6 Obvious Things for College Students to do to Advance their Careers (that are not so Obvious)

College is a great place to expand your mind, get educated and get a diploma to hang on your wall but we all know that one of our main goals in going to college is to join society, get a job and make a living through a career.  With that in mind, here is a list of six things that every college student needs to do in order to stay competitive on the road to a career.

Get Internships and Temp Jobs

College is usually about four years long from beginning to end but it has a lot of break.  Not just summer and winter vacations either.  The average college schedule is between 15 and 20 hours per week which leaves you a lot of wiggle room to fill in with temp jobs and internships.  Most students start looking for an internship for the summer after their Junior year which will give them the experience they need to get a job upon graduation the next summer.  One internship these days may not be enough.  When you graduate, you are competing against every other graduate as well as all the others looking for the same types of jobs.  To stay ahead of the game, try and get as much experience as you can.  That may mean taking a temp job each semester and internships each summer, starting from your freshman year.

Build an Online Personal Brand

Everyone can build a powerful personal brand that will help define them and get them work and well on their way to their career.  With all of the great tools and social networks, there is really no excuse for not having a personal brand to work in your favour.  You can start off by building a strong LinkedIn Profile, and a page on About.me.  Then you can move on to creating and properly using a Twitter account and then a blog about your interests, career direction and industry.

Get Some Business Cards

“But I don’t have anything to put on them” is the most common excuse college students use for not getting business cards.  You don’t need a business name and title to justify having a business card.  There are many benefits to having a business card and not having enough information is not a good reason not to have them.

Business cards are an easy way get people to remember you after a networking event.  Just make sure they have your name and the best way to contact you.  The rest is just details.   Obviously, the details can make a big difference but I’ll save that for another post.

Join a Team or a Society

College is the best time to join a group, a team or a society as an extracurricular activity.  The others that you join with will most likely have a lot in common with you and whatever you lack in common will be made up by all the experiences you create together.  The connections that you build through these groups can stick with you for life and help connect you to the right people each step of the way.

Build your Network

Throughout college, your teams, societies, classmates, internships, temp jobs, networking events and everything else during your stay in college, you should have hundreds of people who can potentially help you in your career at one point or another.  You need to organize these contacts in a way that you can best take advantage of them.  This may mean connecting with them all on LinkedIn or adding all of your contacts to a CMS (contact management system) such as Gist.com.  On Gist.com, you can add as many notes and tags as you want to each contact so that when you are looking for an accountant in NYC in your network, he is just one quick search away.  Not only that, but he will most probably be a warm contact with a story of how you connected and links to his social profiles that will give you enough information to contact him without a problem.

Get Recommendation Letters and References

When looking for a job, the company will likely ask you for some references or recommendation letters.  These are easy to get along the way but a pain to get at the last minute when you need them.  All along the way, make sure to ask your favorite professors, friends and bosses to write you recommendation letters and get their permission to add them to your reference list.  Most people will supply 2 references when applying to a job.  Imagine being asked for your references and giving over a list of 100 or more people that can vouch for you, your personality and the quality of your work.

Is there anything else that you feel is crucial to do in college to advance the possibilities for your career?  Let me know in the comments.

Image: Rawich / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  • There seems to be a stigma attached to pursuing temporary employment, as people seem to think you’ll be stuck in a rut, or miss out on that full time job you’ve been looking for. The truth is, the longer you are unemployed, the harder it is to get a job, as you have this empty vacuous space on your resume, which will always raise questions with employers. Recruitment agencies play a very important role here, as they can get you temporary work, while continuing to look for full time employment. As such, job hunters should not hesitate to contact recruitment consultants. It’s what they’re there for.

    Great article, well written, with some great arguments.

  • Thanks Nathan. There is a stigma but it is changing as is how everybody views a career.