College: Getting ahead 101

As a freshman, you may think it’s too early to start thinking about a career. In fact, I did. I would roll my eyes and ignore any information thrown at me about my future when my mom would try and advise me. Similar to many, my life and career after college was the last thing to worry about as a freshman or sophomore. However, after some very particular advice, I began to prepare for what would follow my four years at Sonoma State.

The advice was as follows: there are only four years in college to prepare for the real world.  These years fly by faster than one can even imagine. Create connections that will lead to a potential job, participate in a voluntary research project that will strengthen your resume and most of all, meet and talk to as many people in your field of interest as possible. Sometimes even a quick conversation can lead down a completely different path than one ever expected. There are endless careers out in the world that have yet to be discovered; it’s our job as students and young adults to create them. 

For some reason, this advice stuck. Maybe because it came from an extremely professional woman whom I idolized greatly, or because I began to realize that four years is not as long as I thought it was. Start early. If you think finding an internship will take a week, it won’t. It takes months of phone calls and interviews to find one that perfectly suits specific needs and expectations. Meet with people in your field just to pick their brain about their career. Even 15 minutes of their time will do.

The more conversations with people in your field, the better. When preparing for these conversations, whether they are over the phone or in person, dress to impress. You never know, your dedication to learning about their career and a stellar outfit could someday land a job. In addition, do some background research on the person you are interviewing. Knowing their past job titles and experiences that are documented on LinkedIn will save time in the interview. LinkedIn is a social media site that is used to engage digitally with employers globally. 

Be sure to ask direct questions that will get productive answers. Take notes of the interview and ask for a business card. In addition, it’s imperative to thank the guest for their time and acknowledge how helpful their advice has been. Following up with a thank you email never hurts either to acknowledge their contribution to future success. Creating this network early gives more time for expansion over fours years.

It’s shocking how willing people are to talk about their career and background. Even if you feel like someone is too busy to sit down with you for 15 minutes, give it a shot. After all, you’ll never know until you try.