that is truly what you want to do. If it is not, you can leverage that experience going forward during interviews for externships, internships or full-time positions.

Note: Other than relatable experience, technical competence, professionalism, positive attitude and a great interview, having a great GPA is also helpful when recruiting. The truth is many recruiters from top schools are looking at hundreds of student resumes, and having a solid GPA could mean the difference between your resume being tossed in the trash or put in the “interview pile.” In fact, I have seen certain companies show the minimum GPA you need to have to apply for a position on their fact sheets so find out if this applies to you and study hard.

4. Find a mentor

Having a mentor that was older than me was extremely beneficial throughout college and thereafter. Your mentor is on your side and will typically introduce you to professionals and other students, critique your resume, encourage you to apply to certain opportunities, provide tips and so on depending on their experience. Make sure it is someone you feel comfortable with sharing your interest and goals. It could also be someone outside of the student community, such as a working professional or professor.

5. Attend an annual convention

If possible, look into professional organizations that interest you and whether or not they host an annual convention. In many colleges across America, student-led business associations and honor fraternities will often sponsor several students to attend a national convention where they will network with professionals, attend professional development workshops lead by corporate-sponsors, have the opportunity to interview for positions and more. What a great way to prepare for your transition while making memories with new and old friends.

6. Start a business

Starting a legitimate business now is easier than ever with companies like www.legalzoom.com. Not only will you learn how to start a company and what that entails, starting a company will show that you have entrepreneurial ability as well. Even if the business fails, you will most likely learn valuable lessons along the way. What better way to gain experience talking to clients than marketing and obtaining your own?

7. Take a class

Not into starting your own company? Perhaps try picking up a new skill, such as coding. Learning new skills or studying for a professional certification exam in the industry you are interested in will help demonstrate that interest to recruiters. Also, many colleges now offer live and online courses in public speaking, negotiating, and other soft skills that may help you during your transition.

So what are you waiting for? Get started. The sooner the better.

Do you have any great tips? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.

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