The pressure to land a job immediately upon graduating college—if not before—can be as intense as the pressure experienced during the college-application phase. With the job market as tough as it is, finding a way to stand out is no longer a matter of simply finding the perfect major or knowing the right professors.
Instead, employers look for real experience that will give them an idea of the applicant’s culture fit, work ethic and ability to meet expectations.
So let your portfolio of freelance work do the talking for you.
Take Advantage of the Benefits of Part-time Opportunities
As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. This is especially true for your resume. It’s never too early to load your resume with relevant work experience. Since college students already have full workloads on their plates, any extra work you take on is already helping you rise above your potential competitors for a dream job. Because of this, college is one of the few times you have the opportunity to try your hand in a lot of part-time, short-term projects.
Beyond helping you figure out what activities you enjoy doing, freelance work during your college years gives you the tools needed to market yourself to potential employers in the future. You’ll know your strengths and be able to point to real, specific projects that you helped bring to life, rather than a checklist of training activities designed for entry-level interns. Perhaps the best part is that you’ll know your worth when negotiating salaries, and will have developed a network of potential references who can speak to your achievements.
Diversify, Diversify, Diversify
What keeps many college students from finding freelance projects during college is not the time required, but instead the uncertainty of what’s “relevant” to them. This is because many students aren’t sure of what they want to do for the rest of their lives.
Of course, it’s understandable that you don’t have this all figured out in your early 20s. But you’ll never know without trying. Think about it: You could push away these thoughts until after graduation, scramble to find a position, and feel stuck if it doesn’t work out.
Or you could use freelance opportunities to dip your toes into a variety of pools. If you consider social media a favorite hobby, try managing the Twitter account for a local startup or creating content for its blog. If you are interested in the fashion or retail industry, help a design house throw an annual investor’s event. No matter the project, meeting deadlines and expectations are skills that apply to any job you’ll seek in the future.
Learn What You Value Most
In addition to helping you zoom in on what you want to explore more deeply after graduation, these experiences can help you understand what you value most in your employer. Every boss and business environment is different, and you’ll soon realize which management styles mesh with your personality. Maybe you prefer a high-stakes, fast-paced team environment, or perhaps you work best when you’re left alone. These are realizations that only become sharper with more experience.
Thus, taking advantage of freelance opportunities while you’re in college can bolster your resume, help you build networking contacts and know your worth when it comes to marketing yourself and negotiating. But beyond that, it gives you an opportunity to find where you excel, to try your hand at different industries and to know your optimal work environment.
You may even find you like freelancing enough to pursue as a career and lifestyle choice… even after graduation!
About the author: John Lidington founded HireOwl, the leading student freelance work platform, to address the skills gap with our nation’s graduates. HireOwl tackles this problem both by providing students with experiential learning opportunities and by reducing the inefficiencies companies face in hiring students.