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How do you prepare for your career while in college?

College won’t last forever (even if you do change your major). So, be sure you know what you want to do AFTER graduation and what you can do NOW to make it happen.

Make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

Before you spend time and money on a degree, make sure your program of study and degree level match your career interests and skills. Set up a day to job shadow a professional in your future career. The work may not be what you expected.

Get experience.

Hands-on experience in your field will help you make sure you’re on the right path, and will look great on your résumé, too. There are lots of ways to gain experience:

  • Get an internship. Internships and job-shadowing opportunities allow you to experience the job setting and get a sense of what the career would be like day in and day out. Don’t discount unpaid opportunities. They pay off in networking opportunities (perhaps leading to a full-time job later) and increased skills and experiences.
  • Know your professors. Doing research for a professor can teach you a lot about your field and build relationships that may help you land a job later on. Opportunities for undergraduate students may seem like grunt work, but the knowledge you’ll pick up will make it worthwhile.
  • Volunteer. For example, if you want to be a nurse, volunteering at a hospital is a great way to become familiar with the hospital setting.
  • Take a class that offers experience. Future journalists can show off articles they wrote for a class, architects can demonstrate building plans and teachers can write lesson plans. Talk to professors, your advisor and friends in your major to see which courses will provide you with examples of your work.

Hone your skills.

Today’s employers are interested in more than your grades and what your major was. The top traits employers look for include:

  • Accountability
  • Analytical and critical-thinking skills
  • Attitude
  • Communication
  • Initiative
  • Internship or other experience
  • Responsibility
  • Teamwork

Many of these traits can be cultivated by getting involved on your campus. Take leadership roles in student organizations. Volunteer. Ask if you can help plan events for your dorm floor, church or other organization. Being a manager of a retail store or a fast-food restaurant as a part-time job will give you management experience and people skills. These are all ways to make yourself stand out to employers and give you practical experiences to discuss during job interviews.

Remember: Keeping up with your college classes and graduating on time should be your top priorities, so make sure to maintain the right balance with your work and extra-curricular activities.

Search for opportunities.

Chances are your college hosts a general job fair and other events specifically for graduates of your major. Attending a job fair, even if you’re only looking for an internship, will give you face-to-face interaction with recruiters and allow you to practice your interviewing skills. Learn More Indiana has more resources to help you develop the skills needed to get a job. Read about creating the perfect résumé, honing your interviewing skills and more.

Never say no to an interview, even if you think you’ve already found a better position. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be.

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