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How to Get a Head Start on Your Career While Still in School

When you first arrive at college, it may seem like graduation and job-hunting are in the distant future. The truth is, however, the sooner you start planning, the better. 

If you start setting yourself for a successful career path now, you won’t have to stress when graduation finally comes, and you don’t have anything lined up. With a bit of careful planning, you’ll be able to graduate as the ideal job candidate, and maybe even with a guaranteed full-time job. 

Here’s how you to start building toward a successful career right now: 

1. Start By Setting Career Goals

It’s important to set goals for your career because they will help guide your path through school. Many college students haven’t yet figured out what they want their careers to look like, and that’s okay! You can still set goals and adjust them as you learn more about what you really want. 

Start by picking a career path, even if you’re not completely confident it will be your final decision. Once you’ve chosen a career path, learn everything you can about that career. Reach out to people in the field to ask them if they’d be willing to discuss what their jobs are like. Try to find someone you can shadow. 

If those conversations and job shadowing make you feel more confident that the career path is right for you, that’s great! Stick with it! If not, think about why it wasn’t right and which career paths would be a better fit. Then start the process again. 

2. Connect With As Many Mentors As Possible

Whether you’re still figuring out the right career choice, or you’re already well on your way to a dream job, mentors can help you at every stage. These people can give you advice, write you letters of recommendation, and possibly even help you get a job when the time comes. 

After meeting with or job shadowing people in your desired career, ask if they have the bandwidth to connect with you more often. Not everyone will be able to provide a strong mentorship experience, but many people look forward to the opportunity to help the next generation of talent reach their goals.  

One of the easiest ways to find mentors is by connecting with your professors. To connect with your professors, you have to do more than simply show up to class. Attend office hours and ask questions. You can tell your professors about your career goals and ask for their advice. Most professors are excited to help students, but not every student makes an effort to form a real connection. 

Many professors are also well-connected and can help you get in touch with people working in your desired industry. Professors are an invaluable resource. Don’t let that resource go to waste by not connecting while you can!

3. Start Building Your Resume

A job at the bowling alley or the campus food court is a great way to support yourself during college or earn extra money for dates, but if you can find an entry-level job in your desired industry, you’ll be paying your bills at the same time as building your resume. 

There are tons of internships or student job opportunities in a variety of industries. If you’re not sure how to find these job opportunities, reach out to your mentors or people at companies where you’d like to work. Ask if there are any job openings for students and what it takes to land one of those jobs. 

Internships are one of the best ways to find out if you want to work in that industry long-term. It’s better to find out you’re on the wrong career track while you’re still in college instead of finding out after graduation. That’s why getting work experience in your desired industry before you graduate is so important.  

Sometimes companies looking for interns may let you know they’re looking for people with specific skills. If you don’t have those skills, rather than get discouraged, enroll in a class or do some independent study to develop those skills and reach out again later after you’ve become a better candidate. Even if it doesn’t land you the internship, those skills will be vital to have on your resume when you graduate and begin looking for full-time jobs. 

While waiting to find the perfect internship, sometimes you can cater the job you have to be a resume builder. If you work at a restaurant and are studying marketing, ask your manager if you can help promote the business on social media. If you work at a gym and study graphic design, ask if you can help design some flyers to hang around the building. Be proactive and creative in thinking of ways you can apply your skills to your job. 

4. Utilize the Career Resources Available To You

Most colleges hire employment specialists to provide students with career guidance and support in finding internships or jobs. BYU-Idaho has a career center for just this purpose. The career center will coach you in job readiness so you can be sure you have all the skills required to land your first job. 

The career center also has connections with employers and keeps track of available jobs and internships. They can help you apply to the perfect position. They can also connect you with career mentors. They have a network of alumni who are excited to help students learn. 

In addition to the career center, career fairs are a valuable resource. Make time to attend as many career fairs as possible. If you’re looking for an internship or full-time job, this might be where you find it. If you’re not currently looking for a new job, attending is still a good idea.

At a career fair, you’ll learn about companies you may want to work for in the future, and you can build connections with future employers. Strengthening connections with companies in your industry is never a waste of time. If multiple recruiters know your name at the time of your graduation, you’ll have a major head start in landing the perfect job.

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