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5 Tips Every Underclassmen Should Know

underclassmen tips
Nailah Morgan
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Published on April 8, 2014

My parents are the laid back type. They were in and out of college in their late 20’s, made their whole life a party, and failed at planning for the future.

 The outcome?

 Low-skill jobs, financial burdens, and children that lack the proper guidance needed to compete in today’s job market. My mom doesn’t understand why it’s important to create a professional brand, and my dad isn’t able to recommend a website for the launch of my online portfolio.

 They always encouraged me to attend college and strive for success, but they never were able to bestow the “inside information” every student should receive before and during college.  I love them, but I wish I would have known where to look in order to obtain the right advice.

Do you relate?

 I’m sure you do. By 2020, Generation Y will account for almost half of the workforce (44 percent). As the digital realm broadens our education system and changes the workplace, millennials face new challenges in the work environment. Many of the things you need to do today to standout in the job market didn’t even exist ten years ago and many of these skills take years to hone.

Need some guidance?

 No worries. Whether you are a high school senior or college 1st year, keep these 5 tips top-of-mind to become a better job candidate.

1. Mingle with the right people.

Networking doesn’t begin in the office it starts in the classroom! Stroll into your classes determined to impress your peers and your professors. Peers who push you in the classroom can turn into life-long friends and collaborators. Meanwhile, professors typically have extensive industry connections and can write letters of recommendation that make or break your next job search.

Focus on building deep relationships with your educators. Ask them a lot of question about their past, how they got to where they are today and what advice they can share. Whether you need their help now or in the future, you don’t want to be just another face in the sea.

With peers, form a circle of friends with similar goals. Developing a subset of friends who are in your major and who you respect academically, can be instrumental in helping you push yourself and develop the right skills to succeed.

2. Read books that pertain to your major and help you achieve your career goals.

Don’t rely on textbooks or thick handouts to explore job related interests. Research cool (reliable) blogs, career based autobiographies, trade publications, and interesting books that allow your passions to flourish and move you deeper into the subjects you enjoy.

3. Get Online.

According to Jobvite, a job applicant tracking system, 92% of companies use social sites for job recruiting.

  • More and more employers (and employees) are on Twitter. If there is a company you love or a person doing a job that you are interested in, engage them on Twitter, odds are they will reply and you can begin building rapport with this person.
  • Try creating an online personal portfolio. This might not apply to everyone, but if you’re interested in snagging a non-technical position (marketing, journalism, graphic design),what might sound complicated is made easy by sites like flavors.me and squarespace.com.  These sites allow you to easily create your own “personal homepage,” showcase your creativity, work samples, and resume.

4. Don’t focus entirely on your major.

According to the U.S Bureau of the Census, only 27 percent of college graduates have a job related to their major. Modern day employers care more about hiring well-rounded and analytical students than those who have studied specific courses. Play to their hands by signing up for a variety of courses your freshman and sophomore year and working on side projects, or with campus organizations. These actions will demonstrate the skills and curiosity you have for your future profession.

5. Get experience anyway possible.

If you study sports medicine, try applying to the nearest gym or Crossfit studio. If you want to be a writer, send submissions to the local newspaper. Be proactive!  The more internships you have, the more references you obtain and the more experience you are able to list on your resume. Acquiring internships and career related positions early, also helps you realize what you DON’T want to do after graduation.

 In the early 90’s only 17% of college grads completed an internship. Now many colleges require students to complete at least one professional position before graduation. The professional world has changed dramatically since our parents went to school and you can no longer rely on their advice to navigate these changing waters.

 You shouldn’t overly stress your career in the first two years of college, but if you start putting together the pieces now, you will find the process of getting an internship or job  in future years much easier. Follow the above tips and you’re guaranteed to get ahead of the pack.

Nailah Morgan

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