Sure you’re going to a decent school. Yes, you’re taking all the right classes. And soon, you’ll be able to show off that shiny new degree and embark on a great career.
The problem? In today’s economy, that degree doesn’t make you special. Or employable. It simply helps you meet minimum requirements.
So how can you stand out from all the others who have worked just as hard as you have to earn that degree? How do you show an employer that you’ve gone above and beyond academics to become infinitely employable? To answer those questions, we asked a question of our own to members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC):
What is something every college student should do now for a great career later?
Enjoy their helpful answers… and then put their great advice to work!
1. Start an Online Portfolio
Whether it’s creating a portfolio site through a platform like Squarespace, or a simple blog using WordPress, start listing your accomplishments through an online presence. Consider that many potential employers may Google your name to see what they find. If the first link they see is to your portfolio, you’ve successfully directed them to where they can get to know you.
2. Email Someone You Don’t Know (But Want To)
I encourage college students to reach out to someone who has a job they’d love to do one day. Whether it’s an entrepreneur, a CEO, or anyone in between, a student reaching out to ask for ideas, advice and inspiration can be invaluable and offers knowledge not gleaned in any classroom. An added bonus: you build a network and impress people with your initiative.
3. Learn How to Negotiate
You’re always negotiating with someone. You may be trying to talk your significant other into going to your favorite restaurant for dinner, or selling your boss on a new idea at work. Even more importantly, you may be trying to persuade an investor on the merits of doing business with you. Each of these situations calls for expert negotiation skills.
Nothing looks better to a prospective employer than already having work experience on your resume. It shows you have a higher responsibility level before hitting the real world, and it translates better than “Sales Class 101.” Not only do you know your stuff, but you get up at a certain time, hit deadlines, report to a boss, etc. Today’s college students must intern.
In today’s information age, the backgrounds of people and companies are available at your fingertips. Students can research employees and then express interest in a company they want to work for. People appreciate students taking an interest, and many professionals will spend time talking to students who show passion. Ultimately, networking helps get mentors and jobs.
6. Build Your Personal Brand
Personal branding can have huge payoffs if started early. College students should develop their online identity with a website (ideally using their name as the URL), a LinkedIn profile and any relevant professional portfolios. This way, when they enter the job market, recruiters and employers who Google their name will find the right information easily.
7. Be Proactive
While it’s difficult to balance school and work, there are so many ways to be proactive for your career. Doing your research is crucial. No matter what career path you pursue, do the work to find out the details and skills needed for the job. Take a Photoshop class. Volunteer at a hospital. Do as much as you can without sacrificing your schoolwork.
8. Start a Blog
A solid way to make a great first impression in a job interview is to create an online presence for yourself that makes you an authority in your field. In order to create a lasting impression with a potential employer, every college student should start a blog in their respective field not only to boost their career, but to help them land the job they desire the most.
9. Accomplish an Extracurricular Challenge
Apply yourself to do something challenging. Joining a “resume booster” club means nothing, because it’s not hard. My favorite question to ask candidates is: “Tell me about a time you had to learn something hard, outside of school. How did you go about it?” You learn so much about their work ethic, interests and personalities that way.
10. Build Something
Build something — a project, an app, a freelance shop, anything — and be ready to tell people about it in interviews. What worked? What didn’t work? In hindsight, what was easy? What was challenging? What’s next? Walking into a job interview with just a transcript and resume isn’t nearly as compelling as walking in with something that you built.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.